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Marketing through Gamification

gamification in marketingA brilliant PR colleague of mine, Susan Elford, recently lent me a book on “Gamification” called “The Gamification Revolution” by Gabe Zichermann and Joselin Linder which she picked up at a recent PR conference. At first, my brain was asking, how could games really be that important in the entire sphere of marketing?  After all, aren’t games something typically done by young people to waste a whole lot of time?

Not the case.  Not only did the book change my perspective, but it also got me thinking about all the possibilities of integrating games into nearly any and every aspect of marketing.  Why?   Because games are a way to get people absorbed in an activity, such that they generate new thinking, better ideas, and deeper understanding of the choices at hand.  Here are just a few of the ways Gamification can be applied to almost any and every aspect of marketing:

Gamification and Strategy

Heard of simulation games?  These are based on creating scenarios and decision points from which a strategy can be designed and tested.  There is a reason great business schools draw on these games – and it’s already been in use for years.   Strategic planning and games are a natural fit.   To design, create as many possibilities and outcomes as you can, estimate probabilities, and see what strategy seems most viable.  Or check out some of these options online.

Gamification and Market Research

Using a game-type format to find out what consumers are thinking can be a greatly elevated way to learn critical information from people who might not normally care to answer questions or fill out a survey.     One great example is “Vision Critical” which uses lots of graphics to have people build and interact with the data they are providing.  By making the experience fun, you can literally get better, more meaningful feedback.

Gamification and Product Development

Give people a selection of options on product features, pricing and add-ons, and a “challenge” them to design a winner (which is perhaps voted on) and you’ve got some great engagement in market research.  Imagine if phone companies let us design our own packages through a game!  The principle of gaming underpins the concept of Kanban, a popular software development technique – which helps people interact to develop prioritized product features.

Gamification and Loyalty

As you already know, loyalty programs are already bent toward gaming features – there are levels, and rewards, and various levels of prizes….all driving consumer loyalty.     If you can use games to bring your customers in, maybe you can use games to keep them interested in all the new things you are doing on an ongoing basis…circling us back to market research, product development, and strategy.    Why not use a contest with your customers to generate new “big ideas” for your company….and provide a reward to the best ones?

Gamification and Creativity

You’ve already seen online “logo contests” or “brand naming” contests — and creativity is certainly one of those things that is a natural with games.   A few blogs back, I wrote about using Scrabble to find and coin new words that could make great company names — but there are many ways of using online games (contests, crowdsourcing of opinions) etc. to enhance creativity.   Check out this website of creativity games for some ideas.

Gamification: The Upshot

If new generations of consumers are accustomed to heavy use of games, and why not turn that into an advantage by designing games into your marketing program?  Making business fun isn’t such a bad thing, after all.

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About the Author - Jacqueline Drew
Jacqueline M. Drew, BComm, MBA is founder and CEO of Tenato Strategy Inc., a marketing research and strategy firm with bases in Calgary, Vancouver and Toronto. With over 25 years' experience in all facets of marketing strategy, she is a business consultant, trainer and speaker who loves to use her superpowers "to help the good guys win."