Gamification: Not a word that many hear in the real world (i.e. the physical, 3D plane where there are no re-spawns or cheat codes for instant cash) but its slowly starting to catch fire. What, pray tell, is gamification though? Well, truthfully? Up until recently I was pretty sure there was no official academic definition for it, but some further research has proven me wrong as Oxford has indeed added the term to their listing (although I’m still trying to figure out how “bling” and “muggle” made it in). You can find it here, but essentially it comes down to being “the application of gaming mechanics and design techniques in non-gaming contexts.”
Now we have a definition. Great! But what are “non-gaming contexts?” You probably have to be a gamer for it to click, so again I’ll help you “noobs” along here (gamer language, look it up). Game mechanics are essentially the processes of operations within a game. Can you jump? That’s a mechanic. Can you climb? Yep, that’s a mechanic too. Is your princess in another castle? That’s not a mechanic but instead the work of a disgruntled writer. Now “design techniques” are where the area gets a little gray, but essentially you can think of this as how a reward system might work within your gamified promotion, or training techniques, or whatever it is you’re wanting to do with this concept.
I actually did this once at a previous job where we created a social media promotion that was essentially a scavenger hunt (this is still a game). Via Facebook and Twitter we would post clues as to which memorabilia item our customers were supposed to find on property (it was a casino) and by the end of the week all participants who submitted the right picture won a prize. The top three participants with the highest number of correct submissions at the end of the month won merchandise, points, and other goodies. This, essentially, is gamification in marketing, and it accomplished two very important goals for our property:
1) It brought patrons into the place of business every week, and;
2) It increased our number of active patrons on our social media outlets, which increased our overall outreach and analytics scores.
And truthfully? It was also a lot of fun! Our patrons were amazingly happy and got even a little competitive during the course of this campaign. We also caught the attention of a few pretty substantial organizations who liked the idea and subsequently used a few of the promotion’s elements for their own events later on (I won’t drop any names though).
So there you have it: gaming – not just for saving the world anymore. Sometimes, it might just save your business too.
Think about all of the apps out there these days that are gamifying your exercise routine. It’s a lot more fun having an app tell you you’re outrunning zombies than just telling you how many calories you’re burning, right? (Well, for me it is). And what about frequent flyer miles? That’s a reward based program that gives you points for being loyal. Those points? Gamification! Don’t believe me? Okay, fine! But this is a topic Forbes.com has been covering for some time as well. It’s no perfected science, believe me, but it’s certainly a big step in a new and fresh direction.
But why would a logo company care about gamification? If we stop and consider everything we’ve read here today, and all we know about gaming and video games, what’s the one thing we know comes from every gaming experience? Rewards! Whether it’s coins, power ups, loot, or finally finding the right castle – every game leaves the player with a sense of accomplishment, and there’s nothing that says “good job” in the real world like physical merchandise (aka logoed products).
So I, Beth Meadows, gamer geek girl extraordinaire of Show Your Logo, present to you a few quick gamification ideas:
1) Slim Down = Level Up
The spring and summer season sees a lot of companies try to kick start a healthy eating program to inspire their employees to lose weight and eat right. While this already has most of the elements of gamification worked into it, why not add a little flare? You just got all (or most) of your employees to start eating more conscientiously – gifting them with food seems a little counter intuitive. So how about merchandise? Better yet, how about this:
Instead of making the competition an all or nothing effort for losing so many pounds, change it out so that it’s a bit more realistic. Harry probably doesn’t lose weight like Sally, so expecting them both to shed the same amount of pounds within a certain time frame really eliminates a lot of the participation factor for either candidate. Instead, let everyone name their own (realistic) weight loss goals. At the end of each weigh in period everyone who reached their goal gets a shirt. At the end of the next period, a hat, and so on and so forth.
This is of course subject to change at the program’s leisure, but it’s still a great idea and allows for everyone to feel like they’re included, participating, and succeeding.
2) The Surprise Bonus
Calm down, I’m not talking about a paycheck bonus (though I doubt you’d receive complaints if you went that route). Most of us who have played Mario remember that super powered star that let you blast through every obstacle in your way and sometimes even offered double the coin collection rate. Well, why not add something like that in your promotions? If you’re enticing sign ups for a reward program, state how random applicants will get a gift card to your store (we make those, by the way!) or a high end jacket (we can get you those too). You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know that people like getting free stuff, especially if there’s a high perceived value. A bonus program also allows for a lot of flexibility. One week it can be doubled points on a random day, and another week it can be a giveaway item, etc, etc.
3) Make a Real Game
This might seem like a rather daunting and costly task, but it’s really not. Kids make up games all the time, so why not adults? Why not marketers? We’ve seen McDonalds do it with their Monopoly tie-in, and while we might not have those kinds of dollars lying around, the creative effort that goes into making your own gamified promotion can really let your business shine. This can be as simple as sending out a flyer to keep track of purchases (punch cards?) or creating your own mobile app. Just remember that there must always be a reward system involved, or people won’t play. It has to be fun and mildly competitive, but most of all there has to be a reason to play, and of course, make sure there’s some return value on your own end too.
That’s it for now. Happy gaming, everyone! I hope you enjoyed this super long blog about the benefits of gaming mechanics in our professional lives, and maybe even learned a thing or two about how to apply them to your own.
Image obtained from: “Video games and gaming in emerging markets.” Jana Mobile. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 May 2014.