New Age of Gamification: Business Differentiator, Marketing Reinvented, Customer Engager… Or, Just Hype (game-mechanics for business)…

Gamification is about challenge, achievement, success, pleasure, and most important it’s about engagement.

Gamification is the concept of applying game-design thinking to non-game applications (i.e., business…) to make them more fun and engaging.  Gamification works by motivating users to engage in specific behavior by taking advantage of humans’ psychological predisposition to engage in gaming. The technique rewards people for performing chores that they would normally ignore, such as; completing surveys, shopping, filling out forms, reading web sites…

Early examples of gamification are based on awarding ‘points’ to people who share experiences on location-based platforms, such as; Facebook’s ‘Place’, Foursquare, and Gowalla. Popular business applications for gamification include; airlines frequent flyer programs, hotel loyalty programs, retail points systems…

RedCritter Tracker incorporates gamification elements, such as; badges, rewards, leader-boards and ribbons into project management. Gartner Group predicts gamification will be a key trend that marketing, IT planners, and enterprise architects must be aware of, as it relates to business.

According to the ‘2011 Gartner Research Report’, it is estimated that by 2015 more than 50% of organizations that manage innovation processes will gamify those processes. Wanda Meloni at M2 Research, calculates that gamification industry revenue amounted to about $100 million in 2011, but she expects it to balloon to $1.6 billion in 2015.  

A ‘Fortune’ article stated; Gamification has started being popularized as the next big thing in marketing, and companies are realizing that ‘gamification’–  using the same mechanics that hook gamers– is an effective way to engage customers and generate business”.

In the article Gamification: How Competition Is Reinventing Business, Marketing & Everyday Life by Jennifer Van Grove writes:  Can life and all the menial or routine tasks that come with it be transformed through game-mechanics into an engaging, social, and fun recreational activity? Such is the idea behind the emerging trend of ‘gamification’. The word ‘gamification’, much like the phrase ‘social media’ a few years back, is being lobbed around in technology circles as the next frontier in web and mobile.

Just as nearly every application, such as; website, brand marketing… now employ social media in some capacity, most-likely these entities will also gravitate towards game-mechanics in the years ahead. A recent Gartner report predicts that by 2014, a gamified service for consumer goods marketing and customer retention will become as important as Facebook, eBay or Amazon, and more than 70% of Global 2000 organizations will have at least one gamified application.

In the articleGame-Based Marketing by Dean Takahashi writes: Gamification, as a concept, is far from a new idea. Companies have been using games in non-game context, such as; the military, business, hospitality… Gabe Zickerman, in his book ‘Game-Based Marketing’, says; Gamification is the process of using game-mechanics to engage audiences and solve problems, by taking the best ideas from games and applying them to fields where they are not usually used. It produces a big bump in user engagement quickly and cheaply, relative to other methods.

Gamification makes things more engaging so people will pay more attention and stay focused for a longer time. Seth Priebatsch agrees. It feels like the next natural evolution of human-technological interaction… as we complete the social layer; we’ll begin construction, in earnest, on the game layer”. The five most commonly used game-mechanics are; points, badges, levels, leader-boards, challenges.  

According to Zickerman,It’s easier than you think to bring the power of games to your business by adding game-mechanics to your marketing mix with these steps”:

  • Ask: What consumer behavior are you trying to drive?
  • Assign points to those behaviors.
  • Create a leader-board to display points.
  • Develop challenges and message them.
  • Make ‘fun’ your goal!

In the articleHow Three Businesses Scored Big with Gamification by Erica Swallow writes:  Ready or not, gamification is taking the business world by storm. For anyone unfamiliar with gamification, it’s the application of game-like elements, such as; challenges, points, badges and levels to business and other non-game websites.

An estimated 70% of the top 2,000 public companies in the world will have at least one gamified application by 2014, predicts Gartner. Patrick Salyer believes there are two keys to success with gamification: One is making sure that all gamified elements are inherently social. That is, don’t restrict engagement to the internal site community. Award points for activities that reach users’ social [networks] to bring in referral traffic.

The other is to focus on rewarding activities that create value for your businesses. For example, award points and badges for behaviors like subscribing to your company’s newsletter, checking into your store or sending coupons to friends. Gamification is not about haphazardly throwing badges across your site. Companies should weigh a number of factors before deciding whether to get into the gamification game. 

