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MARKETING: Gamification Marketing
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Gamification Marketing

By Justin Toy

BT 201604 110 02 Marketing gameificationIn recent years, gamification has been a big buzz word in a number of industries and sectors. From education and marketing to even politics and health, the concept is gaining momentum. In a survey from last year, 87 percent of retailers said they planned to use gamification to engage customers within the next five years. A look at the numbers shows that the global market for gamification is red hot. The market is expected to reach USD 5.5 billion by 2018 and USD 10 billion by 2020, an increase of almost 100% in just three years.

So what exactly is gamification? Gamification refers to the "the application of game-design elements and principles in non-game contexts". Basically, trying to turn something into a game to improve user engagement, flow, learning, ease of use and productivity. In marketing, gamification is being leveraged in order to drive adaptation, engagement, awareness, loyalty, sharing, and also sales. This is being done by applying game design thinking within the marketing mix to make it more fun and engaging. If you are considering this for your marketing mix, there are a number of companies out there - such as Bunchball, BigDoor Media, Badgeville and Gigya -- that deliver services and solutions. Below are a few common ways that game mechanics are being implemented within marketing.

BT 201604 110 01 Marketing badgesBadges

Rewarding loyal long-term customers with digital badges is a simple way to engage and motivate customers to interact with your brand in various ways. Everyone enjoys earning achievements and receiving recognition and praise for one’s efforts. A badge system allows consumers receive a digital badge every time they fulfill specific requirements. This incentive can be a fun way for your customers to engage with your brand while being recognized and rewarded for their efforts. Foursquare, a location-based social media website, has been giving out badges to its users for years. Badges can be earned for accomplishing a number of different challenges such as checking in to 10 different locations, checking in at the same place three days in a row, or checking in with five of your friends.


Leaderboards are a way for users to track their performance relative to other users and groups. They are a visual display that highlight the top performing users and where you stand against them. The desire to appear on a leaderboard drives users to earn more achievements, in turn fueling a deeper engagement. Bonapp, a food review app based in Shanghai, utilizes a monthly leaderboard where users can obtain points for writing reviews, uploading images, and commenting. Those at the top of the leaderboard at the end of the month receive free meals, gift certificates, and other give aways.

Level up!

In many video games, especially role playing games, you can level up your character or profile. The higher level you are, the more perks, equipment and abilities you unlock. Having a tiered loyalty or reward program can act as a "leveling up" gaming mechanism. If users meet all the requirements of one level (for example, spending a certain amount of money), they can become a higher level customer and get better rewards, discounts or gifts. Starbucks has a rewards program where it offers three "levels" depending on the degree of user loyalty. The more one frequents Starbucks, the higher level you become. Some of the things that they offer are free food and drinks, birthday gifts, early access to new products, and even custom offers on items that you specifically enjoy.

Another example where you can level up that is a bit more like a video game is Duolingo, a language learning website. As you learn more words and do more practice exercises, you gain experience and can eventually level up. Becoming a higher level unlocks a new set of vocabulary, quizzes and other features. This kind of flow not only makes learning a language more fun and exciting, but it can also help engage and motivate users to study more long-term.

Progress Bar

A process bar is a simple game mechanic that can help consumers through a long process. Receiving this instant feedback about how far along one is through a process makes it far more likely that they will complete the process. LinkedIn utilizes this game mechanic to motivate users to take steps towards 100% completion of their profiles in order to take advantage of LinkedIn'€™s more advanced features. Mint, a finance managing app, also uses a progress bar to motivate users to take the time to add all of their financial accounts and details so that the app can operate at an optimal level.

BT 201604 110 05 Marketing progressbar

Make it Social

One of the main reasons people enjoy playing games is because they like competing against others. When designing gamification mechanics for your product or marketing, it is important to have built-in social components. This can include having links that send challenges to the user's friends via various social media channels or leaderboards, or simply receiving points or experience for sharing information. This kind of social component is especially useful in the health and fitness industry where more than 50% of all products in this sector already use some kind of social gamification element. Nike has successfully gamified workouts with its Nike+ Fueleband. This accessory allows users to track and share their workouts with friends and family.


No matter what gamification strategy you use, there must be meaningful incentives that your customers care about. Without incentives that your target audience wants or needs, they won't be motivated to engage with your gamified content over a long period of time. Implementing a digital currency or credits is one popular way to create an incentive. Customers could receive points or digital "money" that they could accumulate and buy products and services with. Points could be awarded for different activities such as purchasing your products, interacting with marketing materials, sharing links, or even referrals. Shopkick is website that allows users to earn "kicks" (like currency or points) which can be redeemed for gift cards. In order to accumulate points you can visit partner stores, scan specific items or make purchases.


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