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Asia Business Development – Asia Business Consulting » Gamification: Using gaming to popularize brands

SpirE-Journal 2012 Q4

Gamification: Using gaming to popularize brands

Reader's Ratings:

Gamification: Using gaming to popularize brands

Console, PC and internet games are a lucrative industry, with global revenues exceeding that of the movie industry. Can marketers leverage technology to develop gaming applications to engage consumers while promoting their brands and products? Recent experience suggests that they can.

Gamification: Using gaming to popularize brands

Gamification applies game mechanics to non-game applications to make them more fun and engaging ; building on each individual’s psychological predisposition to engage in gaming. What works in favor of this relatively new concept is that it allows players to experience a sense of participation, adrenaline rush, fun and a sense of victory – akin to playing games.

By including popular gaming elements through advanced technology, customers are presented with an idea or product which the marketers intend to sell. A fine mix of fun and business is then achieved. This concept has been driven by the rise of smartphones and smarter applications.

How does gamification achieve its magic?

AGamification relies on the fun element for its pulling power. This is in turn derived from a clever mix of exploration, socializing, achieving, learning, surprise and humor. Successful gamification must give users a world to explore, tell a surprising story with adversities to overcome and treasures to loot, as well as chances for epic wins. All this should be delivered with a steady dose of humor. Connections to networking sites and mobile applications serve to further influence player behavior in favor of the sponsor’s brand.

By one estimate, 70 percent of Global 2000 businesses will be managing at least one gamified application by 2014.

By one estimate, 70 percent of Global 2000 businesses will be managing at least one gamified application by 2014. The gamification trend is likely to feature in 25 percent of redesigned business processes by 2015, and will grow to a USD2.8 billion business by 2016. Several startups, including Badgeville, Bunchball and Seriosit,y have been recently established to help companies gamify their customer interfaces and employee training processes.

For instance, a home appliance manufacturer targeting women aged between 25 and 50 can introduce a game that lets players design homes in popular social networking sites. The player can be rewarded with virtual currency upon the completion of each task. He or she can use this virtual currency to buy home appliances from a physical store at a discounted rate. Through the game, the player subconsciously registers the product concept and product brand.

How can marketers use gamification to achieve their objectives?

In the words of Al Gore, “Games are the new normal”. With the growing dominance of the virtual over the real, gamification is beginning to play a significant role in customer engagement. Besides, with rising smartphone penetration, downloading game applications is a simple task, enabling these applications to become wildly in a very short span of time. Organizations which have adopted gamification have reported greater customer engagement, return on investment (ROI), data quality, timeliness and learning. As such, gaming applications are now becoming a standard part of the marketing toolkit.

One good example would be the Australian broadcast and online media partnership, Yahoo!7, which launched its mobile app FANGO in November 2011. The application allows viewers to interact with TV programs through several gamification techniques such as programmed polls, quizzes and competitions. It also offers integration through social networking sites, where users can engage in program-related discussions with other FANGO users. As of February 2012, the app had been downloaded more than 200,000 times.

Gamification can also be used in employee training programs. By engaging employees in purposeful games for training, companies are able to enhance employee learning and make work more enjoyable.

Other areas where gamification can play a part include financial services websites, online and in-person shopping, primary education, project management, loyalty programs, social networks, and market research.

Venture capitalists were quick to see the benefits of adopting this technique and consider gamification to be the most promising area in gaming.

Before jumping on the gamification bandwagon...

To ensure a successful gamification campaign, marketers should design their games according to these factors:


Users go for interactive entertainment. As this cannot be achieved by traditional media like TV, today’s consumers opt for video games and gaming applications that are available on smartphones and social networking sites like Facebook.

Sharing and social interaction

Gamification works on the principle of social interaction, fulfilling an inherent human intent to interact with others. Hence, incorporating gamification elements strewn with interactive content and options for sharing will lure customers into the new arena.

Sense of competition

Users will become more intense and engaged when a sense of competition is instilled in games. Real-time data and awesome graphics are also effective in providing users a sense of how they are faring against peers.

Digital awards

Some games offer digital awards such as badges whenever the users unlock new achievements or update their information. It is vital for marketers to adequately communicate the value attached to the badges.


It is vital to build player motivation through elements of purpose, autonomy and mastery. Gamification should give players a meaningful goal, control over their own actions and a strong sense of progression.

Game experience

Player interest will only be retained if they have enjoyed being a part of the journey or the game. Game rewards are not the be-all and end-all. Gamification is more about the experience rather than the rewards obtained.

Customer engagement through fun and rewards

Customers will play games that reward them for their participation. Hence, gamification can be used to spread the intended marketing message to a wide target audience more quickly. Incorporating game-centric design would go a long way towards making customers appreciate their rewards. But above all, games need to be fun for the customer to truly enjoy the process of playing.

