4 Tips for gamifying your marketing plan

Darren Steele. The hype around gamification is fairly new, but the idea has been around for some time. In fact, badges and leader boards could be considered the new sweepstakes and loyalty rewards. And gamification is not just for major consumer brands and their tech-savvy 18-to-34-year-old demographic. There are examples where gamification in marketing has worked spectacularly for 50-year-old rural ranchers. In other words, any audience is up for grabs.That said, marketers can't just add a Groupon-style approach to something and think it's gamified. If you're thinking about giving gamification a test run, here are four steps to help you get it right with your next marketing campaign.

1. Decide on the Right Opacity

Do you want this to actually feel like a game for your customers or do you want game mechanics buried deep enough that your target may not realize why the experience is so compelling? Many game mechanics are those hidden hooks in video games that tap into psychological triggers that drive behavior. You can apply these same hooks to a marketing campaign for any audience, whether they are into traditional video games or not. If you're still scratching your head, or if you work for an organization that doesn't do change well, consider trying gamification lite.

This might mean starting with an actual branded game on your Facebook page. You'll eventually want to graduate from simple games with badges as prizes to something deeper, but it's a good way to start measuring the effectiveness of gamification on your audience. You can then show proof of concept to anyone at your company who's on the fence. Most web development companies now are able to create simple gaming apps for social media, and this can be a relatively low-cost campaign. Just set your expectations accordingly.

2. Break Up Information Into Smaller Pieces

The way complex games draw you into an experience without a 50-page manual is by giving you the minimal amount of information you need to proceed to the next clear step. Marketers could apply this to their over-done emails or portal-heavy websites by giving consumers only a bite-sized amount of information. This is the gaming mechanic known as cascading information theory.

One place to test this is YouTube. YouTube stats don't lie. Once your video crosses the sixty-second mark, drop off is significant. Try taking the last video you created and editing it into smaller pieces. Then distribute those sections through your normal channels, and measure. Did viewers drop off before it finished? When? Did they move on to the next video? At what rate? You can also apply this to blog posts; break up one long blog into a four-part series with a call to action or reward at the bottom of each one. The beauty of this mechanic is that it's very easy to measure, and because you're dealing with smaller pieces of information, you can tweak often and easily.

3. Do Something With Likes and Followers

Social media hit like a tidal wave a few years back and left virtually every business trying to quickly figure out how to leverage new tools before getting left behind. Now that the hype has subsided, brands are saying, "I accomplished my goal of 100,000 Facebook likes. Now what?"

When applying gamification to social media, marketers shouldn't limit themselves to badges and leader boards (at least not after they've tried it and see minor success). At more sophisticated levels of gamification you can actually use social channels as the starting point to realize certain desired behaviors from consumers. This might include opting into email or making a purchase.

As a starting point, experiment with a creative dashboard that rewards desired social and purchase behaviors. This can be a more transparent way to interact with your target and provide them with recognition, the satisfaction of accomplishment, and a fun form of feedback. Again, this doesn't have to be expensive or take a long time to implement, and it's a great way to start taking social followers and getting them into your funnel.

4. Match Incentives With Engagement

Games and research into human psychology have taught us that people are happier when they earn something, rather than when it is given to them. Instead of giving your customers rewards, make them earn them. The more they engage, the bigger the rewards. For instance, watching a one-minute video earns them a 5% discount you might have given away without requiring any action. Following the call to action at the end of the video earns them a 10% discount. If you combine these rewards with the creative dashboard example above, you have introduced a meta-game. A meta-game is an umbrella that ties mini-games or game mechanics together.

So instead of exchanging a white paper for an email address in isolation, consider asking for three behaviors, having three rewards, and measuring them all in a dashboard featured prominently on the site. This also works beautifully with customer retention and loyalty campaigns. As your gamification gets more sophisticated, you can introduce economies, where your target earns points, coins, or some other currency by performing desired behaviors. Then let them use that currency to unlock a variety of rewards.

A note before you jump into the proverbial gamification waters: Get past the common myths and know what success will look like for your company. Gamification isn't just video games with your logo in the corner, and it isn't just for people who play games. Like any good marketing effort, define behaviors you want to see from customers, and the measurable end result.

Happy playing!

Source: http://mashable.com/2012/05/07/gamify-your-marketing-plan/

Darren Steele is the strategic director of Mindspace, and co-author of the gamification book, "I'll Eat this Cricket for a Cricket Badge." Darren can be reached at darren@mindspace.net.