Gamification marketing campaigns: What is gamification?
Coincidentally, the first three goals are key concepts of consumer marketing. Due to this success, marketing executives are slowly realising the potential of applying gamification to marketing. Despite this apparent growth in relevance, Lucassen and Jansen found no literature that identifies the expected adoption rate of gamification.
Lucassen and Jansen started with the definition of gamification, further realising the focus of gamification is on gaming versus playing and using parts of, rather than whole concepts. Video games and related fields have joined mainstream culture over the past three decades and games in various forms have become ubiquitous in our daily lives. As a result, they are now a cultural medium on par with literature, movies or television.
The synergy between marketing and gamification goals
Marketing is a multi-faceted field, which encompasses many disciplines and goals. Marketing management aims to choose target markets, then gain, retain and grow customers by creating, delivering and communicating customer value. There is internal marketing, integrated marketing, performance marketing and relationship marketing. Marketing is about building and maintaining relationships in order to retain business.
Three key relationship marketing concepts are relevant in the gamification context:
- Engagement, which is the relevance of a brand to a consumer and the development of emotional connections between brand and consumer.
- Brand loyalty, which relates to repeat business.
- Brand awareness, which is the basic level of brand knowledge.
Although no consensus on the purpose of gamification has been reached, a 2011 survey by M2 Research found that gamification customers are primarily looking to affect these three concepts.
The synergy potential with relationship marketing is significant. Academics often mention engagement, in particular, as the main goal of gamification. Some research confirms this positive effect of gamification in specific settings such as websites, e-learning and online idea competitions. Other academics believe gamification will drastically improve our world by creating healthier, more productive and engaged citizens. Despite these promising results, big expectations and common goals, Lucassen and Jansen argue that the intersection of marketing and gamification is largely ignored by academia. They aimed to explore this with their research.
They started with nine interviews conducted with marketing executives from marketing-communication agencies. Respondents’ backgrounds ranged from an independent gamification expert providing consulting services, to the head of a digital creative agency with 150 employees in three countries. Three more interviews were conducted with local marketing executives of well-known, multinational brands. All interviewees were Dutch and were active in or closely associated with the marketing-communication industry.
The objective of the interviews was to measure whether marketing executives were interested in applying gamification to marketing campaigns. Interview guidelines were developed to ensure a standardised structure. The interview contained sections with unguided questions, guided questions and cross-validation topics. The respondents were asked questions such as: “do you expect gamification to enhance theeffectiveness of marketing?” and “does your organisation have the knowledge to apply gamification?” In total, the researcher posed ten questions to determine interest. Finally, interviewees were asked to match a list of gamification mechanisms to what marketing goal each is primarily leveraged for.
Gamification marketing campaigns: Results
Current knowledge of gamification
Eleven out of 12 respondents were familiar with the term gamification and were currently applying it in a project or had consciously applied in the past. Three explicitly mentioned that incorporating gamification in their work was not a goal in itself. Instead, they leveraged gamification concepts for effective communication of a message when appropriate. A marketing executive of a major consumer brand was not familiar with the term. However, after explanation of the topic, he recognised that his brand had launched gamified marketing campaigns in the past.
Gamification marketing campaigns: Performance expectancy
All marketing executives considered gamification a valuable addition to the marketing activities because of the increase in engagement through positive interaction. However, to achieve this desired impact, the gamified part of a campaign needs to be relevant and well executed to connect with the target audience. Warnings were given against campaigns that originated from an unjustified sense of urgency to apply this novel concept. These forced experiences can have a negative effect instead of increased engagement. However, a gamified campaign does not necessitate a holistic, immersive experience. On the contrary, a limited set of mechanisms used as a vehicle to enhance the process of going through a simple online form can be relevant if it initiates intended behaviour.
