Gamification and Small Business Marketing

Posted October 21, 2014

By Jenna Puckett

In 2011, Gartner research predicted that more than 70 percent of businesses would have at least one "gamified" application by 2014. If you're unsure what that means, just take a look around. Do you have a rewards card on your keychain that earns you points? Are you the top contributor in a LinkedIn group? Is there an app on your phone to help you stay fit? If you answered yes to any of these, then you've experienced gamification—the application of game elements to non-game contexts.

Gamification: a marketing strategy 

Gamification is becoming increasingly popular as today's tech-savvy youth demands more engaging experiences. As standard marketing techniques have become less effective with younger demographics, companies have begun to add interactive features and feedback loops, emulating video games. According to Gabe Zichermann, CEO of Gamification.co and the author of Game-Based Marketing:  

"They're failing because people today are seeking more reward and more engagement from experiences than ever before," he explains. "The younger generation—the millennial generation and younger—is more game-attuned than previous generations…Gamification is required to bring those things into balance, and to make things engaging enough so people will pay attention to them and stay focused on them for a longer period of time."

Companies can create effective small business marketing campaigns by incorporating gamification elements that engage customers and increase loyalty.

Gamification Creates Motivation, Momentum, and Meaning

It may sound like a buzzword, but gamification has been around longer than many people realize. Think airline frequent flier miles, hotel loyalty clubs, and credit card reward programs. What do all these have in common? They each take elements we like about games and add them to everyday actions to make them more motivating.

Points, badges, levels, leaderboards, and challenges all encourage specific actions by appealing to people's love of competition and rewards in order to change their habits. Small business owners can add gamification elements to their small business marketing campaigns, thus making them more memorable and effective by:

  • Encouraging interaction between participants
  • Keeping score to facilitate competitiveness
  • Giving consumers goals and rewarding their achievements
  • Using assertive graphics  
  • Creating a fun experience that ends with a sense of satisfaction

Gamification Success in the Real World

Creating a consumer relationship that has depth and relevance is at the heart of digital marketing. Gamification helps expand the user-experience beyond two-dimensional marketing. Let's explore a few ways companies use the gamification elements listed above to give consumers a personalized experience.

Coffee and Crowdsourced Innovation

Not only does Starbucks have a successful tiered loyalty program called My Starbucks Reward, the company also engages customers with its My Starbucks Idea website. Starbucks has motivated their fans by combining two hot trends—gamification and crowdsourcing—into one site. Coffee enthusiasts can sign up for the online community to give feedback and share product ideas. By adding gamification elements such as social collaboration, friendly points-based competition, and badges for feedback, the caffeine-powered company has received more than 150,000 customer-generated ideas.

An Internet Treasure Hunt  

On April 14, 2011, Magnum Pleasure Hunt was the most tweeted URL in the world. The chocolate company, Magnum, gave the world a mission: explore the endless Internet to collect bon bons and find the ultimate pleasure -- Magnum Temptation, the company's newest ice cream bar.

Magnum partnered with several brands to create a game inspired by Super Mario Bros, where players earn chocolate instead of coins. Instead of levels, the point-amassing adventure had players hopping between different Web pages on car trips, hang gliding, or even diving across YouTube to gather chocolate bon bons.

As the game finishes, players return to Magnum's site and their bon bons turn into a Magnum Temptation bar. The campaign spread through social media and in just five days, the site received 725,101 unique visits, and consumers spent 425,566 hours with the brand.

A Winning Small Business Marketing Campaign

Using gamification to create an interactive marketing campaign can engage and motivate people. Instead of using games to simply entertain, companies are finding ways to give consumers shared goals that draw them towards collective action. As small businesses learn how quickly customers see and share these campaigns, gamified marketing could be the key to a new high score.

Jenna Puckett is a staff writer for TechnologyAdvice. She covers topics related to gamification, employee performance, and other emerging tech trends. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

Do you have a comment or question about this article or other small business topics in general? Speak out in the SmallBusinessComputing.com Forums. Join the discussion today!

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