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Our commercial environment has changed significantly over the last few decades. Consumers’ moves toward a preference for engaging with products and services via our digital landscape has thrown up huge challenges that marketers have had to adapt to. They have been forced to develop a greater understanding of technology and how it can be used effectively.
There has also been a change in demographics. The primary consumers today are Millennials, the first wave of digital natives who have grown up with an intrinsic understanding of how technology works, and they often make purchasing decisions based on a product’s level of technological advancement. As a result, marketers have begun embracing gamification — the use of platforms and methods that mimic the user experiences found in games and encourage behavior that is goal-oriented.
We’re going to look at some of the ways in which the gaming and marketing worlds have crossed over. How have companies’ approaches been influenced by trends in our digital activities? What are some of the tools being used, and why are they effective?
One of the major drivers when playing any game is the prospect of a reward. Whether this is leveling up our character attributes, or the acquisition of a new piece of the narrative, these rewards help to direct our behavior. As such, marketers have been capitalizing on this when applying gamification to their strategies.
Tangible rewards are always popular. Marketers encourage consumers to utilize services frequently enough to gain access to specific rewards. This can be particularly effective when the reward itself encourages the user to continue engaging with proprietary services. For example, earning a branded USB flash drive as a reward not only provides the consumer with a useful gadget that also promotes the business, but it can also be pre-loaded with data that directs the consumer to make further use of services.
Of course, the rewards don’t necessarily have to be physical in order to be effective. Gamers are familiar with the draw of earning achievements, and marketers have started to embrace the concept of badge rewards. This allows the marketers to provide attractive intermittent rewards, rather than expecting the consumer to put in a lot of effort in order to achieve a single large reward at the end. Fitness trackers such as Fitbit award badges for completion of activities, Duolingo awards them for each level of fluency passed. This encourages further goal-oriented behavior. It also provides an air of having attained an exclusive ranking, and helps maintain the retention of users on a company’s platform; ever pushing them to earn the next badge or collect bonuses for completion of another activity.
The concept of monetization has become a familiar aspect of our world today. In a world in which content is often expected by audiences to be free, companies have had to develop strategies that ensure a return on their investment other than direct sales. However, in order to make the monetization of content successful, this often means incentivizing audiences to engage with them — this is another form of gamification in marketing.
One of the more simple and popular ways to monetize content today is through the use of blog posts. Sponsored posts are an obvious way to gain income from the posted content, but there are more subtle ways gamification can be applied to drive engagement. Posts that review products can include affiliate links and buttons which encourage readers to participate in mimicked gaming behavior such as button pushing to achieve results. Quizzes, either as the content itself or included within an article, can help draw greater attention and interaction from the reader, and when combined with sharing to social media options can attract a greater audience.
On the subject of social media, this too is one of the more popular ways to monetize marketing content in a gamified manner. Asking questions of consumers through social channels, encouraging them to participate in giveaways in exchange for shares, can be effective methods to grow and maintain an audience. However, there is also an increased focus on platforms discouraging purely commercial behavior, with some limiting the number of business posts users receive. Therefore marketers must take an approach to social media that places emphasis upon quality content, rather than obvious ads.
Technology for Gamification
One of the keys to successfully gamifying marketing efforts is staying on top of technology trends. Much like traditional gaming platforms, new tech helps to tell a story more effectively and can encourage closer engagement. Companies have begun embracing advanced gadgets in order to connect in a more novel and attractive way than simply placing ad posts on Facebook.
Drone photography has become a relatively cost-effective method for marketers to produce some interesting and engaging content. Miniaturized high-resolution cameras combined with maneuverable aerial equipment can make for the presentation of POV (point of view) video that visits traditionally inaccessible places. They can provide audiences with live-streamed access to events, or early sneak-peek views of new products, as part of a loyalty or action reward. This can also be combined with virtual reality technology in order to provide a more interactive element, using Google Cardboard with a cell phone, or VR gaming devices to give the sense of immersion in the experience.
Augmented reality (AR) is one of the current tech trends which is ripe for marketing gamification. By developing apps that don’t just provide users with access to a company’s usual services, but also an opportunity to engage with an AR experience can be an effective tool in customer attraction and retention. Netflix teamed up with Google Lens in order to promote the third season of Stranger Things; when print ads for the show were viewed through the app, users unlocked interactive features within the “world” of the show. AR can also be good for encouraging collecting behavior — providing different experiences when used with certain products or in specific locations.
Gaming is one of the most popular entertainment industries today, so it’s little surprise that marketers are seeking to take advantage of its benefits. By encouraging the goal-oriented behavior exemplified by the achievement of tasks, effectively monetizing content, and finding new ways to embrace current technology, marketing is tapping into the public’s preferred methods of navigating the world today.