Gamification insinuates brands into consumers' lives
There is nothing quite like the satisfaction of winning, whether it's a game of poker or a video game, everybody loves that winning moment. But there are other emotionally-engaging factors that come first, such as strategizing, the joy of playing, and smaller rewards earned along the way, according to Andrew Hewitt, director of propositions for Global Dawn, who suggests that so-called 'gamification' will be part of tomorrow's battle for both customer loyalty and engagement.
Hewitt asserts that games are simply a mirror of our lives. We expect a balance in the reward we get from the effort we put in. A new phrase has risen in popularity among marketers: gamification. Brands are beginning to recognise the power that gaming has over our emotions, and as such are tapping into this valuable tool.
Whether you like or loath the term, it seems that 'gamification' is now the buzz word on every self-respecting marketing manager's lips. What may not be obvious is exactly how it works, and how it can be incorporated successfully into the marketing mix.
The idea of using game-centric design to stimulate consumer engagement is not new. Since the school playground, people have always responded well to fun. However, simply handing out points and trophies isn't enough to encourage an audience to get involved, and could serve to alienate them from the brand.
Put very simply, gamification is overlaying opportunities to play and be rewarded for participation. Rewards are typically in the tiring form of virtual badges, trophies, points and levels, which when coupled with an innovative platform allow consumers to feel engaged and positive toward the brand or experience. Implementation of game-centric design allows people to play and have fun, often without being too explicit. However, one important thing to note is that gamification is not simply about rewards - it is more focused on the experience and relevance of what the brand can offer to the consumer in their relationship. This is a mistake made all-too often among businesses today.
"Today, everything on web 2.0 and social is a game. Without realising, we are all playing games daily," said Hewitt. "Social networking has had a major role in the evolution of gamification, as users aspire to expand their circles of influence by accumulating more followers, connections or re-tweets, all trying to climb to the top level 'league' for authority and reach. As a result of the growth of social media, great gaming platforms increase in popularity at an alarming rate - just one benefit of adopting a game-centric design."
Due to the nature of game mechanics, businesses can gather large amounts of data about their audience, ascertained from user's preferences and the decisions that they make. By linking a platform with Google+, LinkedIn and Facebook and encouraging business professionals to engage with 'the game,' businesses could gather a rich composition of their audience. This data, coupled with an analytics platform, allows brands to provide a more tailored experience. It also allows them to track, measure and understand how their content is being consumed and what impact it has had on a person.
"Imitation may be the highest form of flattery, but when a brand tries to replicate someone else's style, including gamification techniques, it is doomed to fail," warned Hewitt. "Game-centric design needs to be subtle and well-suited to the brand. True gamification is about creating an experience with seamless, transitory consistency and this is where Global Dawn is innovating. We endeavour to learn more about users as individuals, by gathering data then understanding and grouping that person. By looking at a user's habits, what they have reacted to and what rewards they have enjoyed, you can target them and tailor their experience accordingly."
With this in mind, it is important to look at how marketers can use gaming theory to encourage users to engage with a brand. Approaches must be tailored to the user - brands need to look at what they hope to achieve, and the audience they want to target in the first instance. By looking at the similar characteristics between their main aim and target user, businesses can look to create an interesting, innovative game-based layer onto their communications and marketing campaigns.
Services such as Foursquare are testament to the power and draw that gamification can provide. Marketers are now trying to tap into the science of game mechanics and the wave of brands implementing gaming models is on the rise, perhaps due to the realisation that consumers need more stimulation. And although the term 'gamification' may be replaced with another zeitgeist term, game-centric design is definitely here to stay. For example, Global Dawn's own platform uses the science of game mechanics to help brands interact with consumers: "Businesses are now starting to use gamification techniques to their advantage, and we will likely see more and more using innovative gamification techniques in an attempt to lure customers and keep them engaged," explained Hewitt.
When you look beyond the surface, you start to see gamification creeping into every corner of our lives, through apps and even to the way that we consume news, following Google's plan to try to turn news into a more social experience. By making gamification measurable, brands can start to see the benefits that gamification can bring. With Gartner predicting that 70% of the top 2,000 worldwide companies will have at least one 'gamified' application by 2014, it is undeniable that gamification - in any guise - is an increasingly important factor for brand success.