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Gamification In Everything: The Range And When And Why It's So Effective

Written by Forbes
Published: September 15, 2014

“Gamification” uses characteristics like challenges, rewards, competitions, and moving to the next level based on performance skills or luck, in non-game contexts.  It’s often accompanied by progress tracking metrics.  The objectives are to engage users and change their behaviors in ways brands and organizations want.  The extremely broad and expanding range of ways gamification has been successfully utilized in recent years provides insights into other ways the tactic can achieve strategic objectives.  The following examples illustrate the range of uses and why the approach seems to be working in so many different contexts.

Health Care

Alvio makes breathing and lung exercises more fun for kids and individuals with asthma and other respiratory problems.  It’s a win win.  A win for Alvio’s sales and a win for patients who get better and significantly reduced needs for inhalants, because they’re more likely to do the exercises and can more easily measure how well they are doing them!

Alternate Product Usage

CHEEZ-IT Scrabble Junior gamifies crackers. It provides an alternate use for the product and may encourage new purchases because of the added value as a game.

Ford Fusion dashboard

The Ford Fusion hybrid dashboard has gamified driving, to help drivers maximize the fuel economy of their vehicles.  With the EcoGuide, developed in conjunction with Smart Design, “efficiency leaves” appear on the dashboard and grow and proliferate the more efficiently the car is driven.  This helps drivers adjust their driving speeds and rewards them for “good behavior”.

 “Gaming For Good”: Sustainability and Recycling

On RecycleBank’s website, users earn points by answering a tiered series of questions about green living, and by pledging to adopt greener habits.  At home, they earn points the more they recycle, by measuring the weight each time.  Participants redeem points for merchandise, discounts on brands like SC Johnson and Unilever and at hundreds of retailers including Macy’s, Bed Bath & Beyond, and Whole Foods.

Education

Many graduate business schools use a marketing simulation game called Markstrat that simulates a hypothetical industry with 5 competitors.  Each class, students make decisions on products to launch, markets to enter, marketing research reports to order, how much to produce, how to price, and other key business decisions.  The metric that determines the winning team is the firm’s stock price appreciation at the end of the simulation.  Gamification has been widely incorporated throughout education, ranging from nursery school to graduate school applications.  It makes learning more fun, interactive, engaging and dynamic, and undoubtedly improves retention.

Energy Saving Behavior

Gamification works well in changing behavior because it provides metrics and comparisons with both individuals’ own historical performance and with others.  In many cases, these metrics are now available for the first time.  Being able to experiment and act, and then measure the results, helps consumers understand the cause and effects of their actions to help them change and “improve” their behaviors.

Opower is an energy company whose bills, developed with the help of Smart Design, show customers how much energy they consumed relative to their neighbors.  This sets up a competition both with themselves and their neighbors.  They can try to improve their “personal best”, and by seeing how they compare to their neighbors, they can determine whether they’re doing better or worse than they think, which motivates them to match or surpass their neighbors’ performance.

Activity Trackers

Wearable activity tracking devices like the Nike Fuel Band, Fitbit and Jawbone have gamified physical activity, by making individuals more conscious of every action they take because of its associated metrics like calorie consumption, heart rate and blood pressure.  By comparing their personal metrics to their prior rates and to friends’ rates, they’re motivated to improve and better figure out how to adjust their behaviors to improve those metrics.  They have made comparisons with themselves and others a fun, highly beneficial challenge.

Building Brand Loyalty, Traffic, and Frequency of Purchase

Though less exciting for most today, than previously, Foursquare rewards frequent visitation to establishments via the possibility of becoming mayor.

McDonald’s Monopoly game, which started in 1987, encourages customers to come to the restaurant frequently, for more chances to win, and to visit the website often to see if they’ve won.  The results are increased sales, brand engagement, and time spent with the brand.

Product Demos

Cisco’s Edqe Quest video game engages prospective buyers (IT professionals in companies) by enabling them to experience telecommunications router’s new features through exciting animation and rich media.  The nature of the competitionF is exciting to many in that target and generated earned media from key influencers in thought leader blogs, publications and other media outlets.

Employee Training

Gamification of employee training has been a huge and highly productive area.  Far more fun, interesting & engaging than a manual or lecture, video and board games have been created to teach everything from portion control at Cold Stone Creamery, to customer service at Starbucks, to housekeeping and reception desk skills at Hilton Garden Inn.

Gamification works so well in such a vast array of fields because:

  • It enables users to measure their performance and self-correct
  • Many individuals inherently love to compete
  • It’s engaging and interactive
  • It’s a more interesting and easier way to absorb and retain information associated with products and services

Advances in technology have also made gamification possible in fields it never could have years ago.  The trend has encouraged others to find ways to incorporate gamification into their products, where they may not have previously considered it.  It’s difficult to say if the gamification of everything will nullify the tactic’s effectiveness.  My guess is gamification won’t peter out, and will be around for a while.

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