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The Gamification of Online Marketing

Gamification for online marketing

What is Gamification?

Gamification is a relatively new philosophy of marketing that builds engaging relationships between businesses and users online. This gamification has been found to establish a better emotional connection with a brand as well as increase brand loyalty which is one of the most important factors for repeat purchasing. To a marketer, however, the major value to gamification lies in the ability to better track a user’s interaction with the brand but also, provide a medium to connect a user’s social channels to a brands data gathering platform, thus enabling a brand to better refine its marketing message based on high quality data.

Gamification Definition

On a simple level, Gamification has been in use for years with your standard loyalty card idea; get 10 stamps and get something for free. This encourages, at a very base level, users to keep coming back to get their 11th stamp. At that level it’s pretty straight forward, but the concept is the same. Loyalty cards, however, do not really cut it online, so marketers need to be thinking a little outside-the-box to make a difference.

Why Should I Use it?

Gamification can, with a little planning, be an extremely cost effective and viral way of growing a brand campaign. Marketers can build a game online for a very small amount of money and they will learn, almost instantly, if the game is working or not, as hard data on usage is instantly quantifiable and if users aren’t using it then it’s not working.

This method of marketing online is however, not just about giving away free things, it’s more about engaging users with your brand in meaningful ways. Developing a personality of your business that will engage potential customers and in turn, with that engagement, grow your brands visibility with sharing and amplification of your game.

Traditionally, loyalty programs are ‘buy 10 get one free”; while this has a marginal cost of 10% which I believe is quite high, you frequently are giving away products to already loyal customers that are more likely to pay for that product than not. It’s not a good way to bring in new custom, just reward loyal ones. Another drawback to traditional loyalty programs is that it can take too long to accumulate any volume of “points” that the process becomes too long winded and the engagement is just lost. I know that some of the air-mile points are so outlandishly convoluted that most people just give up, it was that way for me.. How about you?

How has it Been Used by Others?

Gamification Marketing

Nike is one of the best examples of gamification that was done right. Long before fitbit, Nike introduced Nike+, a small chip that runners could put in their shoes to track their progress on their mobile phone. This was one of the first uses of this sort of technology and it most likely was the spawning of the fitbit and these types of products. What it allows the currently 16 million people that use Nike + each day to do is socially share their runs, get badges and rewards for completing tasks or achievements within the app.

For some companies though, gamification isn’t about brand growth, it’s just about engagement and fun, such as Tabasco Nation, a Facebook app that was released by hot sauce maker Tabasco, to grow a community around spicy food. Tabasco created a points based game that accrues points per drop of Tabasco; challenging users to put their hot sauce on cakes and sweets, or to take their bottle to the top of a mountain. While it’s virtually impossible to track the progress of the users, that wasn’t the goal. Its goal was to just simply engage users and have fun with the product. The result for Tabasco was a dramatic increase in their social presence as well as a marked increase in the social engagement for the brand and its users.

How and When Should I Apply it to my Marketing?

Marketing gamification

There is an industry acronym, SAPS (status, Access, Power, Stuff). This describes what your potential customers will want from you within the gamification strategy, from most engaging to least.

  • Status is the simple action of aligning your brand’s perceived personality and value with a user. So as simple as tweeting about your brand can make that alignment happen, announcing on social media that they are a fan of say Nike, can give a user the status of being fit and healthy.
  • Offering early or beta access to a product, or invitations to a member’s only feature will give users a feeling that they have special privilege over others, and make the audience feel that they have a special access.
  • You can give some users power within the application, encouraging feedback that gives users a decision making role in when features are rolled out for other members or for what features are used in the Launch.
  • Lastly, you can, and it’s not very sticky and usually more costly, give away products, coupons or prizes that will engage users, with some sort of game. This usually has the lowest retention rate of all games, however, can have a large spike in brand awareness, but again, low brand name retention.

You don’t need to have a large organisation to apply these sort of strategies to your marketing efforts, Gamification can work on almost any channel with any service or product and the best part; it’s not going to cost your entire budget.

Firstly, start with something simple as you want to learn the theory and of course get as much information on how your potential customers will react to your idea. Starting with a massive multi-platform international campaign is all fine and well, but if your customers only use Facebook then pushing them to Twitter and Pinterest to find hints to win access to a special feature, isn’t going to produce the best results.

Secondly, structure your game so it makes sense. If you are going to implement a reward system that is complex and would require your users to have an intimate knowledge of your product, then you will more than likely get unsatisfactory results from the game. Make the game small, or make it a series of small, easy to complete games that build upon each other which then gradually gives a user more and more information to get them to their ultimate goal.

Thirdly, make sure you relate the game to your marketing goals. You have an end goal of maybe downloading your brochure, signing up to your newsletter or becoming a member of your site (note, making sales the goal of gamification is a little difficult, so make your goals soft and then implement marketing automation to nurture the users through to a sale).

Lastly, it might be worth consulting some professionals in the beginning as gamification can be a little tricky and badly designed games can happen more often than not. Also, if you already are busy running your business, then adding another time consuming marketing activity onto your plate could be a little too much, and your marketing efforts and spend may go to waste.

In Summary

Gamification is a truly excellent strategy to help you engage with and grow your customer base as well as set your brand apart from your competition. By using this strategy you are developing a far deeper relationship with your users and as such, when they get to the purchase point they will be thinking of your brand far more than any of your other, non-gamified competitors.

If you would like to talk about how you can developed a gamification strategy for your brand, contact DSA Global today!

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Benjamin S Powell

CEO & founder at DSA global
A Digital Marketing expert and CEO & founder of DSA Global. Ben has over 10 years experience solving complex business problems in both client and agency-side roles.

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