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Social selling and gamification: The answer to customer engagement

by Richard Robinson

August 3, 2021

Engaging with audiences today is more difficult than ever. Fragmented media consumption and low levels of interest means that consumers are now in control of where, when and how they engage with brands. As marketers, we need to find ways to capture our audience's attention, meet them where they are and create stand-out to cut through the noise. To achieve this we’ve seen many more marketers turning to social selling and gamification.

What is social selling again?

Social selling is the process of using social media engagement to develop relationships as part of the sales process. And there is a real business case for doing so: LinkedIn found that 78% of businesses that use social selling outsell businesses that don’t use social media.

Social selling isn’t new for many organisations, but as consumers have become more fickle and brand agnostic, it has become more important for brands to engage their audiences regularly and in unique ways.

Over the last 18 months, it’s not an exaggeration to say that our lives have changed drastically, and this includes a huge increase in how much time we spend online, on social media and on our mobile devices. Throughout the pandemic, social media usage increased by 43% (eMarketer 2021). With more than 3.7 billion people using social media, this puts that usage increase into context. So with more of our target audiences spending even more time online, how do we as brands create stand-out and maximise the opportunity that this provides?

How gamification can amplify impact of social selling

Gamification is the result of applying game mechanics in a commercial context. As humans, one of our basic instincts is to seek out play and pleasure. So when a brand offers a well-crafted experience using game mechanics, it is inherently more memorable because it taps into the human need to connect, to compete and be challenged, to be rewarded, and to have fun. We see that the more often or the more integrated game mechanics are in our customers’ experience or journey, the more impact it has on the business results.

You may be wondering how this is related to social selling — well, gamification makes social selling even more unique and memorable. Why is it that we engage so willingly with gamified experiences? It’s because game mechanics activate our brains in a different way than traditional marketing methods. This leads us, as consumers, to opt-in to playing games, engaging freely with a brand, and sharing information because there is a clear value exchange that we feel comfortable with.

This enhances a brands’ ability to develop relationships directly with those consumers including through the capturing of first- and zero-party data. By doing this, as marketers, we are able to provide better, more personalised experiences across channels.

Five core game mechanics all marketers should employ

Game mechanics are the driving force behind gamification, and what makes it so potent. There are many mechanics, but we will focus on five here:

  • Competition: As humans, we are hardwired to compete and play to win. Competing means that a player is inherently ‘against’ someone or something. Coupled with this is also the social aspect of competing, which makes it fun and engaging. Competing is an important backbone of gamification. It taps into our subconscious desires and is incredible at keeping attention.
  • Challenge: We all love a challenge; undertaking a task that is not easy to accomplish. In the context of gamification, it often makes the experience more engaging and interesting, grabbing our attention for longer. Ultimately delivering a great sense of achievement or accomplishment when we complete the challenge.
  • Mirroring: When a person gets to see how they compare to others, although not always necessarily in a competitive way. It fills our very human need to see and feel that we belong and answer the question, “how do I compare?"
  • Reward: Rewards can be important, but they certainly do not need to be monetary. Intrinsic or extrinsic rewards work well as motivators. Rewards can also be as simple as feedback or providing insight that the person didn’t know before, access to exclusive content, a discount or special offer.
  • Fun: The final game mechanic is fun. Let’s face it, we all like a little fun in our lives. But we should not underestimate the value of fun. This is often a great value exchange with our audiences. They spend time with your brand, perhaps share some data in exchange for doing something that is fun and enjoyable.

By skilfully crafting game campaigns using these mechanics, marketers provide consumers with the opportunity to experience flow - the state we experience when we are wholly focused on a task such as a game, plus a dose of feel-good hormones, such as dopamine, in our brain chemistry that makes the experience both memorable and positive.

Game mechanics in action

Here’s an example using social selling and game mechanics by leading supermarket firm Costcutter. Costcutter operates as a symbol group supplier to various independently-owned convenience shops and off-licences. Key to their strategy is driving consumers into stores.

Like many businesses during 2020, marketing plans had to change. Sean Russell, marketing director at Costcutter, explained, "What began as a planned summer of sport celebration, pivoted to become an integrated marketing campaign with a major focus on gamification."

CostCutter used a combination of online instant win and prize draw games, working with sponsor Budweiser and included ideas such as encouraging consumers to host their own sports day, enjoying a summer date night and creating delicious summer recipes.

In addition to gamification, they also worked with influencer Jacqueline Jossa to promote the campaign on Instagram, which included specific games within the campaign. They originally set a target of 100,000 registrations for their online games across the six-week campaign, which they completely smashed by achieving in excess of 400,000.

They also saw 5,000 links to store locators, which is a strong indicator of new shopper footfall. The important thing here is that for those customers who subscribed, Costcutter were able to enrol them into nurture campaigns and let them know about the latest great value deals in their local store. CostCutter saw the highest ever levels of shopper engagement for its summer campaign.

Since the Covid crisis, Costcutter has seen a shift towards a younger, more affluent shopper base across the convenience market. By focusing on the channels, content and game-appeal which attracts these types of shoppers, they have been supporting their retailers’ drive to convert these “lifeline” shoppers who may have discovered them during lockdown, into lifelong loyal customers.

By using a mix of social selling and gamification, marketers can provide beautiful, highly engaging ways to speed their audience through the buying journey whilst also engaging them across the customer lifecycle and creating everyday business impact.


social selling
Social Media
in store
customer acquisition
Customer engagement