Mark Howley, group MD, ZenithOptimedia on how to make gamification work for your brand
Like many marketing buzz words, gamification, is a new word for an old, tried-and-tested practice. The use of gaming techniques such as a points system, pitting consumers against each other, within non-gaming environments has been bubbling under the surface for the past decade. However the near ubiquity of social media has propelled this practice into the mainstream, away from the hipsters checking into the latest New Zealand-inspired coffee shop in Hackney.
Brands are adopting gamification as a way of driving more frequent usage and engagement, but it’s easy to get wrong. Failed attempts by businesses trying to jump on the gamification bandwagon are often attributed to a misunderstanding of the consumer. Simply adding a few virtual trophies and badges to a brand website or social media page is rarely enough to keep a consumer motivated. The brands that are winning at gamification are those that are rooting it in compelling consumer insight, adding genuine value to consumer’s increasingly busy lives whilst also staying true to their core brand values.
Nike’s Fuel Band is an excellent example of the gamification of exercise. The concept of socialising the tracking of exercise taps into two key consumer insights. At the more energetic end of the fitness continuum, humans are essentially competitive and there is an element of social one-upmanship in out-performing one another, whilst at the more lethargic end of spectrum, people who find exercise a chore need to be incentivised and rewarded for working out. It’s these universal truths about two very different consumers that have driven strong uptake of Nike’s Fuel Band across the world. In addition to this, Nike’s intrinsic social sharing functionality increases competition among individuals by allowing them to benchmark their performance vs. friends and family.
GiffGaff the mobile network with the strapline The Mobile Network Run by You is a great example of gamification that genuinely adds value to consumers’ lives. GiffGaff rewards its community for helping others and users are awarded ‘kudos’ and payment points for participating. GiffGaff knows that participants are already using the service and rewards them with a real-life incentive that encourages further use of their product. The business has thrived by avoiding the need to operate call centres that most mobile providers have, by outsourcing this to their customers. Not only does GiffGaff reward customers positively, it demonstrates an understanding of what motivates its customers and offers a valuable incentive for good behaviour. GiffGaff members have asked around 130,000 questions on the forum since 2010 and this has helped the company achieve an exceptionally high Net Promoter Score.
The gamification utilised by Nike and GiffGaff is to be somewhat expected given their young, highly social demographic and the playful categories they both operate in. However, there are brands emerging that are using more subtle and nuanced elements of gamification to inject interest and excitement in typically lower interest categories.
NatWest have led the way in terms of creating engaging, almost playful content that aims to move the brand from functional loyalty to emotional loyalty, whilst ensuring that NatWest stays true to its helpful banking proposition and trusted authoritative voice. The new NatWest Holiday Spending Calculator is a tool designed to allow consumers to explore and compare the cost of typical purchases across 25 top holiday destinations via a playful, interactive interface. Other initiatives from NatWest have seen a competition to design an additional member of the historic NatWest piggybanks, with craft packs delivered to 30 influential mums to encourage their children to get creative in their designs. Whilst the gamification elements of NatWest are much more subtle than the reward-type systems used by the likes of Nike and GiffGaff, they demonstrate how gamification can still be relevant as long as you remain true to the brand’s fundamental values, tone-of-voice and the category they operate in.
Gamification is, admittedly, not for every brand – but the brands that are able to weave in aspects of gameplay that genuinely add value to their customer’s brand experience are the ones most likely to win in this increasingly popular, but increasingly tricky space.
Mark Howley is the group managing director of ZenithOptimedia