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What is gamification in marketing?

This content is produced by a member of The Drum Network, a paid-for membership club for CEOs and their agencies who want to share their expertise and grow their business.

Gamification can be used in playable ads as a way of combining your ad units with an interactive game or incorporating gaming elements in a non-gaming context. Providing an immersive, engaging and fun experience with your brand will help customers to remember your name and this is the biggest advantage of a gamified campaign.

This marketing strategy can be used by any business, across any industry, and it is one of the most effective ways for brands to deliver their message in a creative way to their users. Brands can implement a variety of gamified elements in their marketing strategies such as:

Achievements: badges, levels or points are given to the user as a reward for reaching some pre-established accomplishment.

  • Leaderboards: users are ranked according to their performance in the game, creating competition and inducing higher involvement rates.

  • Countdown: players are challenged to complete a specific task in a limited time period (usually a few seconds).

  • Progress: Customers are asked to progress in a certain activity and there is an element that displays their progression.

The seven benefits and advantages of gamification in marketing

As you may have already realized, there are plenty of advantages and benefits for your brand to implement gamification in your marketing strategy. Below, we will break down the top seven benefits of gamification and explain why they are so effective in the digital world.

1. Increase and improve user engagement

As users are encouraged to take specific actions with gamification, often engagement rates are higher and better than those achieved in previous campaigns. Engagement can be the very first step of a long-term relationship between the customer and the brand, which leads onto the next benefit of gamified campaigns.

2. Helps to grow brand awareness and loyalty

As said before, customers who keep your brand’s name in their minds for a long time after having a fun experience with a branded game are a valuable asset for your business. Firstly, because they may get emotionally attached to your brand, but also because – if that attachment occurs – they are more likely to become loyal customers than indifferent or actively disengaged customers. According to a recent publication made by Gallup, engaged customers represent “an average 23% premium in terms of share of wallet, profitability, revenue, and relationship growth compared with the average customer”. This is, according to the same publication, particularly true for the retail banking, consumer electronics, restaurant, hospitality, and insurance industries.

3. Helps to gather useful customer data

Data is perhaps one of the most valuable assets for businesses these days. Combined with complex AI, IoT, and machine learning systems, gigantic databases can provide businesses with the necessary tools to target the best customers, with the right offer, at the best time and place possible. However, gathering that data is not always easy and this is where gamification comes to play. By offering users the possibility of having a fun time, or even getting the chance of winning a prize or reward, they are likely to be more willing to give you potential data, which you can later use to gain a better understanding of your target audience.

4. Increases conversion rates

As players engage with the gamified elements provided by your brand, they are more likely to respond to your CTA, than if it was a traditional banner ad or any other marketing method in order to win the rewards that you have attached to the interactive experience. This will help to improve your conversion rates.

For example, imagine that you offer users a 20% discount from a quick interactive quiz on your website. The user is likely to take advantage of that discount and proceed to use it to make a purchase in your store or e-commerce site.

5. Makes the promotional offers more interesting

Consumer behavior can be, many times, more emotional than rational. Often, the same offer or product may be interpreted differently, depending on the context and circumstance of the approach.

As an example, users may ignore a clickable banner that advertises a 10% discount in the next hours, but they may feel very excited by being rewarded the same 10% discount for passing three levels in an interactive branded game. This is because customers will feel that they have “earned” the discount, they have “battled” for it, so they will value it differently than if it is given to them for no reason.

6. Educates the customer with your products or services

Gamification marketing can be a fun and easy way to explain what the main benefits of your product or service are and therefore educate the users. That’s what Appetite did with Emmi Good Day’s recently launched milk drinks, which offer a 60%-plus reduction in sugar.

Through a Fall Game, where the users needed to catch the milk and avoid touching the sugar cubes in order to accumulate points, Emmi educated the players about the new and healthier recipe for their drinks.

7. Helps to interact with customer more often

For marketers, the ultimate goal of advertising their product or service with ads on websites and apps is to attract and capture new customers. The first step is to catch the users’ attention and encourage them to interact with the ad unit. Banner ads and pop-ups are often rejected or ignored by users who are tired of seeing their journey interrupted by unrequested ads. So, trying to spread your message through a fun and easy-to-play game may be a good way of reaching new users and hopefully converting them into customers a few steps later.

