Rethinking gamification in marketing

Gamification was once a buzzword in marketing, popping up in campaign activations and strategies whether it fit or not. So does gamification still have a place or was it just a fad?

It doesn’t seem that long ago that conferences were jammed with sessions on how techniques and ideas from the world of electronic gaming were revolutionising marketing.

Games are highly engaging, and brands are always seeking greater engagement, so the idea of the ‘gamification’ of campaigns seemed like a logical development. Hence leader boards, points systems and completion bars started appearing in all manner of digital campaigns, as marketers sought to entice audiences to stay engaged with them for as long as possible.

Fast forward to today however, and pretty much no one is talking about gamification. So was it just an overhyped fad?

“I think that, thankfully, the early days of 'gamification' are officially behind us,” says director of strategy at Melbourne-based agency Hardhat Digital, Dan Monheit. “The era I'm referring to was the one in which every client wanted every campaign, website, app, newsletter and internal office poster 'gamified', whether it made sense to do so or not – because it usually didn't.”

The learning for the industry was that taking a boring, inherently unmotivating task and adding a leader board and some badges still left the audience with a boring, inherently unmotivating task.

“It's kind of like a terrible person paying others to hang out with them,” Monheit says. “It seems kind of palatable at first, but it doesn't take long for people to either decide that it's just not worth it, or work out how to game the system and extract the most amount of cash for the least amount of interaction possible. Either way, it's not going to be the result that the terrible person was looking for.

“The inherently motivating factors need to be baked in from the very start - after all, games have no purpose other than to create enjoyment by being played, and that's what companies with their raft of other objectives are likely competing with.”

Lessons learnt

Monheit says the realisation for many of the early adopters was that it was incredibly difficult to make a product or service that was as addictive as a game. This is reflected through many successful games effectively only being ‘one off’s’ from a developer that got exceedingly lucky, with few small developers able to repeat their success consistently.

“This all seems pretty obvious, but it seems that as an industry we had to learn the hard way,” Monheit says. “The same could be said for brands realising what it takes to produce truly entertaining content.”

Partner at Deloitte Digital, Jason Hutchinson, believes gamification has very much been a victim of the hype cycle. But while it failed to meet the expectations many placed on it, this may have been the result of poor implementations, rather than an inherent fault in the idea.

“People were rewarding the wrong things,” Hutchinson says. “We were rewarding people for a specific task, but not necessarily for the quality of that task. We would reward someone for creating a piece of content, but what we should be rewarding people for is the value of that content.

“Where gamification works really well is when we put higher rewards based on the value of that content and whether people like it, share it or reuse it – or remove points based on how people use it. So it should be powered by the data around it, not simply creating a piece of content.”

While gamification might be many years past being flavour of the month, Hutchinson says clients still seek to have gamified elements included in projects. Deloitte itself long ago incorporated elements of gamification into internal systems and processes, including a corporate version of Foursquare that encourages consultants to ‘check in’ after they have met with clients and include information on what they have discussed, and earn rewards for doing so.

Up next: Examples of successful gamification today, plus learning the impact and effectiveness

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Show Comments

Blog Posts

Building a human-curated brand

If the FANG (Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, Google) sector and their measured worth are the final argument for the successful 21st Century model, then they are beyond reproach. Fine-tuning masses of algorithms to reduce human touchpoints and deliver wild returns to investors—all with workforces infinitesimally small compared to the giants of the 20th Century—has been proven out.

Will Smith

Co-founder and head of new markets, The Plum Guide

Sustainability trends brands can expect in 2020

​Marketers have made strides this year in sustainability with the number of brands rallying behind the Not Business As Usual alliance for action against climate change being a sign of the times. While sustainability efforts have gained momentum this year, 2020 is shaping up to be the year brands are really held accountable for their work in this area.

Ben King

CSR manager & sustainability expert, Finder

The trouble with Scotty from Marketing

As a Marketer, the ‘Scotty from Marketing’ meme troubles me.

Natalie Robinson

Director of marketing and communications, Melbourne Polytechnic

Well, that's good to know that. Any other news you want to share here? I can't wait to see more.

Phil Godfrey

Queensland appoints first chief customer and digital officer

Read more

It's a pretty interesting article to read. I will learn more about this company later.

Dan Bullock

40 staff and 1000 contracts affected as foodora closes its Australian operations

Read more

If you think it can benefit both consumer and seller then it would be great

Simon Bird

Why Ford is counting on the Internet of Things to drive customer engagement

Read more

It's a good idea. Customers really should control their data. Now I understand why it's important.

Elvin Huntsberry

Salesforce CMO: Modern marketers have an obligation to give customers control of their data

Read more

Instagram changes algorithms every time you get used to them. It really pisses me off. What else pisses me off? The fact that Instagram d...

Nickwood

Instagram loses the like in Australia; industry reacts positively

Read more

Latest Podcast

More podcasts

Sign in