Gamification for marketing – the dos and the don’ts

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When researching user engagement you will likely run into the concept of gamification. Be it for mobile apps, website design or marketing, gamification can be used to surprising effectiveness. But, as it usually goes, there are right ways and wrong ways to implement gamification. Some will not only take away from your resources but also yield little to no results. So, to help avoid this, we will cover gamification for marketing and give you some examples of how it is best utilized.

Why is gamification so useful?

The simplest way to define gamification is that it is applying concepts developed in video games to other various industries. The first thing to note is that we are not talking about superficial concepts like the look of video games, or the sounds that they use. Instead, we are discussing concepts like levelling up, opening loot boxes, engaging your friends in order to get in-game rewards, etc. All of these can be quite effective in marketing, especially if you understand the mechanics behind them.

The psychology behind gamification

The reason why these gaming mechanics are so effective is that there is a ton of psychology behind them. Keep in mind that these concepts weren’t made up on the fly. They are a product of in-depth research, experimentation and a clever implementation. Some of the mechanics, like levelling up, were used long before video games came around.

For instance,  just think of different coloured belts in martial arts. Most eastern martial arts use them to signify different levels of students. This gives a clear incentive to students to train harder and stick with their martial art for longer. Therefore, it should be fairly obvious to see how someone used this concept and applied it to video games. And why this concept can have great use in marketing.

Using gaming concepts

The true beauty of these contests is that video game designers gathered ideas for various places. Casino games, martial arts, sports… All of them have concepts that game designers managed to implement in various types of games. Therefore, by studying gamification you are effectively reaping the rewards of their hard work. The more you look into it, the more you will see just how effective these concepts are.

Examples  of good and bad gamification for marketing

Unfortunately, not all gamification concepts can be used for marketing. Some are more suitable for mobile apps or computer software. Others simply miss the point if implemented anywhere else but video games. And, alas, people often misunderstand gaming concepts. This leads to them spending a lot of time implementing them while getting little to no results. In certain cases, gamification can even be detrimental to your marketing and push your audience away from you. So, instead of describing how to use gaming concepts, we will give you a couple of examples of what makes good and what makes bad gamification for marketing.

Levelling up – good

Let’s say that you run a business where you rely on continual business from your customers. For instance, delivering food, selling clothes, or anything else that customers will likely require time and time again. How are you to convince your customers to stick with you? Well, this is where levelling up can be quite useful.

What you do is give each customer their level. The more they work with you, the bigger their level becomes. After a certain level, they can get benefits such as discounts, special offers or free items. This is what we consider good gamification in marketing, as you give a clear incentive to your customers to work with your company and keep bringing your revenue.

Microtransactions – bad

Microtransactions are so-called “small transactions” that are placed within a video game. For instance, even though you’ve bought a video game, the in-game store offers you to buy a new cosmetic item for your character. Or, it allows you to level up your character for a fee. In video games, this can make sense. Especially if you make your microtransactions optional and not make your game pay-to-win. Unfortunately, even in video games, microtransactions can fail tremendously.

Let’s say that you want to use microtransactions for marketing. In order to encourage your customers to pay for them, you need to gate off certain aspects of your company. For instance, let’s say that you are delivering food. A microtransaction can be that, for a small fee, your customer can get their next shipment faster. As you can imagine, this only brings frustration to your customers as it plainly shows that you can deliver food quickly. But, you choose not to. This will quickly lead to your customers seeing you as greedy and leaving you for your competition. Therefore, this instance of gamification in marketing can, and likely will, backfire.

Loot boxes – good

Are you having trouble convincing your customers to read the emails that you send? Then all you need to do is to take loot boxes and apply them to your email marketing campaign. Let us elaborate. Loot boxes are game mechanics where a player gets a reward and they don’t know what it is.

Loot boxes usually contain a couple of items, most of which are fairly useless to the player. But, once in a while, they get something that is actually useful. And, once in a blue moon, they can something that is quite useful. This possibility of getting useful stuff is what drives them to open the loot box time and time again. In fact, they will willingly go through something arduous (like watching an ad or filling out a questionnaire) just to get another loot box. If used properly, this game mechanic can bring you customer engagement as you’ve never seen before.

Final thoughts

While gamification for marketing is an exciting concept, we advise you to approach it with due care and attentiveness. If you use it properly, you can easily step up your marketing campaign and ensure great success. But, it is paramount that you use it properly, as misusing it will likely hurt your company.

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