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Chances Are, You Have Already Been Gamed August 10, 2011

Posted by christinapappas in Consumer Marketing, Social Media.

I was starting to wonder why people were connecting gaming with content and engagement. What the heck does giving out Farmville credits have to do with a brand’s content? Then it hit me. We have been getting gamed all along; we just didn’t have a really cool industry buzzword like gamification to call it.

Remember that episode of Seinfeld when Elaine is consuming sandwiches from a certain sub shop just to get another punch in her card that would eventually lead to a free sandwich? In fact she lost the card somewhere during the episode and someone offered to make her a sandwich and she refused saying that she only wanted one from that deli so she could get her free one. That’s a form of gamification.

You know how LinkedIn shows you a status bar for the progress you have made filling in the information on your profile? How about the status bar on the survey you just completed that shows you are on page 1:5? That’s a form of gamification.

The webinar you just registered for because they promised to give out an iPad 2? Demo you signed up for because you get a $50 Amazon gift card? That’s a form of gamification.

So why are we doing it and why are you playing into it?

The definition of gamification according to wiki is ‘the concept that you can apply the basic elements that make games fun and engaging to things that typically aren’t considered a game.’

Essentially it’s a way for brands to educate and engage in an entertaining manner without being looked upon or expected to entertain.

And brands are doing it because it works. Elaine sure did bust her butt to eat all those [crappy] sandwiches just to get a free one. I do frequent the same car wash no matter how out of the way it is so I can get to my free one faster. We have all surrendered to the progress bar and proceeded until we hit that done mark.

There is no incentive to brands to give away stuff but they do benefit from building ‘fun’ programs that generate repeat, loyal customers and active participation with their content.

A few months ago Joey Strawn announced that he would be awarded participants in his blog  for participating and sharing his content. The idea was that you get your name in a hat for every time you do something to support his content then he draws a winner monthly. The more you participate and ‘like’ the content, the more chances you have to win.

Will audiences participate more if there is an award? Will you?

  • Marketers are giving away ‘stuff’ for a Like on their Facebook brand page.
  • The car wash gives a free car wash for every 5 that you buy
  • Marketers are raffling off high-ticket items to the most active tweeter with an event hashtag.
  • LinkedIn showcases the Top Influencers of the Week in the groups
  • On Twitter we can only follow so many people (2000) until the same amount follow us back
  • Foursquare gives out badges and mayorship to people who frequently check-in to locations
  • Our Klout goes up and down depending upon how much we participate in social networks and with whom
  • Empire Avenue rewards us with social currency
  • Checking off things on our to-do lists presents a reward of accomplishment

Are we more inclined to ‘like’ a brand if we get something? Will we participate more in social channels if there is some kind of reward? How do we – the brand, the content producer – decipher who is genuinely interested and who is here to ‘get stuff’?

I see the value in gamification and believe it has a place in an overall marketing strategy but I am skeptical about how it will impact a true return. If we are already still questioning the value of a ‘like’ (anyone figure out the formula for ROI in social?), how much more difficult will it be to extract the one-time ‘likes’ (just there to get stuff) from the true brand fans (got stuff but there to stay awhile)?

Have you been gamed? What do you think about gamification and its role in our marketing strategies?



1. Bob Marsh (@bobmarsh5) - August 10, 2011

Nice summary here. I get a little hesitant to add yet another buzzword to our world, but it is true – game mechanics have been around forever. The best way to use game mechanics (progress bars, leader boards, entry for prizes, etc.) is as a way to “nudge” someone towards something they already want to do.

christinapappas - August 10, 2011

Hi Bob,

Yes, I get it and I fall for it all the time. I remember when I first signed up for LinkedIn, I was at the 90% mark for what seemed like ever and it frustrated me! I spent tons of time trying to figure out how exactly to get to 100%.

Just kind of amusing to me that when I first started hearing about gamification, I was asking ‘what is this thing’? only to discover rather quickly its nothing new. Its just a new buzzword for an old technique.

2. dava - August 10, 2011

Whether it will work or not probably depends on a bunch of different stuff. I mean, if a place I do business all the time runs some kind of game, I’ll play and feel like it’s just a sort of fun “thanks for doing business with us” thing.

If a business is running a contest or some other game and I go there *because* of the game, everything will depend on the service I get. If people are rude I won’t go back no matter how cool the “prize.” That’s probably the case for most people – the game is the hook, but the real test is how happy you are with the product and/or service.

christinapappas - August 10, 2011

But its not always a game. Look at the LinkedIn progress bar for example. Gamification comes in all different types of formats. You may not even know you are playing a game at all whether you know the brand or not. Yes, when they provide giveaways or build ‘games’ like Joey Strawn did, its more obvious, but in most cases its not.

If you do visit a brand because of an offer and have a good/bad experience, how does the brand know? What does the feedback loop look like?

3. Chris Ballentine (@MrBallentine) - August 10, 2011

Thanks for educating me on the term gamification. It’s an odd strategy, and by odd I mean for ‘we the consumer’. It’s like looking into a colorful kaleidoscope. You find yourself oddly allured to it but you don’t know why.

Maybe it’s the thrill of possibly winning a great new gadget, or the sense of accomplishing something, (like beating a game). Maybe it’s a sense of obligation. By that I mean that we’re all taught that we’re supposed to finish our plates. That’s fine if you’re making your own portions, but head to any restaurant chain and you’ve got a family size portion served to one individual. What makes us want to finish our plates even though we know we shouldn’t? I digress.

Point is, you’re right. How can a brand truly distinguish those signing up for the giveaway, vs those who have a genuine interest in learning more about the products and services that a brand/company has to offer. It can be effective, but how can you measure the gains.

Ultimately, gamification is like “The Matrix” and we’re all plugged in, whether we’re totally aware of the “why” or not. You just gave me my “red-pill” Christina. And I appreciate that. Fabulous post.

christinapappas - August 11, 2011

I love the analogy of why we play into gamification and the image that we should ‘finish our plates’. I agree completely! I think the only times I abort a mission to do something or start and dont finish is when I hit a step that requires me to enter my credit card info (when I did not already know this was coming) or my mobile phone #.

We used to giveaway really cool stuff at a previous company I worked for and as marketer, it was next to impossible to track whether or not the person bought from us because they ‘won’ or because of some other factor. Same for people that came to a webinar with a promised giveaway and didnt win – what is their perception?

I get the whole idea, I really do. I am just not sure we need to be giving away so much in order to convince people to spend time with us and our content.

4. Ali Macaluso - August 11, 2011

Here is a great short vid from Seth Priebatsch, creator of SVNGR. You may have seen this already but just in case 🙂 http://www.ted.com/talks/seth_priebatsch_the_game_layer_on_top_of_the_world.html

Great explanation that shows the benefits of incorporating gaming into your business. Great blog post!!

christinapappas - August 11, 2011

That is a great video! Thanks for sharing it here. Interesting how Seth talks about this idea that gamification is really using our behavior in a way that brands can steer us in the direction they want us to go in. So figuring out what people want, and giving it to them on the condition that they do xyz. Or recognizing what part of a process they abandon your site or content to form a ‘game’ to lure them back. Very interesting!

5. Jason Konopinski (@jasonkonopinski) - August 11, 2011

With Correctnicity, the entire user experience is built on game mechanics. Know stuff? Show the world.

6. Gamification Outside of Games | Simply Hobbyist - August 31, 2011

[…] Chances Are, You Have Already Been Gamed (thecontentcocktail.com) […]

7. Gamification « Perspectives - September 27, 2011

[…] Chances Are, You Have Already Been Gamed « The Content Cocktail. […]

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