Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Gamification of Marketing

If you have ever noticed how someone seems to be completely immersed and addicted when playing a video game then you can start to understand how marketers are today exploiting this type of addictive behavior when using games to promote their products.  

Thanks to the internet and smart phones, a new trend in combining games and advertising is taking place, it’s being referred to as Marketing Gamification.  We have had loyalty programs around for ages, on a simple level these schemes were leading the way to today’s Gamification of Marketing.  Loyalty programs used to reward users for brand fidelity such as receiving a coupon every time one shops at a particular supermarket and later using the accumulated points to receive a reward.  Such plans have now become exponentially more complex thanks to modern technology such as the internet and smart phones.  Increasingly games are starting to become an integral part of any elaborate marketing plan.
Marketers are today trying to utilize people’s natural desires for socializing and personal achievement by using rewards, such as awarding virtual currency for players who accomplish desired tasks as part of their marketing plan.  An added advantage of using such techniques is that companies are immediately able to quantify if potential clients are engaging with their brand due to the analytics-driven nature of the process itself.  Rewards received by consumers make them feel more incentivized to proceed with a purchase or continue with further engagement with the same brand.

In the last 5 years, large companies such as Nike started to incorporate games in their marketing plans.  Thanks to the Fuelband, a piece of wearable activity tracker technology able to record physical exercise levels, Nike’s marketing department took Gamification to a whole new level.   It’s software which runs on any android or apple device allows it’s users to keep with set physical fitness regimes and incentivizes it’s users to unlock achievements and progress to more demanding cardiovascular and endurance levels.  

The Nike Fuelband was launched in early 2012 and is itself sold at cost-price, however the Nike brand registered an increase of 12% in sales over the previous year, which is an unprecedented record in sales in itself.  Later that same year Nike launched an online community for Fuelband users, where members were able to compete with other subscribers within the same level of fitness to compete for periodic prizes such as discounts for newer Nike products which in turn continued to increase sales, members were also able to showcase their achievements online via social media such as Facebook which continued to increase this viral campaign and engage with new users.  Nike’s own studies have shown that users were more likely to engage with this campaign and members of this newly created social network were also more brand loyal overall, thus this campaign was deemed as more successful than any other traditional marketing campaign ever launched, including the well known “Just do it” promotion.
A nationwide game recently made the news in Italy as well, when an online business directory (not to be confused with the similarly named car brand), achieved overnight success after launching an addictive and innovative online game.  Users were able to download an app on their smart phones and register items in their wish list.  The online business directory would match these items with the closest real-life shop offering these items and at a random point in time during the opening hours notify it’s users that they have up to two hours to visit that particular shop and get a massive 20% discount on any items bought from their wish list.  The discount would start diminishing gradually as time elapses.  Once the user buys an item using this method a post is automatically uploaded on social media, such as Facebook or Twitter and inform friends and followers that this particular user just got a discount by using this online business directory.   The system went viral and within days of being launched started making news when users went to extremes to win points and purchase items at a discount, such as skiving school or work to make on time or even fighting whilst waiting in lines outside the participating stores.  As time went by more businesses started registering their offers on this online directory and today this system is competing with the larger well known traditional business directories.  This online business directory is now spending very little in advertising when compared to the millions of Euros in TV and internet advertising spent by it’s direct competition to try to keep up with this campaign.
A company does not necessarily need to implement such complicated and technologically advanced systems to incorporate games in their marketing campaigns.  For example, which delivers food in more than 70 countries worldwide, recently launched a smart phone app and included a simple and yet novel feature which allows the user to shake the phone instead of choosing the pizza toppings and the app would select them itself at random if the user was at a loss as to which option to choose.  If the user chose to accept the app’s suggestion than the app would award a token.  The tokens could be redeemed for free items such as a drink with the subsequent order.  Marketing reports suggest that this simple feature increased Dominos’ sales by 25% and brand loyalty was consolidated as people kept coming back.

One major advantage of using games in a marketing strategy is the fact that, if planned correctly, the game might go viral and the return on investment would be much higher if compared to the substantially higher budgets that would have to be allocated for traditional marketing campaigns.  Companies have to ensure that the games they create elevate their brand and helps them stand out from the competition, however this has to be achieved without crossing any boundaries, staying within decency limits and ensuring that no negative connotations are associated back to the brand.


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Notice: Article was originally published on the Times of Malta, Marketing Supplement 28th January 2015.  Written by Ian Vella.  Article is being republished here only for information purposes and copyright is shared between the author and editor therefore republication is not allowed unless written consent is obtained by all parties.

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