The buzz word in the digital world for 2011 is not in the dictionary but we can attempt to define it as follows: “Gamification is the use of game design techniques, theory and mechanics to solve problems and engage audiences by targeting their emotional intelligence (what makes people tick, motivation, persuasion, etc)”
So we have gamification as the noun and gamify, gamified and gamifying as its conjunctive derivatives, and it’s been touted as one of the most important trends in technology by a number of digital experts.
But what does that really mean to you when trying to market a product or a service?
Gamification has been in use for a very long time but has only recently been named and categorized.
Remember when Mum said “Tidy your room and you will get sweets”?
Yup she was gamifying you, she was locking onto the reward centres in your brain that let you know, if you complete a certain task you will be rewarded.
The brain knows pleasure when it sees it and this tireless busy little organ works 24/7.
When the brain encounters a pleasurable sensation, the cerebral cortex (the thought, language and conscious part) signals the reward centre of your brain (ventral tegmental – associated with motivation, addiction, etc) to release the chemical dopamine into the part of your brain that makes up the emotional reactions and orchestration of thoughts (amygdala, the prefrontal cortex and the nucleus acumens).
Interestingly these reward centres can be triggered by many factors including challenges, food, sex or anticipation of sex as well as performing an act of kindness or generosity. To add an extra dimension to this, doing something scary or even thinking about it can also release dopamine.
This is what gamification is about, tapping into that reward centre and the associated emotions that are often triggered by playing games. Using the techniques and mechanics of games in a different environment such as education or marketing to solve problems and engage audiences.
Let us take a look at real life examples of well known brands using gamification techniques. First, take a popular game such as Pac Man that includes a number of different game mechanics including:
• Scoring: entices players to play again to better their score, demonstrates achievement and progress
• Leader board: Allows players to boast about their score and their abilities to peers
• Social aspects: players share the game, compare results, collaborate on techniques
Twitter followers and FourSquare badges are all competitive game scores that are presented for comparison.
Starbucks, Nectar cards, Tesco, Homebase, My Coke Rewards and all the other reward cards, are scoring techniques to see how many points you can accumulate.
Facebook: Your friend has more friends than you – this is peer competition, and introduces a challenge element.
Linkedin: Your colleague has more connections than you = respect, I wish I was like him/her, can I be like that?
Social AspectsNetflix allows you to gift a friend or family member with a free trial
NikeiD shoes allows you to customise your own shoes and show them off to friends
Microsoft even turned Office into a game (Ribbon Hero 2) to encourage users to learn the latest features.
Game mechanics such as achievement, progression, discovery, bonuses, status, reward schedules and urgent optimism and many more are all useful in marketing campaigns to help engage with customers. By implementing these mechanics into your campaign you won’t instantly convert the non-believers, but you will sway the ones sitting on the fence and you will engage on a deeper level with the converted.
Take a second look at your campaign – can you build a reward system into it, add urgency through countdowns, create demand by simulating scarcity through invitation only, as Spotify and Google + have done?
Could you challenge your target market to find out more, to dig deeper for a potential bonus item such as a discount or free gift?
So whether you are planning a new campaign or revising an existing one, , take a look at Gamification to see if it could help you to improve your engagement levels, viral capability, quality of leads and even sales.