Heard of gamification before? Even if you haven't, you've almost definitely seen it. Hashtag battles? Gamification. Loyalty cards? Gamification. Referral rewards? Gamification.
Using game mechanics such as competitions, point-scoring and completionism, gamification is a technique (not just limited to marketing) designed to motivate participation and engagement from consumers.
Most games rely on reward systems to hook and retain players, and gamification is no different. It works by incentivising a player to undertake a task and granting rewards once the challenge is complete. Of course, playing the same game over and over to receive the same reward quickly becomes boring, so the best methods of 'gamification' promise better rewards as the challenges become more difficult, increasing satisfaction and incentivising players to continue playing in order to receive better rewards.
Successful 'gamified' marketing campaigns will use the same structure, a great example of this being McDonald's Monopoly competition. The main goal of the game is to get your hands on a complete colour set of properties in order to be eligible for a big prize such as a cash jackpot or a car. McDonald's serves its food in Monopoly branded packages, offering a variable number of game pieces depending on the size of the item ordered. While there is a low chance of receiving the property game pieces that reward the bigger prizes, the more common game pieces offer free items from McDonalds' menu.
This incentivises customers to opt for a larger item in order to receive more game pieces, boosts brand engagement by commonly rewarding players with free food for participation, and once a customer has received a 'rare' property game piece, they are 'challenged' to complete the set by buying more products to be in for a greater chance of winning a high-value prize.
While McDonald's Monopoly is one very literal example of gamification, it isn't always about offering customers such an obvious game. Some forms of gamification focus on competition (FitBit keeps users engaged by pitting them against friends on a leader board), and others rely on a different presentation of the incentive/task/reward cycle.
This can be achieved through something as simple as a loyalty card. Coffee shops do this particularly well; if you are a loyal customer and continue to buy coffees from the same store, you will eventually receive a free one. Incentive/task/reward. Gamification. Starbucks have taken loyalty card gamification one step further with their 'My Starbucks Awards' scheme, 'levelling up' players as they buy more coffees, with the highest level (and most loyal) customers receiving the best rewards.
Gamification works so well because it adds another level of engagement to a marketing campaign. The creativity of the games involved pique the curiosity of the user, and the challenge associated with the campaign keeps users hooked and engaged, and the reward motivates the consumer to keep coming back for more.