All respondents thought gamification would increase their marketing effectiveness. The sentiment that gamifying an experience primarily benefits consumer engagement was repeated. Gamification requires the consumer to act, effectively deepening customer relationships. This does, however, reduce the reach of a campaign. In comparison to traditional advertising, gamification is ineffective for improving brand awareness. However, although many consumers do not respond to an invitation to participate, they do appreciate being asked to participate in an interactive experience. Three respondents recognised the potential to improve loyalty through action. However, several respondents acknowledged a number of drawbacks. First, no accepted industry standard for measuring the concrete results of gamification was available. Second, the current form of gamified campaigns generated short-term results but had limited long-term impact. Last, in the experience of one respondent gamification is less effective than well-executed social media campaigns in terms of costs, making gamification investments less attractive to consumer brands.
Gamification marketing campaigns: Effort expectancy
All respondents believed they had the skills to technically implement gamified campaigns. The industry demands marketeers to be skilled in contemporary technologies and adopt conceptual developments, which are currently focused on consumer interaction. Yet, according to marketing agency executives, gamification’s main challenge is persuading clients of the concept its benefit. The conceptual phase and technical realisation is comparatively easy. Moreover, gamifying an experience requires close collaboration and substantially increases costs and time investments in exchange for unclear, unmeasurable results.
Due to the diverse nature of the respondents, opinions on mastering the concept were varied. All brand executives realised they were capable of applying the basics of gamification but required marketing agency assistance to achieve the full potential. Half of the agency executives said they employed experts in all necessary domains. The remaining marketing agencies relied on partners to assist in executing their concepts, but were confident they were capable of mastering all theoretical concepts. On the other hand, several respondents mention that the field of gamification is still in its infancy and would evolve in the coming years.
Gamification marketing campaigns: Social influence
All marketing agency executives encountered and recognised the potential of gamification on their own by doing research, thanks to domain media outlets or as the result of a business opportunity. No one in particular had ever advised them to start applying gamification. The first introduction to gamification for each brand executive was through advisors, marketing agencies or peers. Due to the shift towardsinteractive marketing, superiors and colleagues of brand executives were receptive to gamified campaigns. However, one respondent stated that gamification pitches of marketing agencies were infrequent and often did not align with his brand goals. Likewise, executives of marketing agencies said customers were receptive to gamification ideas, as long as the budget allowed and the concept fitted with the client’sstrategy. Clients needed to be persuaded about the benefits of a holistic approach.
Furthermore, they notice that although the majority of brands would benefit from following “the socio-cultural trend of ludification”, by incorporating gamification in their marketing, clients seldom agreed with this sentiment and did not acknowledge the added value.
Gamification marketing campaigns: Behavioural intention
All respondents expressed the intention to apply gamification in the coming year. The expected percentage of projects containing gamification was between 10 and 80 per cent. Three respondents expected to apply it more in this year than in the years before, two predicted a decline due to the increase in length of projects and a focus shift to integrating mobile and social media in favour of gamifying a project.
Gamification marketing campaigns: Discussion
Answers given by respondents were predominantly positive towards the adoption of gamification. The increase in engagement through positive interaction is seen as the main benefit of applying gamification. However, a gamified campaign needs to be well executed in order to achieve the intended goals. The majority of respondents did not believe it would be easy to leverage gamification concepts, implement them technically and master the concept in the future. However, they believe they are capable of achieving these goals. Executives of marketing agencies experience challenges in persuading clients of the added value of gamifying a campaign, due to the absence of a method to measure the direct results of gamification. All respondents said customers and superiors are receptive to campaigns that include gamification. The facilitating conditions, knowledge and resources are available to all respondents, either in house or at external partners. Both major brand executives and marketing agency executives hold the belief that most brands will benefit from incorporating gamification. As a consequence it is no surprise that all interviewees intended to incorporate the concept in the coming year, although the expected quantity varies.
A reason for the overwhelming positive responses is the attitude of marketing executives towards gamification as a label for a set of mechanisms that marketeers have been applying for decades.
As JesseSchell puts it: ”When a restaurant gives out a t-shirt to anyone who can eat their Inferno Wing Platter, well, guess what? That’s gamification. It doesn’t have to be complicated.”
