14 September 2012

South Africa: Should You Gamify Your Brand?


Gamification is a digital term that means bringing some of the mechanics and concepts of gaming into brand content. Foursquare is a good example of the use of gamification where users can earn badges and unlock specials by checking in.

Gamification used for marketing brands usually involves incentivising users with rewards and exclusive offers, similar to traditional loyalty programmes.

Is gamification right for your brand?

While gamification is a sexy marketing buzz-word right now, it's not right for every brand. So before you launch into briefing your digital agency to develop a new game for your brand ask yourself these questions:

  • What is the reason for gamifying your brand?
  • Will it assist in meeting my marketing and communication objectives?
  • Will it benefit my target market?
  • Are you able to stay true to your brand values?
  • Do you have the budget to not only develop a brand game, but also create awareness and excitement about it?

If your answers are all in the affirmative then developing a game around your brand might be an excellent strategy. The next challenge is getting the creative and the user experience right.

Make it relevant

To get this right, you need to understand your users and what motivates them, how they engage with your current digital properties, what will intrigue and excite them, what their social preferences are (solo, competitive or cooperative), and finally what metrics, goals and ambitions are important to them.

Obviously there are many genres of game designs and mechanisms within the game, so depending on your target market, you could include competitions, time deadlines, puzzles, collectables, levels, social pressure, currency earnings and power-ups, to name a few. Also, carefully consider the types of rewards and punishments as this should motivate users to play more and engage longer with your brand game.

Test and test again

Games and apps are never perfect, so once you have the game built, test and polish it and then get a small group of your colleagues and friends or a select group of your target market to test it for you. Once you have ironed out all the glitches - go live, but be ready to adapt and upgrade as feedback flows in.

Make it fun

Remember that simply calling your new digital brand experience or app a "game" does not make it one. Your online thing with game dynamics is only truly deserving of the name "game" if it is fun, well designed and engaging for a prolonged period of time (not just a once off). And you really hit the gamification jackpot when it goes viral.

Gamification in the workplace

At Gullan&Gullan we've found the most effective use of gamification in training and sales applications. This does not mean that we make work frivolous, but rather through gamification assist employees to perceive their work and training as more positive. Instead of reading boring documents or watching corporate videos, training can become 15 minutes of gameplay and the lessons can be more engaging, experiential and more easily integrated into employees lives.

Games are not the solution to every problem as some promise, and I am not convinced we want nor need a "game layer on the world." However, the potential for the application of games and game mechanics is undeniable.

Games have successfully been used to help people lead healthier lives, learn more effectively, participate more frequently, engage in activities for a longer period of time, and yes, even shop more loyally.

All of that said--there are many applications for which gamification principles are not relevant - medical treatments, vehicle panel beating and divorce are just a few that come to mind. However, what's important to remember is that gamified digital experiences, when properly designed, can have huge positive results in rewarding participation in communities and increasing engagement, increasing awareness for brands and encouraging mastery.

Michael Gullan is the Managing Director and founder of Gullan&Gullan Advertising.

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