Commentary

The Big Game Continues

The Super Bowl may have been played yesterday, but there’s another venue where big games are being contested every day. It’s the world of travel, where signs of games and gamification and their power to change behavior and build brand engagement are increasingly on display. Marketers, take notice. If you aren’t already playing or making plans to suit up, you’re going to be missing out on an increasingly important component of successful marketing.

Gaming and the idea of gamification is big and not just in travel.  

  • The worldwide estimate is that people spend 3 billion hours a week playing games
  • eMarketer estimates that by 2015 more than 162 million Americans (or more than 50% of the population) will be playing games on their mobile devices
  • Gartner has predicted that 70% of the Forbes Global 2000 will have at least one gamified application by the end of this year (although they caution that 80% of those apps will fail to meet their business objectives due to poor game design)
  • More than half of Americans agree that adding a competitive element to games will make them more likely to change their behavior
  • 63% of adults say that making everyday activities more like a game makes them more rewarding
  • By 2018, M2 Research projects that gamification will be a $5.5 billion market in the U.S. alone (up from just $100 million in 2010)

Games appeal to the innate human desire to compete, learn and excel. And the challenges and rewards found in games compel people to adhere to a set of goals and they can greatly influence behavior patterns.

Among the many forces driving this gamification movement is the explosion of mobile and the growth of Millennials in the workforce. These younger “digital natives” who have been weaned on technology and video games are expected to represent nearly 60% of the U.S. workforce within the next six years.

That might explain why games are quickly being embraced in travel-related areas of corporate America. Accenture created a “My Travel Summary” that sits on the company’s intranet landing page and serves up the employee’s individual travel stats. Here, employees can keep score of how their travel decisions directly impact Accenture: how many times did they book outside of travel policy; how much savings they missed; and how their choices contributed to the CO2 impact on the planet. Based on their performance, employees can earn “Smart Traveler” badges and compare themselves to others within their group and region.

Similarly, Travel and Transport, the Omaha-based global travel management firm, has launched their own gamified program to a handful of top clients. Piggybacking on the reality that these travelers already have a strong familiarity with points-based loyalty programs, some participants will receive points for conforming to guidelines and policies, while others will enjoy recognition as savvy travelers on company posted leader boards and communication.

QuickMobile, a leader in mobile apps for the meetings market, announced this past fall a configurable gamification module for its MobileEvent app. This fully embedded module delivers a true gaming experience where users can earn points by performing certain app-based activities such as networking with peers, checking in at activities, exhibit booths or with sponsors, sharing content, taking pictures and completing quizzes and surveys. The tool can provide instant feedback to event organizers (like testing to see if anyone really remembered anything from the presentation you just gave) and top participants can be featured on leader boards and recognized with rewards.

A few years ago, Marriott made good use of gaming as part of their efforts to cultivate and recruit a more talented global workforce through a program called, “My Marriott Hotel” that was launched on Facebook and targeted Millennials. Drawing similarities from FarmVille and The Sims, participants could juggle responsibilities of a hotel kitchen manager before moving on to other areas of hotel operations. Players could create their own restaurant, buy equipment and hire and train employees. Points were earned for happy customers and lost for poor service and rewards were offered only after the restaurant turned a profit. Available in multiple languages, the game garnered considerable media coverage in trade and consumer press and it was reported to have drawn over 25,000 users in its first week, including one person who played 36 hours straight! 

KLM is one of several airlines that have really embraced both social media and gaming. This past summer they launched “Aviation Empire” that lets people create and manage their own airline from their mobile phone. Over 270,000 people have downloaded the game. Among its features is the ability to use your GPS to check in at where you’re traveling with KLM in the real world so you can earn landing rights to those destinations in the virtual world.

As for me, I’m getting ready for the upcoming Winter Olympics by challenging myself on the Holmenkollen ski jump game you can find at the Visit Norway website. I understand that they have had over 800 million online jumps attempted so be warned, it’s very addictive. While I’m not sure how many additional visitors are now finding their way to Holmenkollen, the game is definitely creating greater awareness and engagement, and those are never bad things.

It’s clear that games and gamification are becoming an ever-more important way to engage customers with content and get them to embrace your brand.

So if you’re not yet playing the game, how can you ever expect to win the big one?

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