Gamification. As I write this there are probably no less than 25 books on the subject and 50 speakers making the various circuits about how this is the next big thing in branding. The use of game-design techniques to solve problems, motivate, and engage people is not new. We’ve seen it in loyalty programs, brand-sponsored contests, and elementary school fundraisers. What’s new is the technology that allows game elements to be applied to virtually any experience. And it is in the places where this technology lives that the game and brand universes have finally intersected.
Gamification: Brands put their game face on
By Jason Bice, Landor
As it currently exists, gamification is still some-what of a novelty. Most “gamified” applications or services employ systems of badges, achievements, and levels but really lack interactions containing any degree of behavioral complexity. And this complexity is key to creating the gamer’s state of intense engagement, or “blissful productivity,” as Jane McGonigal refers to it in her TED talk, “Gaming can make a better world.”
So whether gamification can evolve out of this early phase and into a meaningful tool for brands to create loyalty and engagement remains to be seen. But one thing is certain: The marketing world is taking notice. Brand consultancy Millward Brown predicts gamification will become a leading digital marketing trend in 2012 and beyond, and technology research firm Gartner forecasts that by 2014, 70+ percent of Forbes Global 2000 companies will have at least one gamified application.
That doesn’t mean that they’re all going to get it right. And if it isn’t given the room to grow that it deserves, gamification will become yet another throwaway buzzword in the branding lexicon. Brands have a real opportunity to effect positive change and create truly absorbing brand stories with this tool, and getting it right means spending the time and money exploring the possibilities and limitations that this nascent offering provides.
Why not stick to the more traditional, tried-and-true methods of engagement: advertising, direct marketing, social media? Of course that does beg the question: Why should companies spend that kind of time and money on an offering that is too young to have a proven track record for ROI? In today’s attention economy, can they afford not to?
The engagement level of games is one of the most coveted elements a brand could seek to capture. From the casual to the hardcore and every genre in between, people are gaming. Think about this: Since its release in 2009, the collective time spent playing Rovio Mobile’s megahit Angry Birds comes to over 200,000 years. That’s about the same amount of time modern humans have existed. Today over half a billion people on the planet spend over 3 billion hours a week playing online games.1 1 Jane McGonigal, Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World, (New York, NY, Penguin Press, 2011).
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