How Real Businesses Are Using Gamification to Spice Up Their Marketing

by Corey Eridon

Date

September 20, 2012 at 9:00 AM

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Gamifi-wha?

If that's your reaction to the word "gamification," you're in the right place.

You might have heard the word thrown around a bit over the last several months, but never really dug into what it is and what it means for your marketing. That's where I think most of us stand ... gamification is just one more thing to learn about, and maybe one day when we have the time (or the tide of marketing forces us to), we'll figure it out.

Well luckily, there's been some pioneering brands out there experimenting with gamification, and lots of research coming out of it that shows whether it's worth all of the hulabaloo. We're going to dive into it all right now in this blog post, and figure out just what this gamification thing is, whether it's useful, and how we can all use it in our marketing. Ready? Let's do this.

What Is Gamification?

I've been trying to think of a way to explain what gamification is without saying, "it's the process of gamifying something." But ... that's what it is. It's turning something into a game -- for marketers, it's turning your inbound marketing into a game -- in order to achieve some desired end. Your audience (customers, leads, fans, followers, readers, whoever) engage in some kind of game so that they might win something, and in return, you get something you want out of them, too.

Not to belittle, well, all of us (we're all leads at some point, aren't we?), but gamification is the marketer's equivalent of turning a baby's spoon into a rocket ship so the baby has fun trying to catch it, and you get your baby to eat the smashed peas. Everybody wins, and the baby has a good time to boot.

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Or if you prefer a real business example, it's kind of like when we host a webinar and say whoever tweets the webinar's hashtag the most gets a free ticket to our next marketing conference -- it taps into people's competitive spirit and drive to win, and gets our content more exposure on Twitter. Again, a win-win scenario, and one that's more creative than just asking someone, "Hey, can you tweet this link?"

Make sense?

Yep! But How Can Real Companies Gamify?

Well there sure are a lot of brands experimenting with it. Let's explore how some brands are using it -- B2B, B2C, ecommerce, we'll run the gamut -- so you can see what successful implementation of gamification looks like, and what kind of results it can drive. I think you'll be surprised to see it's more substantial than just gaming some more Facebook 'Likes' and comments!

David B. Reath of Knoxville Plastic Surgery delights current customers. And prospective ones. Might as well throw Facebook EdgeRank in there, too.

Dr. David Reath is a local plastic surgeon in Knoxville, TN who has started a weekly game called Truth-O-Meter Tuesday on his company Facebook page. How's it work? Each week, he posts a true-or-false question onto his timeline, and asks people to answer whether they think the answer is, well, true or false.

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Wow, look at those comments. 107? Pretty impressive for a niche local business! So, what happens next? The next day, the doc posts a video of himself answering the question ...

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... as well as that week's contest winner! You see, each week Dr. Reath randomly selects, out of everyone who answered correctly, someone to win a $100 gift certificate for his practice (he sells products as well as services). The winner could be a prospective or current customer, so this gamification of your typical Facebook post helps this practice generate new customers, and keep past customers engaged. Plus, since the contest requires very little action -- he's looking for a "True" or "False," not an essay response -- engagement is high on these posts. What does that mean? It means Facebeook's EdgeRank algorithm perks up and thinks this brand is pumping out quality content, and that post in particular should make its way into news feeds. Why, what a lovely way to expand your social media reach!

My1login helps you help them help you.

My1login is an online password manager that lets you store your passwords safely so you can access them securely from anywhere on any device. Security and convenience? Sounds great! Except that security and convenience are kind of at odds with each other when it comes to password management. As TechCrunch put it, "remembering a dozen or so strong and unique passwords for all of the products that we rely on or sign up to every day, is anything but convenient. But then, so is a security breach." That's why my1login relied on gamification to help their customers set secure passwords -- so they and their customers could be successful.

