Whether consumers download a mobile app, respond to an email survey, or engage with a new brand at an event, they have come to crave (and expect) some sort of incentive or reward from nearly every brand interaction. But that's not because consumers are greedy.
The competitive landscape of our digitally driven age has trained consumers to look for value before buying in. Perhaps that's why CoverGirl ditched its classic tagline for a more empowering alternative, and Pedigree partnered with Facebook Masks to promote National Adopt a Shelter Dog Month.
Marketers must integrate tactics that skeptics won't see right through.
Gamification is becoming an immensely valuable experiential marketing tactic because it allows brands to capture important consumer data through rewarding experiences that boost consumer engagement and increase brand loyalty. And when gamification is paired with the ever-expanding reach of mobile technology, brands can deliver messages to more consumers than ever before. It's no wonder the gamification market has become so popular that experts predict it will be an $11.1 billion industry by 2020.
To maximize your experiential campaign's return on investment, apply these five tips for integrating gamification.
1. Determine whether gamification is the proper fit
Gamification can be a gamechanger for reaching and engaging with today's fickle consumers. But it may not always be the right fit—and it could even make your brand seem hokey and disingenuous if executed without a focused strategy. Research has confirmed that although gamification provides positive effects, the strength of its impact greatly depends both on the context in which the methods are implemented and on the participants themselves.
First, nail down your marketing and business objectives, and then consider whether gamification helps or hinders those objectives. For instance, gamification fits more naturally in a high-energy event atmosphere where guests are expecting to interact with brands. Other instances, however, might not be such a straightforward fit. Does the experience have access to reliable Wi-Fi? Will a gamified approach excite or confuse the target consumer? Asking the right questions before investing in a gamified strategy will determine whether it makes sense for your campaign.
2. Select the right technology
If it's "all systems go" with gamifying your experience, start exploring what cutting-edge technology you should integrate—always keeping your target customers, their interests, and the forms of technology they already use top of mind. Consider which data you'll gather through each form of technology, how you'll gather it, and what limitations (if any) that collection might create—both for you and your audience.
Considering that Millennials spend about three hours per day on their mobile devices and a little more than two hours browsing social media, many marketers integrate smartphones, tablets, social media platforms, and software apps into their gamified experiences. But don't overlook other forms of tech that might also serve your cause, including radio frequency identification (RFID) wristbands, near-field communication (NFC) through iOS software, or AI-lite tech such as chatbots.
Facebook Messenger, Kik, and WhatsApp all offer chatbot tools that you can customize to fit your needs. And because they have a combined user base of 1 billion, your target consumers may already be on those platforms, eliminating the uptake barrier of downloading a new app. RFID and NFC wristbands also allow attendees to easily perform tasks and interact with the event in creative and engaging ways—such as earning swag items and giveaways, voting in polls, and sharing content to social—all the while allowing you to track valuable data on consumer behavior.
Whatever technology you use, make sure it actually serves a purpose. Just as 84% of consumers agree that obnoxious advertisements tarnish their opinion of a brand, attendees won't be impressed by your experience if the technology seems out of place or intrusive.
3. Get creative with engagement
Even with a tool kit of the latest technology, you still need to find fun, fresh ways to engage your consumers. After all, as Gabe Zichermann, co-author of Gamification by Design, says, "gamification is 75 percent psychology and 25 percent technology."
A well-designed game can tap into humans' innate desire to compete as well as allow you to capitalize on guests' gaming enjoyment to capture valuable insight into their preferences and behaviors. If your element of gamification requires earning points or badges, consider making leaderboards public so consumers can see how they stack up against their friends.
People also feel the sting of a loss more than the excitement of a potential gain. You can play to that behavioral truth by giving participants points or badges up front that they can potentially lose if they stop interacting with the experience.
Experiential marketing campaigns that work do more than convince consumers to buy a product or adopt a brand: They engage and captivate consumers in a context that those consumers understand.
4. Reward engagement with something people want
Incentives and rewards are an integral part of what makes gamification work. They transform a routine interaction into an enjoyable experience and (hopefully) leave a lasting impression on the participant. So choose your rewards wisely.
There are a host of options for rewarding your participants: Public recognition plays to humans' social rewards center, but promotional swag can also be a powerful option, as more than half of consumers see brands in a more positive light after receiving a branded gift. Other options are access to a VIP room and free food and drinks.
Consider offering different rewards for different actions—such as answering surveys, testing new features, sharing experiences on social media, and providing feedback—to encourage consumers to stay engaged long after the event. Above all, keep the context of the consumer in mind.
5. Capture the data that moves your brand forward
Gamification is a phenomenon because it gives marketers a platform to capture all sorts of timely, valuable, and personalized consumer data—all while enhancing the consumer experience.
Design your gamification strategy around your objectives, not the other way around. For example, use a beacon-enabled app in a scavenger hunt to encourage attendees to explore while also capturing the data that's important for your brand. Through the app, consumers can earn points for each checkpoint they hit and score extra points for completing surveys along the way.
Be careful, though: The questions should feel like a natural extension of the hunt rather than a jarring interruption. Do it right, and you'll be able to not only gain valuable insights surrounding consumers' preferences and motivations but also prove your experience's return on investment.
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As experiential marketing continues its upward trajectory, gamification will be a tool more marketers build into their strategy. But remember, gamification's true power comes when it is mutually beneficial for both consumer and brand.