Gaming 24/7: Reaching Your Audience Day & Night

If you're paying attention to digital marketing, by now you've heard that gamification can improve engagement in marketing, training, social causes and even personal health. An entire industry of designers and developers is emerging focused on creating gamified solutions for companies.

When I talk about “gamification,” I’m basically talking about applying game principles to non-gaming experience. In other words, taking the things that make Angry Birds, FarmVille and Minecraft so engaging -- earning points, leveling up, discovering, unlocking features, getting rewards -- and using them to focus people’s time and attention on real-world issues.

Gamification takes advantage of two modern realities. First, that people are programmed to challenge themselves, and second, that everybody competes and collaborates with friends, family and colleagues.

People are already gaming 24/7. Just consider Joe Schmo’s typical day:

  • 5am – Starts off the morning with a run, racks up points on his Nike Fuel Band
  • 7am–Kills time during his commute by aiming Angry Birds at those nasty pigs
  • 9am–Becomes Mayor of the office by checking in on Foursquare before any of his co-workers
  • 11am–Wins employee of the month award by blowing away the sales quota
  • 1pm – Tracks his Weight Watchers points when ordering lunch
  • 3pm – Avoids the withering plants by watering them in FarmVille
  • 5pm – Increases his Dropbox memory by inviting 10 more friends to the platform
  • 7pm–Gives his kids points for cleaning their plates at the dinner table
  • 9pm–Scans a retail loyalty card and gets $5 off on his next purchase
  • 11pm–Gets points by making a reservation on OpenTable
  • 1am–Sneaks in some late-night games on Xbox Live
  • 3am–Finishes the day with some Words with Friends

If you’re not leveraging this behavior in your marketing and training, you’re missing out.

Insert Coin: Building A Gamification Strategy

The key to gamification is leveraging what you know about your customers (or employees) already. Your “asks” should align with your users’ habits, interests and motivations. The actions you want your users to take should be based on what they already do. Whether that means more brand interaction, more statements about your products, or driving more visits, you should have a very specific task in mind at the outset.

Level Up: Attract and Retain Your Audience

Of course, your game will only matter if people keep playing it. People love to accomplish things, and a diverse set of activities will reel them in, but they’re only going to keep pumping in quarters if you level them up.

The concept of levels surrounds us in real life. We earn badges in the Cub Scouts; we earn belts in karate; we earn promotions in the office; we earn miles in the air. Leveling up says, “I’ve done something.” Challenge your users to reach a set number of points for each level, then graduate them to the next level.

And if you want to turn your players into addicts, create a learning curve. Space your levels out. The first few should be easy to reach; the next several should be more difficult. Hook them early on with easy stuff, and you’ll keep them with you for the long haul.

Super Mega Combo! Provide Real-Time Feedback

When people are playing games, even the smallest encouragement can enhance engagement. Real-time feedback can mean almost anything: leaderboards, virtual rewards (points, badges &social status), real-life rewards (coupons, digital content and physical goods) pop-ups, texts, e-mails, access to contests, or anything else that says “Good job!”

The feedback is there to reinforce what the gamer is working toward. Plus, excited users are likely to spread the word about their accomplishments and your platform. Consider that your mega bonus. 

Play On Their Turf

Don’t make your audience find you. Meet them where they already are. You should already know how and where they obtain and absorb content, so design your campaign accordingly.

It doesn’t matter if you’re selling widgets, wallets or wallabies, or if you’re overseeing a staff of two or two thousand. Gamification knows no bounds. If you deliver the right experience in the right way and in the right place, you’ll find that there’s a hardcore gamer in everybody.

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