media update’s David Jenkin delves into the topic.

Gaming is a part of everyday life

Most people have found themselves addicted to a game at some point in their lives, and more often than not, the game was very simple. The addiction wears off eventually, but, until it does, it can occupy an inordinate amount of attention. Games come in many forms but all of them obey certain rules and offer certain rewards.

The practice of tapping into these basic elements of gaming design and using them to drive consumers towards certain actions and, ultimately, achieve a brand’s aims is defined as gamification. Digital, in particular, provides a wealth of potential for marketers to utilise it, and the advent of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) has provided even more.

Writing for Martech Advisor, news editor Rohit Roy states that gamification can be used as a powerful way to drive behaviour, “as well as motivate the players to perform tasks that require effort and time, which will be impossible in environments that are not gamified.”

However, he cautions that there are risks involved in using this strategy. “If the games are badly conducted or poorly designed, then they will not deliver the expected results and might also lead to bad consequences for the brand’s reputation.”

In other words, it needs to be fair as well as fun.

Extrinsic vs Intrinsic rewards

Speaking at the Cadek Media Marketing Indaba in Johannesburg in May, Jason Haddock, CTO of Sea Monster, a Cape Town-based company specialising in 2D animation and game development, explored the fundamental principles of gamification and how marketers should think about putting it into practice.

At the core of any game’s design is a system of both extrinsic and intrinsic rewards, working in harmony. Haddock explained how they work and why a balance between them is important.

In short, intrinsic is the heart and extrinsic is the carrot, he said. “The carrot dangles to get someone to engage, but you’ve got to be able to speak to the heart to keep them engaged.”

Extrinsic rewards can take the form of something immediate or tokens, badges and other measures of progression toward an end goal – essentially ‘levelling up’. It can also take the form of loss avoidance, since, as Haddock explained, people can be motivated by both positive and negative forces. “Some will be motivated by getting something, others by losing something,” he said.

The intrinsic side is all about keeping people engaged. This is often done through providing a sense of community as people enjoy being part of a group. Stimulating creativity is another, whereby players have multiple ways to reach an end goal, which creates excitement because the player is empowered to make decisions, Haddock explained.

Feedback in the form of recognition and encouragement can help to keep players going, and so can curiosity, Haddock added, as an element of mystery around a prize or reward adds to the motivation to acquire it.

Putting gamification to work

The rewards structure of a game needs a great deal of consideration as it will determine the kind of players that it attracts and how they engage with it. A balance between extrinsic and intrinsic rewards is usually necessary, but leaning one way or the other can serve different objectives.

“If you are going to use gamification,” Haddock said, “Understand what you want to get out of it. That will give you an indication of whether you want to be more extrinsic-focused on intrinsic.”

Focusing on extrinsic rewards can work well for a short-term campaign with a goal to get as many people to engage as quickly as possible, he explained, “because we want to give people that carrot – ‘come and play and I’ll give you something’.”

“But,” he cautioned, “If you focus too much on one … if too extrinsic, don’t be surprised if people get bored quickly, disillusioned, and then quickly fall off. If you make it too intrinsic, you’re going to struggle to get people on.”

Know your market and keep it simple

The first step towards incorporating gamification into any marketing strategy is gaining a thorough understanding of the target market, as Peter Daisyme advises, writing for Forbes. “If you don’t look at this aspect first, you may not engage them to get the return you’re seeking. A millennial audience probably doesn’t like the same type of gameplay as a 40-something-year-old,” he writes. To appeal to a wide demographic, consider combining different gaming elements.

However, he also advises keeping the game as simple as possible. “If they can’t figure it out quickly or you ask too much of them to get started, they will abandon it. With relatively short attention spans and many distractions, consider making each gameplay relatively short,” he writes. Consider also using focus groups and user testing sites as they can provide valuable feedback, he adds. 

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One example of gamification in action can be seen with a recent campaign by Lufthansa. Read more in our article, Lufthansa Group puts VR and gamification to work.