More fun to play with: Why you should gamify your marketing!

Marketing is very much about making things fun. Negativity doesn’t sell – neither products nor does it, in social marketing, help change behaviour in the long run. So while making things fun seems an easy task, it often isn’t. But, there is a secret weapon for the marketeer: to gamify the desired behaviour. 

Marketing is about fun – and games!

So what is gamification? Gamification means enhancing non-game environments by using game-like elements. For example, rather than just letting a person collect loyalty points for purchases (which is rather boring), offering elements such as virtual competitions, social benefits and “a story” that creates a fun atmosphere around the points collecting – and with that purchasing. 

An alternative would be to gamify desirable or socially beneficial behaviours in social marketing: for example, playing a game where you can swap “unhealthy” foods with “healthy” foods and get rewards, sharable points and a flow of encouragement to swap more. 

Gamification can cover a wide range of activities that create more fun, and one could even say immersive, environment. Simple gamification can be introducing levels and rewards for the behaviour that we want to encourage (such as buying our products). But gamification can also take the form of fully immersive games, played online or in apps, game consoles etc.. Of course, making immersive gaming environments is exceptionally costly and time-intensive. So this strategy only pays for very large companies with extensive marketing budgets. 

Using gamification elements

However, using gamification elements in everyday marketing is much cheaper. It can be incorporated into just about any marketing campaign and budget. Here are some features to think about:

Points and leaderboards: Turn buying your product or interacting with your marketing message into a contest by introducing an element of competition. 

Badges and “social credit”: Reward your customers when they reach certain milestones. Bought something five times? Award them a badge. Give them titles, such as Brand Ambassador, Aficionado or whatever you can think of. Pro-tip: make it sharable so that they can share their successes with their friends!

Progress Bars and clear Progression Rules: These are essential elements. The “players” can gain more points, badges and climb up the leader board while staying motivated. In particular, progress bars are a great way to visualise how they are progressing – and keep people motivated.

Narrative or Story: This element is sometimes a bit tricky but essential. Create a straightforward narrative around the game you are playing. This doesn’t have to be an elaborate storyline, instead think about some simple, fun elements to create an atmosphere. 

Using these little tricks will make engaging (for example, on social media) and other behaviours more fun for people to do. So think of introducing some gamification elements the next time you look at your marketing strategy. Because games are – enjoyable!

Published by Dr Stephan Dahl

Stephan Dahl is Adjunct Associate Professor at James Cook University. His research interests include social media, marketing ethics and social marketing, and he has published in national and international journals, including the Journal of Advertising Research and Journal of Marketing Management. He is an editorial board member of the International Journal of Advertisingand the Journal of Consumer Affairs. He published the books Social Media Marketing: Theories of Digital Communications and Marketing Ethics & Society (both Sage) and is also the co-author of Social Marketing (Pearson) and Integrated Marketing Communications (Taylor and Francis).

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