The Gamification of Marketing

Mark Stephens

The world of gaming has introduced several new words into the dictionary – one of the latest being ‘gamification’. This is the process by which typical gaming features like point scoring and competition are applied to typically non-gaming contexts, often associated with a particular product or service. The point of this is generally to enhance engagement and increase interest levels, learning, and/or enjoyment. Most commonly it is being used in marketing to increase customer engagement.


The Attractions of Gamification

Gamification is a growing trend amongst marketers. Big international brands are recognising that the gaming medium has expanded with social gaming, to include huge percentages of the population.

This provides some unique branding opportunities for companies as they look to create closer bonds with their customers – you will see some examples below.

Gamers also provide a captive audience– which is something that any marketer loves. Once players are locked into a game, opportunities arise to push particular products and services to them at suitable points in the game. If done well, this can be a way not only for advertisers to get their message across but for developers to monetise their freemium games.

Recent Examples

A good recent example of branding was with the Marriott International game, XPlor, where the company partnered with Evviva Games to create a virtual travelling game for iOS devices. Anyone can enjoy the game, which revolves around tracking down Aunt Sophia and, in the process, exploring famous landmarks in New York City, Sao Paulo, Paris, Dubai, and Beijing.

The emphasis is on fun, with puzzle-solving, interesting interactions and plenty of engaging graphics, but of course it is also an opportunity for Marriott to push its hotel brand to a younger, social game-playing audience.

Another good example of an established organisation using gamification is Tottenham Hotspur FC. The English Premier League football club has partnered with game developer One Up Games to create Spurs Connect – a virtual game for their fans, which they can play while a match is actually taking place. The game combines Bingo and Connect 4, with fans competing against Facebook friends to try to predict real events during matches.

Like many social games, the app is free but charges for in-app purchases of virtual tokens, which can be used by players to buy power-ups. The US developer, One Up Games, also partners with sporting establishments in its homeland, with basketball, American football, baseball and ice hockey games also produced.

Playing Games with Customers Works

Playing games with customers is a strategy that seems to work well from a marketing sense. It can help both with retaining existing customers and winning new ones.

If the game itself is engaging, people will start talking about it and sharing it around social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest etc. Word gets out and more people are attracted to your game, just like with any popular game; when it is attached to a particular product or service then of course the pay off for the brand is big too. If it goes viral, it can be massive.

Adobe designed LevelUp for Photoshop: a tutorial designed to make their software easier to work with and to teach beginners how to use it. The average tutorial can be very dry, so Adobe introduced game-like features to make it more engaging: there are points and badges to be won, levels to be conquered and other motivators to complete the tutorial.

Using this method of gamification, Adobe achieved almost a 40 per cent increase in unique users, and doubled the amount of page views; the ad revenue increased by over 40 percent too, so it made a difference to the bottom line.

Games – Great Alternatives to Loyalty Programs


Loyalty programs are sooooo 90s!

As we enter 2014, every major retailer, hospitality outlet, airline or restaurant chain has a customer loyalty program. Consequently it’s much harder to stand out – and creating a social game is one way to put a unique stamp on your company.

With relatively low upfront development costs and support costs, gamification can be a very cost effective way to reach large audiences; unlike loyalty programs there are no major administrative overheads, and anyway most of the work is outsourced.

Gartner said back in 2011:

“By 2015, more than 50 percent of organizations that manage innovation processes will gamify those processes….By 2014, a gamified service for consumer goods marketing and customer retention will become as important as Facebook, eBay or Amazon, and more than 70 percent of Global 2000 organizations will have at least one gamified application.”

2013 saw some impressive uptake with organisations starting to use games in their marketing strategy; as Gartner predicted, in the next couple of years we should expect to see much more as the medium matures and the success stories get more publicity.