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

Why defining brand strategy is vital to capitalising on quick wins

Big brands were once protected from small brands by high barriers to entry. Big brands had the resources to employ big agencies, to crack big ideas and to invest in big campaigns. They had the luxury of time to debate strategies and work on long-term innovation pipelines. Retailers used to partner with big brands.

Troy McKinnna

Co-founder, Agents of Spring, Calm & Stormy

3 ways to leverage the talents of your team to avoid disruption

​According to the World Economic Forum in its most recent The Future of Jobs report, the most important skills for the future are not technical, task-oriented skills, but higher-order skills such as creativity, social influence, active learning, and analytical thinking.

Gihan Perera

Futurist, leadership consultant

CMOs, it’s time to stop squandering customer attention

Businesses continue to highly value the attention they buy through paid media, yet at the same time, many continue to disregard and under-value opportunities to connect with customers using their owned media.

Well written Vanessa!! Agreed with your view that human experience is marketing's next frontier. Those businesses who are focused on the ...

Clyde Griffith

Forget customer experience, human experience is marketing's next frontier

Read more

Great tips for tops skills need to develop and stay competitive

Nick

The top skills needed to stay competitive in a rapidly changing workforce

Read more

The popularity of loyalty programs is diminishing, though I'd say it is because customers are savvy enough to recognise when a loyalty pr...

Heather

It’s time for marketers to rethink their approach to ‘loyalty’

Read more

Thanks Nadia for sharing this blog. It has really useful and amazing information about Salesforce Commerce Cloud and digital engagement w...

Holly Smith

Adidas taps data and technology smarts to build personalised digital engagement with consumers

Read more

clearly someone who's jealous and only comments from the safety of being behind their keyboard

Peter Sibson

The purpose of purpose - Brand science - CMO Australia

Read more

Latest Podcast

More podcasts

Sign in