Gamification is no longer only used in the game industry. Within sectors such as marketing, science or education, the application of gamification is the rule rather than the exception. Gamification is a powerful motivational tool that leads to higher conversions and more engagement. It is therefore that many marketers apply gamification principles to their marketing campaigns.
In this article I will explain some commonly used gamification principles from the game industry. These are principles that can be applied to different forms of marketing like data building, audience interaction and brand engagement.
You’ve probably watched a series where you keep watching because you want to know how the story ends. Before you know it, you’ll be binge-watching all night. A strong storyline can be very addictive and take you out of your daily grind. A storyline is also used in the game industry. Think of Super Mario who has to rescue the princess from Bowser or Grant Theft Auto, where you have to carry out missions for various clients. It gives the player a goal to continue with the game.
A marketing game with a strong storyline encourages the participant to provide information that would never be given outside the context of the story. With each step (or cliffhanger) in the process, a desire is created to get more and move on to see what happens next. At each step, the participant unconsciously provides more and more information (e.g. data). And doing it still feels logical fore the participant.
The goal of gamification is to motivate people. One of the most powerful principles to motivate is rewarding a participant’s actions.
In gamification there are different reward principles. You can immediately reward participants after a certain action to encourage them to continue. For example, when the participant has answered a question or completed a task. The rewarding can be with points or providing increasingly relevant content. But a game that is becoming more and more challenging is also a reward.
There are also rewards that are only given once a certain goal has been achieved, such as completing the game or filling out a form. This reward is often linked to a physical prize or high score to which status can be granted.
We see this division in reward clearly reflected in loyalty programs. You can save points (short-term reward) by performing the desired actions (buy products or perform transactions). If you have enough points, you can exchange them for a gift (long-term reward).
Humans are hunters and gatherers by nature. That is ingrained in our DNA and that is why collecting works very well as a motivator. A well-known example of this principle is Pokémon Go. Through this game you see children, but also adult men and women, catch Pokémons in the strangest places with their mobile.
By giving participants something to collect, you give them the opportunity to create their own goals. Collecting gives a sense of accomplishment in achieving a goal. The collection can also become part of a social process. Such as sharing and comparing the collection (badges, points or prizes) with others.
With online activation you can use this principle by linking different activations together. By achieving certain goals, the participant receives rewards that are visible in a ‘hall of fame’. This hall of fame is visible to everyone and provides the participant with a goal and status.
You probably know those surveys, where 5 minutes of your time is asked to answer ‘some’ questions. After 30 minutes of answering questions, there is still not a view of a redeeming end. The conversion of such surveys is dramatically low. People want to know in advance how long a certain process will take and whether the actions that are done bring them closer to the desired goal. By dividing the process into steps, goals or time, the process becomes transparent. We call them ‘snacks’.
By providing visual indicators such as levels or a timeline, participants see which and how many actions they need to do before they are done. When participants see progress, they are more motivated to continue.
Have you ever watched the same episode of your favourite series all day long? Most will drop out after the third time because of the tiresome predictability of that same episode. If a game stays the same every step of the way, participants will eventually get bored too.
So start simple to get novice participants used to the playing experience. Build skills by making the game more complex step by step. This can be done by adding new rules, but also by adding time pressure. By showing constantly changing content, the game becomes unpredictable, which provides extra challenge and re-engagement.
Compare Super Mario on the 1985 NES with the current Super Mario 3D. The graphics of many games have changed a lot over the years and become more and more realistic. Nevertheless, my children and I enjoy playing the 1985 version. It is simple and the learning curve is low.
The playing experience and learning curve is a factor that should not be underestimated in the experience of marketing gamification. If the gaming experience doesn’t bring an immediate fun factor into the game, players will drop out. Even though the graphics are so beautiful, the gameplay is as equally important.
Gamification is applied in various sectors, including online marketing. A game that includes a solid storyline, clear reward structure and excellent playing experience will give the conversion ratio on audience interaction and brand engagement a huge lift. That is why it pays for the marketer to apply the above common gamification principles with every marketing campaign.