Background Overview & The Market


The way mobile phone users vigorously engage with locations is changing the corporate marketing and advertising. A recent study showed that 55% of smartphone owners use their devices for “a location-specific task.” Through this emerging trend Gamification has seen a rapid expansion within the mobile marketing era, changing the way companies, brands and advertisers market and promote their products or brands.

Gamification is the use of game-like mechanics and dynamics in a non-game environment such as marketing to increase consumer engagement and/or influence consumer behavior. Gamification is the notion that you can apply basic elements that typically aren’t considered a game making advertising campaigns fun and engaging for consumers ultimately aiming to influence and motivate them. Such activity helps shape a deeper, more compelling user experience, leading to tangible business benefits, such as customer loyalty, brand recognition and revenues. With the wide use of mobile devices, Gamification can bring real value to a brand engaging consumers at the point of interest while building a strong relationship that can be translated in a two way communication.

Applying game dynamics to a brand campaign has one major advantage, the ability to enhance ‘stickiness’ to the brand, therefore keeping the consumers engaged with the brand and ultimately trigger them to come back. Gamification enables advertisers to engage their audience with tasks and activities they love doing in a way that have never thought before. It is the art of rewarding your audience for their loyalty by providing them with virtual prizes or points that can latter translate to tangible goods. In theory you can apply game design to almost anything in real life. The overall goal of Gamification is to engage with consumers and enable them to participate, share and interact in a dedicated community directly related to a brand or a product. The most widely spread practice of Gamification is used by Foursquare where users are asked to check in to places they visit and been rewarded with points, game like titles – mayorships – and rewards – budges.

For an effective and successful campaign, Gamification is not to be seen as a cheapening of customer interaction. Companies are being lazy, failing to add meaningful game dynamics and as a result ending up with gimmicky campaigns. There are too few examples of companies integrating game dynamics on a deep level, and too many examples of companies simply adding a basic point-scoring system to an otherwise usual mobile site or application.

Gamification in Action

A large segment from local business to large companies have taken advantage of the possibilities and capabilities of Gamification, focusing on their mobile strategy I terms of location based marketing. These businesses market and advertise to mobile users for free through check in status and point redemption mechanisms. People love points. They love to earn them, achieve them and differentiate themselves from other users. This makes points incredible motiva­tors. Points can be used to reward users across multiple dimensions, and different categories of points can be used to drive different behaviors within the same site or application.

Gamification tactics go way back when they first introduced through Frequent Flyer Programs where over 120m people around the world are using them to collect miles and redeem them for various privileges and free tickets. But FFP do not reflect the real term of Gamification since there is no action relating users to game like activities such as checking in to places earning points and interact with other users. Companies using such methods are numerous with Foursquare and Badgeville being the market leaders.

Since the introduction of the above companies and their unsuccessful approach to dominate and monopolize the market, more and more brands and are introducing branded gamified campaigns through their mobile portals or custom mobile applications. Campaigns for the moment are limited to branded check-ins and point giveaways aiming to strengthen brand recognition and product exposure. Rewards are mostly product based and it seems there is a limited number of a “status” achievement or experience levels. On the other hand, a number of companies use Foursquare or equivalent platforms to manage their brand and reward users. This way brands take full advantage of the status level, achievement unlocks and social sharing integrations. In some case brands also sponsor braded badges that can be redeemed or unlocked through the specific platforms.

But why Gamification works best with mobile? Because consumers always carry their mobile device with them and it instantly activates on the network, mobile is the only marketing channel to be fully integrated in the Gamification experience. As a result, use of mobile and real time becomes a central part of the challenges that consumers receive. For example, a specific number of points can give consumers the right to take part in a short quiz for the chance to win a prize.

When considering the role of mobile in Gamification, one should consider four inherent characteristics of the medium:

  • The personal, intimate nature of a mobile device translates into higher potential impact/cut through
  • It is a time-sensitive device
  • Instant, easy interaction makes direct response much easier
  • Interactions can be tracked, leading to much greater accuracy in measurement

Game Mechanics

Game mechanics are the rules and rewards that make up game play, the aspects that make it challenging, fun, satisfying, or whatever other emotion the game’s designers hope to evoke. These emotions, in turn, are the result of desires and motivations called game dynamics.

Game mechanics include:

Points – Levels – Challenges – Virtual goods and spaces – Leaderboards – Gifts & Charity.

Game dynamics include:

Reward – Status – Achievement – Self-expression – Competition – Altruism.

The Future of Gamification

These successes should give skeptical marketing executives food for thought. The consultancy firm, Gartner, predicted in a report in April this year that “by 2015, more than 50% of organizations that manage innovation processes will gamify those processes”; and foresee that by 2014, a gamified service for consumer goods marketing and customer retention will become as important as Facebook, eBay or Amazon. Gamifcation is very real, has tangible benefits and is here to stay. But whatever the strengths or weaknesses of this new tool, it’s clear that any brand serious about innovation and improvement will have to look at the new tool in detail.


With the rapid growth and expansion of Gamification there is the threat of overworking the industry with custom gamified applications and mobile destinations. More and more brands apply such tactics to their overall marketing mix aiming to attract and further engage consumers. Gamification campaigns should offer a seamless experience that differentiates the brand from the competition while providing users with exclusive, engaging and unique experience.

Market Opportunities

As already mentioned above, a large number of brands are incorporating gratified marketing to their mix. A great example is David Yurman, a jewelry designer in New York who is promoting the collection’s bracelets and rings through the location-based mobile application Foursquare. Similarly McDonald’s implemented a similar check-in campaign for its McCafe brand and its summer products enabling users to check in to a McCafe store in the New York state t “Toast their Town” and win free coffee for a limited time.

But the main question is; what industries could better utilize the capabilities of Gamification and have a greater future potential?

  • Retail: In the retail industry, gamified campaigns can provide businesses with a unique way to reward their regular customers. Gamification campaigns, such as the one implemented by David Yurman, give loyal customers a way to benefit from frequent visits
  • Hospitality: Tourism companies are creating tailored lists for people visiting popular vacation destinations, giving a lot of free exposure to hotels, venues and other getaway destinations. Getting your venue’s name on a list for the best brunch spots or for the best golf course is a free way of connecting with people who are in your area or planning on travelling to your location
  • Restaurants: Restaurants can use Foursquare badges in a number of ways, such as offering a “Foursquare happy hour” where customers who check-in receive a free appetizer, free drink or a specific discount. The marketing exposure that restaurants will benefit from check-ins will far surpass the money spent on giveaways.

Categories: Mobile Marketing

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