What’s the Score on Gamification?

By Ricky Haynes

Have you ever played Candy Crush, Angry Birds, or Words with Friends? Then you know how addictive it is to play social games with friends! We’re hard-wired to enjoy the competition and connection that games can provide. Taking inspiration from social games, many marketers have been exploring gamification – which applies game design principles in non-game settings – as a way to engage customers or employees. Read on for our overview of this popular trend.

A technique with broad appeal

Using marketing games to engage people can increase brand loyalty and profits – and can help messages stand out from the crowd. Internally, it can increase participation in employee programs. Games are incredibly appealing to Generation Y, or those born between 1980 and 2000. This demographic grew up online, is used to being hyper-connected, and happens to love both online games and social media. However, games also resonate with humans of all ages – because who doesn’t like a little fun with their communication?

A closer look at game mechanics

  • Points – A time-tested method for tracking and motivation, exemplified by the familiar hotel and airline loyalty programs using points (or miles) as virtual currency to reward customers for business volume. Recyclebank offers points to users for completing interactive lessons about the importance of recycling.
  • Badges – Merit badges denote a certain level of accomplishment. Many websites, for example, rate users’ activity with badges such as “Rookie,” “Super User,” or “Top Reviewer.”
  • Milestones – Using the power of incremental progress towards a larger goal. Coffee rewards cards that offer a free cup after 10 cups purchased are a perfect everyday example of this technique.
  • Rankings – Some companies use leaderboards or other rankings to add competition to the mix. LinkedIn, for example, recently began ranking its users’ profiles by popularity – pushing people to engage with the site more to increase their standing in the eyes of valued business contacts.
  • Virtual realityNike+ is an app so popular, it inspired an entire product line of accessories. This app lets users record pace, distance, and run routes to train and challenge themselves. Nike+ also offers social features, such as allowing users to instantly share their run stats with Facebook and Twitter networks.
  • Competitions – To gather ideas for its new product line in China, Volkswagen used a crowdsourcing competition. Users submitted ideas into a virtual suggestion box and the top three concepts were presented at leading Chinese auto shows. Payoff? 33 million website hits and countless insights into the preferences of customers.

The secret of success is that these techniques compel people to take action – the goal of any good marketing program. Another killer benefit: games help identify active customers or prospects because you can track sign-ups.

It’s not just for B2C

Gamification isn’t just for consumers. Consider B2B applications such as a competition designed to shorten the sales cycle to kick things up a notch. You can also increase online community engagement by giving rankings to those who share or help others more. Game techniques can also move employees to engage more and share the buzz with coworkers. Imagine giving points to employees who use the company fitness center – or using a prize drawing to spur managers to use a new HRIS system. Any of the mechanics listed above can be used for B2B or employees.

A solid gamification strategy

Unlock the potential of gamification by covering these three bases:

  1. Adhere to this best practice: know your goals and how you’ll measure them before you begin.
  2. Keep the design simple. Users will jump in and be more receptive to games they can catch on to quickly.
  3. Market your game! Don’t launch in a vacuum and hope it becomes a YouTube sensation. Support it with cross-promotion, social media, ads, and posts.

Thank you for reading – you’ve now got a “Signal Superstar” badge! Download our Game of Gamification white paper for more information on adding zing to your marketing and communication strategies.

Ricky Haynes


Ricky originally joined Signal as a designer, later becoming web director and a partner in 2001. In the early years of our company, Ricky began developing cutting-edge expertise in the areas of UX/UI design, web development, digital strategy, content management systems and information architecture, becoming a go-to technology resource for our clients. He was named Signal’s President in 2014. A North Carolina native raised in Durham, Ricky earned his B.F.A. in Communication Arts from East Carolina University.

Scroll to Top