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They've started to dole out badges that increase users' storage limit by completing tasks that reinforce good behavior -- essentially taking a Pavlovian approach to their product to make sure their users are successful ... making them successful by extension. So the most strong and/or unique passwords their users generate, for instance, the more badges they can get. Pretty cool way to teach people the right way to use your product or service!

Mint.com widens the top of the funnel, roping in future customers.

Mint.com is one of the earliest adopters of gamification. If you're a user, you know (whether consciously or not) that they use gamification at every turn to achieve that coveted "sticky" factor all product and service providers strive for. But they also find ways to bring in new leads with gamification -- leads that are really, really, really top of the funnel. Take a look at how Mint is investing in its future (and its leads') through gamification, screenshot courtesy of Interaction Design.

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This is an example of a quiz that is featured in a Mint computer game targeted at teens. It asks questions about how they would react in real world situations that relate to personal finance ... pretty direct tie in to the ol' Mint platform! What's amazing about this, however, is that Mint is investing in leads. These kids are not going to be a customer anytime soon. And Mint doesn't care. They're using gamification to talk to a demographic that isn't now, but soon will, develop into their target persona. It makes all the sense in the world -- if a teenager is getting personal financial advice from one source since as long as they can remember, where else would they turn when they're ready to buy their first car, figure out how to pay off student loans, or take out their first mortgage? Mint knows the answer to those questions, and is using gamification to capitalize on it.

Forrester Research gamifies ... content?

I've been meaning to write this blog post about gamification for a long time, and one of the reasons is because a while back in my Google Reader, a post from Forrester Research came up with the title, "Read This Blog, Win A Prize!!!"

Uhhh, this is genius. First of all, anyone who reads Forrester on a regular basis knows that this kind of tone -- not to mention three exclamation marks -- is a little outside the realm of normal for them. But you know what? It garnered a click. I bet it garnered lots of them. The author of this post also carried the gamification metaphor through the post (which was, of course, about gamification) by including this gem at the bottom:

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And in case you don't carry around a magnifying glass on you at all times, it reads:

"Oh, and for reading this you get 200* Peter Wannemacher Points!

Earn 500 Peter Wannemacher and you get a high five; earn 1,000 for a signed picture. Subject to rules and regulations. Please email pwannemacher@forrester.com for details & redemptions."

The point? Gamification doesn't have to require fancy coding and an onslaught of engineering and developer talent. Gamification can take place right within your next blog post! Ask readers to look for something -- a joke, an image, a clue, trivia, anything -- to keep them reading to the point at which they take some sort of meaningful action with your content.

HubSpot gives a peek behind the scenes, and everybody wins.

You didn't think you were going to escape this blog post without an example of how HubSpot gamified, did you? Well, this example doesn't include a pretty screenshot, but it's an example of gamification that marketers, manager, business owners -- anyone, really -- can take something away from.

Here at HubSpot, we have several metrics we use to measure customer happiness; one of them is something called CHI -- our Customer Happiness Index. It's one of the ways we know whether our inbound marketing consultants are doing a good job at making our customers successful. You might think that's the kind of metric consultants don't overtly tell their customers about, because it's what they're being measured on -- I mean, isn't that a conflict of interest or something?

I guess it could be ... if you don't have a gamification mindset, that is. One of our consultants decided to gamify CHI with his customers. How did he do it? He told them all, flat out, how they could have higher CHI. "If you blog X times a week, your CHI will go up X points, because the more customers blog, the better they do, and the better customers do, the happier they are." Then -- and this is where the gamification comes in -- he pit customers against each other to see who could achieve the higher CHI. Before he knew it, customers were tweeting at each other about how many blog posts they'd published, how much their Twitter followings were growing, how much their site traffic was increasing ... being awesome at inbound marketing was a competition! And a fun one, at that. Where consultants get high CHI scores, and customers make tons of money. That's a pretty sweet game.

Have you incorporated gamification into your marketing yet? How? What results have you seen?

Image credit: pasukaru76

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