People not puppets – ensuring Gamification adds real value to customer relationships

Gamification is growing fast in its use across a wide spectrum of industries even though it is not, technically, a new idea; game mechanics have been used in training and technical learning for years and there are aspects of Gamification in most loyalty programs and social platforms.

M2 Research says the global market for Gamification will explode from $242 million in 2012 to $2.8 billion in 2016. A big driver in this growth is the potential for Gamification to improve audience understanding and involvement in many areas – customer loyalty, employee motivation and education to name a few.

At the heart of Gamification’s appeal is the need to find creative ways to engage audiences who are overwhelmed by content. In a world where the humble PDF is becoming the natural enemy of audiences seeking to be engaged, we are all turning to more appealing ways to get the information we need.

We are naturally drawn to entertaining, visually appealing, easily digestible information sources and the power is in our hands to choose who, when, where and on what we will engage.  Witness the rise of video consumption on mobile as part of this trend.

Gamification may be the answer but the problem is that businesses can rush into it without necessarily lifting the bonnet to see what is making it work. There are a number of services putting their hands up to execute it for you but executing without a clear view of what motivates your audience can and will prove fatal.

There are a number of notable research authorities looking closely at digital trends that are clearly stating the dangers; Forrester Research and Gartner are both cautious on the success rate of Gamification programs.

We found it interesting that Gartner, the world’s leading technology researcher and advisor, published two articles on this topic. One that stated by 2014, Gamification would be as important as Facebook, eBay or Amazon and more than 70% of companies will have at least one ‘gamified’ application.

The second one led with the headline that 80% of these applications will fail! Enough to make you think twice before rushing into production don’t you think?

But why the high failure rate? Perhaps Brian Burke of Gartner Inc put it most succinctly when he said that businesses need to stop treating their audience as puppets by simply slapping on some points and leader boards.

His point is that poor design is the core reason why a lot of Gamification projects will falter. By ‘design’ I am referring to design of the interaction and the value of its content, not simply the visual appeal of the concept.

The simple way to overcome this is to revert to something that all businesses should feel pretty familiar with. Know your audience. What are the rational drivers? What appeals to them emotionally? How do they like to be spoken to? What will prompt them to engage, share, and continue the conversation?

All strong brand communications do this. Speaking to the hearts and minds of your audience is as important in Gamification as the rest of your marketing efforts. Simply adopting off the shelf Gamification solutions in the pursuit of a quick win will be just that – very quick.

Here is a simple reference to the complementary parts that go to making a successful Gamification program. Each of them is important in ensuring your investment in this area delivers an ongoing benefit to your business and your customers.

In our work, we are finding that the real power lies in tapping into what we refer to as the hidden motivators. Is it the personal sense of achievement they seek? Or perhaps they appreciate immediate feedback on their progress? Or is it the ability to share your progress with friends or others in your social community? Having a clear focus on these more emotive drivers will help the overall design of what you put in front of the audience you are seeking to engage.

Gamification has a lot of potential but only when combined with some good traditional marketing disciplines. Don’t leave it to luck in your pursuit of games that last.

Peter Hosking
BY Peter Hosking ON 26 July 2013
Peter Hosking is Director of
gho works with organizations in retail, banking, education and the public sector. Increasingly gho is seeing more investment in new technology and creative communications to protect and grow quality people to, in turn, become strong advocates for their brands.