Game design is a complicated affair as it includes storytelling, character development, game mechanics, aesthetics, virtual worlds, puzzles, adaptation and technology. Before gamifying, brands must carefully define their game strategy and target audience. Understanding the demographics and psychographics of the target audience is critical.

The game should also have varying difficulty levels, so that the game appeals to new and old users.

How has gamification helped brands grow?

Here are some examples of companies that have used gamification to successfully promote their brands while letting their customers have a bit of fun.

Green Giant and FarmVille

The frozen and canned vegetables brand Green Giant, together with virtual game FarmVille, use both offline and online gaming elements in their campaign. Upon purchasing selected Green Giant products featured in the promotion, customers will be given a unique code where they can enter into FarmVille to receive a branded online voucher of up to 15 “Farm Cash” units.

The gamification technique is well incorporated, as Green Giant products are related to FarmVille’s concept of growing produce. Green Giant also did well to partner a company with gaming expertise.

My Coke Rewards

My Coke Rewards is a customer loyalty marketing program for Coca-Cola products. Customers can submit codes found on specially marked packages via the web or by mobile phone text. These codes are then converted into virtual “points” which can be used to redeem various prizes. Since its launch in November 2006, more than a million prizes have been redeemed.

Nike+ Tag running application

Nike launched the Nike+ Tag running application, which is focused on brand promotion. Players who download the application can enter a social game of tag, where they have to run to “tag” other users and keep running to avoid being “tagged”. The player who runs the shortest distance, is the slowest, or started running latest in the day will lose. Nike has cleverly come up with a game that people find challenging and competitive.

Procter & Gamble’s Olay and King.com gaming tie-up¬

Olay is featured in King.com’s Facebook game Bubble Saga, an online game with more than 500,000 daily active users. More than 75% of the game players are women, with half of them aged between 31 and 50 years old – which is exactly Olay’s target market.

In the game, players can visit a “Planet Olay” section of the game, where images of the brand’s anti-wrinkle cream are featured. The players are able to secure an extra game life by watching an Olay video advertisement.

Olay is featured in King.com’s Facebook game Bubble Saga, an online game with more than 500,000 daily active users.
Gamification may not work if…

If gamification replicates game interface elements to manipulate the user instead of utilizing game design elements to motivate a player, the process will fail to retain customer loyalty. Points and trophies alone are not sufficient to make games fun – giving rewards to manipulate customer behavior goes against the spirit of gaming.

Moreover, users need to understand the game rules and instructions for a positive gaming experience. However, game designers often forget to include game rules in the game design.

Gamification will only work if players realize the meaningful connections to the real world or other in-game elements. Also, the progression from one level to the next should be made to fit the over-arching theme of the game.

Gamification did not pay off in all cases

It is easy to jump into gamification with a weak concept – the classic “me too” behavior in business. Pointless gamification will not work, or worse, it may damage the brand. Here are some examples where that happened.

My Marriott Hotel™ Facebook game

My Marriott Hotel, Marriot Hotel’s campaign to recruit employees for its management program, failed to generate any buzz. The game adopted FarmVille’s game concept and shifted it into a hotel setting. The player could choose to play different roles in the hotel, hire staff and buy equipment for the hotel. Despite the various tasks the player could undertake, the game features did not excite players enough to make the project a success.

Mariott announced that it would introduce different chapters to depict the various aspects of the hotel business. However, those chapters never materialized – indicating that the idea was a flop.


Another example would be Klout, a social media analytics website that rewards users for their social influence. The rewards, Klout Perks, are awarded based on the assigned Klout score, and can range from free Pop Chips to a Chevy Volt delivered to the user’s doorstep to drive over the weekend. However, Klout does not educate users on how to better their Klout score – often resulting in frustration and negative opinions.In addition, it is vital to note that repeating a game design is a strict no-no – game designs which worked wonders for one brand do not guarantee similar success for other brands.

Is gamification here to stay?

The champions of the concept proclaim that “gamification is real and its benefits are tangible. Gamification is here to stay”.

However, there are concerns that gamification is a mere fad that will die a natural death amidst all the other internet phenomena that consumers are bombarded with. Several well-publicized gamification flops would be all that is needed to harden this perception into received wisdom.

However there is still a lot of life left in gamification. After all, it takes very seriously the guiding mantra of advertising in the 21st century – that advertising is an intrusion and must therefore entertain to be effective.

Moreover, gamification is a marketing approach that is not dependent on scale economies or “network effects” (hitting a critical mass of users to cross a tipping point). Rather, it allows a great deal of play to individual creativity and talent – something which should prolong its shelf-life.

Lastly, there is a great deal of scope for gamification to engage audiences in Emerging Markets by building elements of local culture into the games. Like most internet phenomena, gamification began in the US and most successful examples are US-centric. Emerging market audiences are hungry for localized gaming content in the same way that all audiences like local content of any kind, and this is a huge opportunity for international marketers.

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