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Gamification in marketing: The new panacea?


Marketing today is difficult. We are faced with ever-changing consumer behaviours and expectations, having to navigate the best places across the customer journey to put our scarce budgets and resources, in a world of ever-expanding channels and all this with a plethora of technologies and techniques. And this in the context of driving tangible business value.

Humans back at the centre of marketing

But in this era of data-driven marketing and hyper-targeting are we overlooking something important? Are we forgetting the fact that our consumers are humans?

The ways people act and react are programmed deep into the make up of being human. For example, consumers are bombarded with over 10,000 ads each day, but the average person has an attention span of 8 seconds, meaning that the vast majority of those marketing messages are simply not being processed.

Everybody loves games

How do we as marketers cut through this noise? As is often the case, to find something new we have to look at something that is not new but has a fundamental truth.

Humans have been playing games since the dawn of time; in fact, our brains actively crave the sensations stimulated by competition, challenge, reward, mirroring, and of course having fun. The core is game mechanics. Marketers are now beginning to realise how adding gamification to the marketing mix can help them stand out in the minds of consumers.

Get, keep and grow customers

Gamification is defined as the application of game design elements and game principles in non-game contexts, and to be honest, marketing products and services are rarely seen as game context. But this is why injecting game mechanics into the way we communicate and engage with our target audiences can have such a positive impact on business performance.

If we take Peter Drucker’s assessment that ‘the purpose of a business is to create a customer’ we then need to define what role marketing plays in that. In my mind, the goal of marketing is to reach customers at the moments that most influence their decision. This could be at any point across that customer journey, from awareness, through consideration and purchase onto loyalty. So how can gamification in marketing help achieve this goal?

How gamification in marketing helps you get new customers

Every commercial leader in a business has an interest in customer acquisition. Let’s face it, as marketers we have sales teams banging on our door demanding more and better qualified leads, online sales, and new customers. But it is tough to find, engage, nurture those prospects and turn them into customers. The use of game mechanics can help us stand out, engage new audiences and accelerate them to becoming customers.

Finnish retailer Tokmanni has been using various game concepts to activate and engage prospective customers, generating almost 5,000 unique game registrations in just 7 days with a single campaign effort.

How gamification in marketing helps you keep customers

From time to time you need to refresh your connections with customers. This is a job that gamification does brilliantly, because you can connect on deeper levels that make emotional sense to your customers.

Alra Foods decided to employ game mechanics to communicate key brand messages about its commitment to sustainability as a dairy company to its consumer audience. Over the course of just a few months, they launched various interactive campaigns that allowed them to make deeper brand connections with consumers, boosting online engagement rates 4x compared to campaigns they had run in the past.

How gamification in marketing helps you grow your existing customers

Most companies have a large segment of their customer base who would buy more if prompted with the right message at the right time. Gamification in marketing is very effective as a ‘wake up’ tool to stimulate this untapped need.

For fashion brand Vero Moda, gamification has become a key component in their digital marketing campaigns to grow customer lifetime value, as it proves to be a highly effective way to prompt and engage consumers.

Gamification in marketing is the new old. It’s based on fundamental, dare I say primeval, aspects of the way our brains work. It is not just about fun and giggles but real business results. My recommendation would be to give it a go. Test and learn and see how it can change the way you engage with your customers.

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