There is a new tool in town that has caught marketers’ attention: gamification (or game-based marketing). It might not sound familiar to everyone, but I’m sure the majority of people have come across this field unknowingly, especially those working in the online marketing field. Some major companies have even implemented it in their strategies. So, what is it and does it have any marketing value for your business?

First thing’s first: what exactly is gamification? As you have probably already noticed, the word consists the word game and there is a game element in this method, yet it is not an actual game. Wikipedia defines it as “applying game design thinking to non-game applications to make them more fun and engaging.” It’s basically a way for brands to interact with consumers in a fun (and less obvious) way.  How does it differ from regular games? Gamification includes a marketing goal: you want your customer to act. In order for them to act, you have to develop a successful game-based strategy. A lot of it is based on psychology. You and I, as human beings, have certain responses to game-based actions.

Marketers can use these behaviors to their benefit. The “how” includes gamification terminology which includes:

–          Loyalty programs: In order to achieve customer loyalty, you can offer points that lead to certain discounts or free products. Reward your customers for choosing your company over your competitors. These rewards will also make users feel somewhat proud of their achievements, which is a psychological factor that influences their returning behavior.

–          Leader boards: Leader boards carry status value; it’s basically a list of successful gamers and what they have accomplished. You’re playing the vanity card here.

–          Progress monitoring: For example, applying layers of levels encourages gamers to keep going, this is why you need to add some sort of progress monitoring feature in order for them to see how far they have come and how much they have accomplished. Be creative in doing this to provide a well-structured storyline that will keep gamers interested.

The following are the most well-known examples of gamification and their goals:

LinkedIn’s progress bar
When you sign up for a LinkedIn account, it shows the progress of your registration in this so-called “progress bar.” You’re very likely to have the urge to get to that 100% completion, which is a perfect example of game psychology. Goal: completed profiles which lead to service optimization and user activity.

Foursquare is doing an amazing job gamifying its strategy. The location-based network offers its users Mayorships (status factor) and a number of discounts based on their check-in usage. Goal: repeat business for clients.

Starbucks keeps customers returning to their stores by using a “Rewards Card.” You can get free beverages and refills for example, and you can reach the status symbol of the Gold Level Card. Goal: customer loyalty and building valuable customer relationships.

Not convinced? Mashable also created a list of reasons why companies should at least think about the implementation of gamification. A final tip: check out this infographic created by Flowtown, it provides interesting and useful information about social gamers.

Will gamification be part of every marketing strategy in the future? Let me know what you think and leave a comment!