“Gamification,” or the application of video game design principles and strategies to non-game Web environments, has a variety of business uses. One of the most intriguing ways this still-emerging field of Web design can be applied is as an online marketing/branding tool. Increasingly, companies are launching online promotions that attract consumers using video game elements which make learning about and engaging with brands fun.
However, not all gamification efforts are created equal. Following are a few helpful pointers to help make sure you win the online marketing game when you play on the gamification court.
The Game Must Suit the Players
Just as there are many different types of video games, there are many different types of gamification campaigns. If your promotion is aimed at an audience of extreme athletes, it should probably include highly competitive tests of skill with clear-cut winners and losers, and maybe even a chance for participants to virtually “talk smack” with each other. If your promotion is targeting a more sedate and thoughtful audience, a role-playing scenario focused on exploration and discovery might work better.
Virtual Game, Real Life Action
As mobile devices become more and more prevalent and social media networks encourage people to send constant online updates on their daily activities, the line between “real” and “virtual” life is becoming less and less distinct. Going online is turning into a routine part of everyday life rather than a mysterious detour into the ether.
Marketers can take full advantage of this paradigm shift by tying online gamification efforts to real-life activities. For example, consumers can receive online rewards for checking into locations of a certain business or participate in a real-world scavenger hunt where clues are placed online (or even vice versa). And technologies like QR codes and interactive touchscreens, to say nothing of cameras and video recorders built into smartphones, further blend the real and virtual worlds together. Just remember your marketing “game” can travel with customers wherever they go, whether they are actively “plugged in” or not.
The Times (and Games) They Are a Changin’
Remember Space Invaders? How about Pac Man? If you came of age in the late 1970s and early 1980s, you remember when these games literally represented the cutting edge of entertainment. Now they exist only as dusty machines in the forgotten corners of arcades, or as graphic designs on ironic T-shirts worn by hipsters.
The point is that video games are constantly changing, upping the ante with better and more realistic graphics and action and more inventive and difficult challenges. Marketers need to apply the same mindset to gamification efforts, constantly retooling, upgrading and even replacing campaigns to reflect changes in consumer taste and technological capability. Nobody really expects a game they play as part of a marketing campaign to offer the same level of sophistication as the games they play in arcades or on home systems, but they do expect it to hold their interest. Make sure it does on a continuing basis.