Gamification has some disadvantages too

No doubt gamification marketing can help you improve your digital presence, increase engagement and interaction with your customers and gather data that would be otherwise difficult for your business to acquire. However, there are a couple of things that you should bear in mind before proceeding with a gamification project for your brand.

First of all, making good games requires great creativity. Making basic games, such as simple quizzes or tests is easy, but it’s fair to say that users don’t really enjoy that type of experience, and it is unlikely that they will proceed to the next step if they are presented with one of these games. Therefore, your brand should consider getting professional advice from an experienced creative agency in order to design and develop educational, truly enjoyable, and proven games that will catch the eye of your leads.

This process usually takes two things: time and money. Game development usually leads to longer working time than traditional instructional design. Every step of the design process, from explaining the concept to project stakeholders, designing and developing, to finally testing the game requires several hours from highly-skilled developers, graphics, and web designers.

For instance, games that feature music and a variety of sound effects, photos, videos, or even personalized animated elements that enrich the user-experience will end up increasing the cost (both in terms of time, money, or both) of the project.

Some interesting marketing gamification campaign examples

Starbucks

Offering vouchers and coupons is as easy as offering to stamp a customer's card, so that they may receive a freebie after 10 visits, and there is nothing wrong with that. At Appetite, we believe that a brand can provide vouchers and discounts, but it should also try to create an experience while doing so that links back to the purchase. That’s why we developed a game for the greatest multinational chain of coffeehouses and roastery reserves, Starbucks.

As we created a ‘Flip the Cup’ game in which a user could, with one hand, attempt the tricky but masterable task of flipping an instantly recognisable Starbucks cup onto a platform, the experience boosted the engagement with the brand’s fans by 90% and the voucher download targets were smashed by 110%.

Unibet

As part of the hyper-competitive industry of sports betting and online casino, Unibet faced the challenge of differentiating their service from the other platforms’ such as William Hill, 888Holdings and many others. Their objectives were to increase awareness and to drive their mobile application downloads. That’s why they contacted Appetite Creative.

Our solution? An interactive and dynamic mobile game the user was put in the heart of the action, mimicking a well-known football gameplay. The players had 60 seconds to see how many headers they could keep going without dropping the ball. If they achieved a specific pre-established score, they would earn a £5 bonus in the form of a free bet.

Ferrero

As one of Ferrero's top brands Kinder's products enjoy high popularity globally. However, their ambition is endless and Ferrero wanted to raise awareness for Kinder's products Kinder Maxi and Kinder Bueno. Appetite developed a strategy to achieve these goals.

We came up with two games, incorporated in customised banner gamification ads, to make the brand more engageable with Kinder's audience in a fun and simple way. In the first game, the player is a Kinder chocolate bar that is able to run and jump in order to collect Kinder Maxi bars. In the other game, the player moves left and right at the bottom of the screen in order to collect Kinder Bueno chocolate bars. However, the player needs to be careful and not collect the wrong chocolate bars, otherwise, the player loses a life.

The campaign was a success. With our help, Ferrero achieved its goals as the engagement rate with the ads soared across many countries, providing users with a great and fun branded moment.

Summary

So as you’ve seen, despite the few drawbacks, there are plenty of good reasons for gamification marketing to be part of the digital strategy of any brand within any industry. It will drive more users to engage with your ads, more people to know your brand and most importantly, as you will provide a great moment to them, this can increase the chances of becoming a loyal customer. However, unless your name is Tom Cruise, getting it right at the first shot in the gamification world might be Mission Impossible. Therefore you should surround yourself with a team of great and experienced professionals in this field, avoiding beginner mistakes in the implementation of the ad campaign.

After working with Starbucks, Unibet, Ferrero, Vodafone, or Adidas, we are looking forward to hearing from your brand. Our team of web developers creates the most innovative websites, and our designers are particularly skilled when it comes to developing fun and engaging ad formats.

So get in touch with us, let’s have a call this week.

Jenny Stanley is managing director at Appetite Creative.

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