Gamification marketing campaigns: Gamification mechanisms
Respondents to Lucassen and Jansen’s study expected to use competition, leaderboards and levels primarily for engagement, because an unknown amount of input to achieve certain goals provokes curiosity in a sub-set of consumers. Badges, on the other hand, are mainly deployed for loyalty because they contain well-defined goals for the user that are typically designed to entice frequent buying.
Virtual rewards are status symbols such as badges, achievements or special privileges; similar to badges they will incur loyalty if these rewards are structured to entice frequent visits or buying. The social mechanisms of helping a friend, feeling part of a group, differentiating from and having control over peers engages individuals because humans are more inclined to actively and seriously participate when peers participate as well. Expiration, scarcity, time constraints and limited resources are all mechanisms that engage consumers by invoking a sense of urgency, prompting them to act fast, before their chance is over.
A turn-based mechanism engages by repeatedly challenging users for a long period of time. Access restrictions by design provoke loyalty because these restrictions are typically lifted only when a customer is within the top certain percentage spenders.
Gamification marketing campaigns: Case studies
The lost phone experiment
In 2012, Vodafone Netherlands set out to inform customers of what can happen when you lose your phone. Instead of conducting a survey and pushing the results to consumers, the marketing departmentintended to directly include individuals in the message. In the resulting campaign, a hundred mobile phones were ‘lost’ all over the Netherlands and tracked remotely to collect usage information. If an individual brought back a lost device, personal information was recorded and as a reward, their name and home town were put on a wall of fame. Online, anyone could follow the developments and track a multitude of competitions or leaderboards such as in which city it is safe to lose your phone, whether women are more honest than men (they are not) or if finders are more likely to call your mother or your father. Because this competition is non-individualistic, a broad audience was engaged with the outcome. As a result Vodafone taught customers in a narrative fashion instead of informing them of uninteresting facts through a press release.
Gamification marketing campaigns: Case studies
Shortly before the Dutch Film Festival of 2012, the organisation drew global attention by directing a live feature film called Onder Controle with the help of social media. During the live broadcast, anyone could tweet the next line or plot turn. Many gamification mechanisms were leveraged to engage users. Full control over the actors was given to a large group of participants that competed fiercely amongst each other. After all, this was the first and most likely last time to have a chance to influence a film with national celebrities and this access restriction was lifted only for the duration of the film itself, a single hour. On top of that, the ’winning’ tweet was shown during the scene, including that person’s Twitter handle. In the end, only 100 out of 4000 tweets sent during the broadcast were actually used in the film. As a result, these individuals felt part of an elite, differentiating group of winners, increasing their social status. Within 10 minutes of the start of the film, tens of thousands of people viewed the live broadcast, joined the discussion on Twitter and made the hashtag of the film a trending topic worldwide. For a short moment, it overtook the hashtag of the Olympic Games of 2012.
The future of gamification
The results of this study provide a detailed overview of the contemporary attitude of marketing executives towards gamification. Marketing executives’ responses were positive for nine out of 10 interview questions and they expected to adopt gamification more frequently in their future work. This indicates a promising future for the gamification industry. Despite these positive results, respondents emphasised that gamification should not be a goal in itself – it needs diligent execution in order to reach the intended goals. Several respondents expressed doubt over the excessively broad definition of gamification, indicating they would appreciate efforts to formulate sub-domains. Furthermore, marketing executives believed an increase in engagement was the primary benefit of gamification, expecting to leverage 14 out of 19 gamification mechanisms for this goal. Many opportunities for future research on gamification are available. First, case studies into the effectiveness of gamified marketing campaigns and their underlying mechanisms will improve our understanding of specific mechanisms and their impact. Combined with case studies on projects that attempt to incorporate gamification with standardised solutions from companies such as Bunchball, experts can determine whether dividing gamification in multiple sub-disciplines is necessary.
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