Games are everywhere.
Before you could even talk, you learned to play – and you’ve never stopped since!
It’s an incredible way of learning, discovering, and exploring as you experience the world.
We have games of every kind that litter our everyday lives, from the more traditionally recognizable forms like board games and consoles, to the more obscure in the form of tongue-twisters and certain marketing campaigns.
You read those last two words right – you can even make marketing into a game.
The process has been dubbed gamification, referring to the process of making an activity or experience into a playable game. It’s a powerful strategy that simplifies the process of learning and makes experiencing new things far less daunting.
The marketing gamification industry has blossomed into prominence, expected to be a 11.1 billion dollar industry by 2020 as more business adopt this way of thinking.
In short, gamification experts reverse-engineer games to identify their core elements, and then angle these toward accomplishing business goals. Games are fun, light-hearted, and relaxing – hence their appeal. The challenge is ever-present and exciting, especially when your rewards become real-world benefits. There’s something that really grabs people about this – the feeling of your dreams and imagination becoming reality.
There are 7 main ingredients for successful gamification:
Objectives: Players need challenges, puzzles, quests, and more to have a sense of purpose within a game.
Progression: Easier early stages, as to not overwhelm new players, with an increasing degree of difficulty.
Level Up: Progression through measurable levels of achievement, and the ability to track this.
Points: A scoring system that recognizes and rewards specific actions or behaviours.
Top Score: Most successful player leaderboards give players the chance to see who they need to beat.
Badges: Visible indicators of achievements keep motivation high and give players a sense of prestige.
Engagement: Keeping players interested using rewards, emotional cues, and visual stimuli keeps them playing.
The secret to powerful gamification lies in the way we learn as humans, and the way our societies have evolved around social experiences, such as group games. Even as we drift further into our technological future and puritans worry about the loss of personal human interaction, we’ve begun to speak to more people in an average day than ever before.
Gamers chat while playing live online, smartphones have connected our games to friends and strangers alike, and even Facebook has built-in group gaming. It’s the age of social interaction, and games have always had a strong place in that dynamic.
If you look deeper at the real mechanics behind it, you’ll notice that incentives cause people to make more of an effort. This is called Prospect Theory, and it explains what makes people take on tasks, challenges, and activities that they may otherwise have avoided. An example of this is daily loyalty rewards, or the possibility of your rewards decreasing the longer you stay away from the game. It makes people want to come back and engage again.
There is another way to look at it as well, and it’s called Flow Theory. In essence, it refers to the mental state of a person who is engaged in a task, fully focused on it, and enjoying the process. Flow states are tricky to attain as there are a number of requirements for this:
Removal of self-consciousness
Allowing a sense of control
Altered time perception
Challenging skill-based activities
Instant gratification, feedback, and rewards
Promote awareness and action
Measurable, clear goals
These conditions, when satisfied, result in a powerful sense of motivation that builds over time. By harnessing the elements of gaming, marketers can evoke the same state. Gamifying has been around for a very long time and has been used successfully by major brands. The great news is that gamifying is becoming more and more popular, which gives this incredible opportunity over to every type of business.
You can communicate a lot in the space of a game, incorporating brand messages, content, and promotions. Gamification is totally adaptable to almost any product, service, or solution. Gamification can be brought into almost any area of your customer experience, from loyalty programs to marketing campaigns, and online communities.
Here’s how you can harness the power of gamification to grow your customer engagement:
1. Look before you leap
Try a small, simple, low-budget game first as a proof of concept to see how much traction your experiment gets. Quizzes, challenges, and minigames give you an opportunity to refine and test your approach, but also acts as a helpful taster for your clients to get used to the idea of engaging with your business in this way.
2. Know your real audience
You need to fully understand who your audience is. Ask yourself what sort of games your target audience is already playing. What do they enjoy? Analyze the most common keywords searched for by your audience and angle your approach accordingly. Approach them in their comfort zone.
3. Build games to satisfy your marketing goals
You should always have an objective in mind. You need to know what you hope to achieve before you set out to achieve it. You need to know what conditions need to be satisfied in order for you to judge your gamification as a success. Being specific is essential, so you can build realistic, achievable goals. Remember to use analytics tools to measure the various aspects of your game process.
4. Keep it light
You have to make this as fun and enjoyable as possible so people will keep playing, and come back for more. The tasks don’t have to be complicated or overly difficult. Consider the simplicity of addictive games that exist right now and go ahead and follow suit. SImplicity is going to keep people playing, and keep your overheads down.
5. Keep it simple
Your audience needs to have a simple onboarding process to learn the game and become familiar with how to interact with it. People have short attention spans, which means you need to be relevant, interesting, and fun – right away.
6. Augment their reality
AR displays digital information in a physical environment using smart technologies. It has helped business give clients a way to visualize a product or service in their own environment. Adding AR elements to gamification boosts interest and interaction.
7. Plan the rewards
Be very clear on what your rewards are, and plan this carefully to ensure you keep your overheads low as possible, while grabbing the interest of your audience. You can offer samples of your product, promo codes, VIP content, and more.
Bringing it all together
Gamification is powerful and becomes more so every passing year. People want to escape from the mundanity of everyday tasks, and you can help them do that while promoting your business. Done right, this can be an incredibly powerful way to grow your company.
Take the time to do this properly, and remember that poorly-executed attempts at gamification won’t get you the ROI you hoped for. Ensure that you are following a path that strongly relates to your business goals, as well as your client’s desires.