Why you were not wasting your time playing video games - an introduction to gamification

In the first of a two-part blog, MMT Digital marketing manager Robert Yardy looks at the increasing potency of gamification in marketing.

Remember those glorious days whiling away hours playing Paperboy on the Commodore 64, Super Mario on the original Nintendo or, for the younger readers, Metal Gear Solid on the Playstation when you should have been doing homework or revision? Who are we kidding, we still spend hours causing chaos on Grand Theft Auto or racing super cars on Gran Turismo... Well, we are truly delighted to say that playing computer games can help you in business.Gamification is a phrase you will have no doubt heard bounced around a lot recently. It is one of the current marketing buzz topics doing the rounds, such as CXM, and no prizes for guessing that it is born out of the gaming world. The phrase was created by computer programmer and inventor, Nick Pelling. Wikipedia defines gamification as: “The use of game thinking and game mechanics in a non-game context in order to engage users and solve problems. Gamification is used in applications and processes to improve user engagement, Return on Investment (ROI), data quality, timeliness, and learning.”It is the user engagement and ROI qualities of gamificaton that this blog post will elaborate on and provide some real world examples of just how powerful gamification can be. However, that is not to say that gamification does not have its detractors and criticisms and I will come to those later.

Gamification is on a (Nike) mission

Everyone likes to gain a sense of achievement for completing a task, whether it be mowing the lawn or going for a run. It is this human characteristic that gamification taps into.This could be as simple as watching your progress through a taskbar when completing a profile creation process on a website or a far more complicated process such as the incredibly popular Nike+ products which involve logging details of your fitness efforts to gain points. The latter example is arguably the greatest evidence currently available to show how powerful gamification can be. Nike+ membership increased by 40 per cent in 2011 which helped boost revenues in the company’s running category by 30 per cent. These numbers are outstanding which is why It comes as little surprise that Nike has continued to develop its gamification strategy. Just before Christmas 2012 it launched Nike Fuel Missions. These are so cool I could write a dedicated blog post about them, but in summary they are challenges (of varying difficulty levels) that users need to complete in a certain timeframe e.g. a 5km run in 25 minutes. The results are logged by Nike Fuel Bands and if the challenges are achieved the user’s character advances in the online game meeting real Nike athletes along the way.The amount of user interaction that Nike has created really is outstanding and will lead to the holy grail for any organisation: customer loyalty.

Your customers are your greatest marketeers

As a marketeer I know how great it is when customers start telling the world how much they love your company. This is arguably the most effective form of marketing because the messages are genuine with no hidden agenda... or is there?Econsultancy recently wrote about how the children’s retailer Step2 uses gamification. Points are given to users depending upon their social media interaction and activity within the BuzzBoard community. Customers are rewarded with points for writing reviews, following fellow reviewers, subscribing to have reviews sent to their Facebook news feeds, uploading photos and videos and sharing content on Facebook.As users pick up points they are rewarded with new badges going from “New-bee” all the way up to “Queen Bee”. There is also a league table that helps promote a bit of healthy competition and keeps users motivated once they have achieved Queen Bee status.
Tomorrow Robert will look at how gamification can be applied in the workplace, and why marketers still have some doubts about introducing gamification strategies

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Robert Yardy

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