Dustin DiTommaso, suggests that companies think seriously about why they’re interested in gamification and how it could help them meet their business goals. Before gamifying, he says, a business should be able to answer these questions:

  • What is the reason for gamifying your product or service?
  • How does it benefit users? Will they enjoy it?
  • What are your business goals?
  • How do you get users to fulfill those business goals?
  • What actions do you want users to take?

In the article Gamification is Bullshit by Ian Bogost writes: I’m not being flip or glib or provocative. I’m speaking philosophically. More specifically, gamification is marketing bullshit, invented by consultants as a means to capture the wild, coveted beast that is video games and to domesticate it for use in the grey, hopeless wasteland of big business, where bullshit already reigns anyway.

Bull-shitters are many things, but they are not stupid. The rhetorical power of the word ‘gamification’ is enormous, and it does precisely what the bull-shitters want: it takes games– a mysterious, magical, powerful medium that has captured the attention of millions of people– and it makes them accessible in the context of contemporary business.

Gamification is reassuring. It gives vice presidents and brand managers comfort: They’re doing everything right, and they can do even better by adding ‘games strategy’ to their existing products, slathering on ‘gaminess’… Gamification is easy. It offers simple, repeatable approaches in which benefit, honor, and aesthetics are less important than facility.

This rhetorical power derives from the ‘-ification’ rather than from the ‘game’.  ‘-ification’ involves simple, repeatable, proven techniques or devices that you can; purify, beautify, falsify, terrify, and so forth. I am not naive and I am not a fool. I realize that gamification is the easy answer for deploying a perversion of games as a mod-marketing miracle. I realize that using games earnestly would mean changing the very operation of most businesses…

In the articleGamification Goes Mainstream by Lamont Wood writes: There are two main varieties of gamification: ‘customer-facing’ systems and ‘employee-facing’ systems. The former are mostly for websites open to the public, while the latter are for employees of an enterprise. Gamification on consumer sites is typically intended to heighten user engagement, so customers will be more likely to come back.

Gamification is not a no-risk strategy. It has to be done right. Ryan Elkins cautions that it isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. ‘Employee-facing’ gamification tends to work well in job functions that don’t pay well. In boring jobs or call center jobs, people come in and detach themselves from their work.

Gamification helps bring them back and gives them something to focus on. As for pitfalls, if you are trying to drive specific behavior but you don’t understand the behavior, you may create a false dynamic, such as; driving salespeople to make [time-wasting] phone calls in situations where normally they only use email, notes Scott Holden.

For ‘consumer-facing’ sites, the problem is called over-justification. If you reward people for doing something they are not interested in, you demotivate them in long run, says Michael Wu. Gamification is good as a short-term tactic…

In the article “Social Visionary Believes Gamification Is Now a Cultural Movement” by Piers Fawkes writes:  Game thinking is part of the mainstream whether folks are conscious of it, or not. For the last 40 years, consumer expectations have been fundamentally altered by exposure to games. Specifically, this means that our beliefs are about; meaning and value of fun, frequency and context of rewards, and omnipresence of sociability.

The simple shorthand is; feedback, friends and fun. The consumer has changed, and smart businesses must adapt to survive and thrive. The use of gamification to drive social change is a big movement in culture. It’s worth remembering that in early 2010 there were no hits on the term, gamification, on Google; today there are millions. Gamification is a new discipline with deep roots and extraordinary potential…

Gamification, it’s really not about gaming; it’s about good old behavioral economics using game-mechanics. According to John Bell; the world of ‘gamification’ is certainly buzzy if not frothy. Many marketers are talking about it and startups are employing it, as if it were the magic sauce that could overcome anything even a bad business plan.

We can easily identify these techniques throughout the history of business and marketing as tools for getting users engaged. There is wisdom underneath it all and gamification, as a sometime appropriate feature to stimulate behavior change, is here to stay.  This surge of game-mechanics is all over the Web and is being applied to many things including; brand advocacy, environmental, health behavior, fundraising…

But, how did you sell the company management on the idea of games in a very non-gaming business? According to Le-Te;  “This is not about games… it’s about strategy and tools for engaging customers and reaching business goals”.

Game-mechanics are not a good fit for everything… everything has limitations, but they’re great fits for more situations than not ~ Priebatsch