Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Getting Your Game On

Gamificaiton is defined as applying a game-like scenario to engage users to solve a problem. It sounds like fun putting a game spin on all of your problems, but is it always the best solution?

Gamification is nothing new to the marketing industry. Cereal companies have been using games to drive engagement with kids for decades, but as technology changes so does the game. The industry has come along way from mazes and crosswords on the back of a cardboard box, however there is still a ways to go to creating meaningful engagement among target audiences to increase acquisition and retention.

In order to be successful to help brands break through the clutter, gamification needs to create added value for users, give a unique experience or change behaviours.

+Foursquare was one of the first organizations to use gamification successfully by presenting users with badges after certain check-in milestones were reached. Receiving badges has become ubiquitous across branded games. Foursquare has recognized this and has moved to an information based model. Simply offering badges or points without creating added value basically renders these rewards insignificant. Starbucks is a shining example of achieving the status quo. This app revolves around the in store transaction and doesn't create any ongoing engagement. Also having to collect 30 points to receive one or two free drinks the following year doesn't exactly keep me running back there every chance I get.

Gamification shouldn't be solely based on driving your company's sales or driving traffic to your partners.

+JetBlue's True Blue Badges app is a prime example of this. A large number of the badge rewards require you to visit a partner's site, share a flight on a social network or actually start a service with one of their partners.  A loyalty rewards program doesn't feel too loyal when you are continually being pushed to interact with other brands.

Some of the best examples in gamification are in the education, health, and food industries.

+Khan Academy is a non-for profit organization that uses gamified tutorials to encourage on-going learning across 18 subjects. This free web service creates an engaging, unique experience not found anywhere else. Khan Academy launched in 2006, today has over 1.2 million subscribers and has received substantial support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Google.

For a couple of years now +Chipotle Mexican Grill has been priding themselves on using local, sustainable farming. They have returned with another viral animation hit "The Scarecrow" in promotion of their mobile app Scarecrow that was released last week.  Where Chipotle succeeds with this mobile app is it's an engaging way to suggest a behaviour change to start choosing sustainable, healthy food options. With minimal branding, they are creating a non intrusive experience that drives the story around the behaviour, not the brand.

+Nike's fuelband and Nike+ applications encourage you to exercise through goal setting, challenging friends, achievement milestones, coaching tips, and finding new routes to run. This is a fun, healthy and interactive way to create positive engagement within a community that Nike created on its own.

Possibly the most innovative example of gamification to date is +Lexus Italia's "Trace Your Road"experience. Lexus  has taken gamification to the next level by creating this truly unique experience for 10 of their Facebook fans.

Just because a trending method is available doesn't mean it is the right option for you. If you are looking at gamifying an experience ask a few questions first. Does this create an engaging experience outside of the transaction? What is the added value for our users? Can this help create and sustain our own branded community? Are we creating a unique experience, or are we just following suit?

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