Gamification: marketing with fun.

Fad or foolproof method of conversion? Adam, our digital strategist, answers your questions on gamification.

The application of game mechanics to motivate users steadily grows its success and influence. The subject is omnipresent in business think-tanks, internet articles and industry talks. While some see “gamification” as just another buzzword, others have been able to drive long-term behavioural change and success through its application. 

The truth is that gamification isn’t a fad, but it’s also not a silver bullet that will change your business overnight. Gamification is a powerful tool to have in your marketing arsenal but it should be wielded strategically and objectively. Without clear direction or planning, gamification will never yield the desired return on investment.

I recently gave a whistle stop tour of gamification, from the basics and science behind the subject to real examples of great gamification in action, at the Marketing Network in Bath. There was a fantastic response to the event and I thought it would be useful to share some of the questions that were asked during the Q&A session and explain my own approach. 

If you’re interested in understanding how to take your first steps towards gamification then feel free to contact me on adam@deepbluesky.com.

Q. Gamification sounds brilliant, but where do I begin?

Gamification is just one tool of many that could be used to address business challenges and it’s not always the right tool for the job. When working with clients, we never suggest any form of gamification until we have understand ‘The Why’ - the problem a business solves for it’s users and the challenges they face when engaging with them. 

If you are looking to start a new project, I would recommend going through a discovery process that will identify the following details;

  • What are the business objectives? - Why the project is required.
  • When can we measure success? - Define objective success metrics.
  • Who are we trying to reach? - Understand your audience and their motivations.
  • Where are the users interacting? - Outline your core user journeys and activities.
  • How do we take this to market? - Decide on the most appropriate tools.

You’ll find that at the end of the discovery process you have an accurate indication of whether or not gamification is the right solution for your project.

Q. How do I keep people engaged with gamification?

Firstly, it’s important to understand the length of engagement with any gamified experience is entirely based on the goals of the project. If you’re looking at a short viral campaign, you can remove many of the ‘progression’ elements of play - these are only required to promote the longevity of engagement.

Secondly, your audience demographics are a key indicator of which types of activity loops and aspects of play keep those users engaged. If you are targeting a younger audience for example, it’s important to implement shorter activity loops and rewards that trigger dopamine responses - the easy fun element of play. From their perspective, it’s about understanding the reward for completing those smaller bursts of engagement and forming the positive association with an activity.

Eventually, your audience will become accustom to the rewards and responses associated with those easy fun aspects of play. To develop a solution which is designed to continually engage it’s audience progression mechanics are key. You’ll need to consider mechanics like scarcity and gating to control rewards and motivate those ‘hard fun’ seekers to stay engaged.

Q. Do the rewards within gamification have to include a cash value?

The short answer is no. 

When we talk about rewards within gamification we need to consider the core areas and mechanics they interact with - behavioural, feedback and progression. Let’s take Monopoly as an example:

  • A behavioural reward of acquiring the most desirable properties is that you achieve social status within the group of people playing the game.
  • A feedback reward of passing GO is £200 and this is achieved each time a user completes a circuit of the board.
  • A progression reward of collecting all properties of a specific colour is to allow that user to purchase houses and hotels on those properties.

A user that gains more followers, ranks highly on the leaderboard or owns the most badges doesn’t earn a monetary reward but still feels an intrinsic or extrinsic value determined by their key drivers. If we look at the types of fun users are susceptible to we can tailor the activity rewards to a user's motivations.

Q. How do I measure the return on investment when using gamification?

Never begin a project without clear success metrics. Work with your clients to figure out when and how are you going to measure the success of your project. If you agree to increase subscription rates or improve longevity of subscriptions, make sure you figure out your baselines. What are their current subscription rates and how was this improved with their last campaign they ran?

Make sure you have access to some real data about their subscription history, marketplace and sector as this can also influence the way in which you approach setting out KPIs for your project. By doing the due diligence at the start of any project, you can look back and objectively assess the return on investment.

More questions?

Get in touch. 

I hope this post has helped you to understand when and how to start gamifying. If you have any more questions or just fancy a chat about gamification feel free to get in touch with me at adam@deepbluesky.com.

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