The Role of Gamification in Market Research and Strategy

Gamification is the process of adding gaming elements to non-game activities – such as marketing and other business initiatives. A core element to the success of games is their addictive nature, and in a marketing context the end goal of Gamification is to give brands addictive characteristics in the same way games do; helping to drive consumer engagement, communication and loyalty.

The Misconception about Gaming
The traditional stereotype often held is that only men, teenagers and kids play games, but with the emergence of the internet, smart phones and tablets we know a wider variety of people are playing games than ever before. If we want to give a demographic definition to the gamer in this modern era – ‘everybody’ seems appropriate. The question of interest isn’t ‘who plays games?’ it’s actually ‘who plays what games?’ and that’s the big challenge for marketers looking to implement Gamification into their strategy – What type of games or gaming characteristics fit with my brand?
Some interesting stats about gaming demographics (Digital Australia 2014):
• The average gamer is 32 years old
• 47% of gamers are female
• 19% of gamers are over 51
• 81% of mums and 83% of dads play video games
• 71% of households have 2 or more gamers – 63% use a console, 47% use a mobile phone and 26% use a tablet

The Science of Fun
People play games because they’re fun – that’s obvious – but this can be delved into deeper as there are different types of fun. The science of fun suggests the following categories:

  • Challenging fun – objective, strategic, reward systems. These games are meant to be difficult and usually require high mental focus to excel in – a good example would be ‘Call of Duty’ and other first person shooter games.
  • Easy fun – rewards for nothing, suprises, cheats, exploration. These are the types of games in which you will achieve success by simply logging in and completing simple tasks. An example of easy fun games would be ‘Farmville’ and ‘The Sims.’
  • People fun – cooperative, competitive, social. These games are created around the basis of playing with others with social elements and competition laced through them. Examples include ‘Words With Friends’ and ‘Draw Something.’
  • Creative fun – avatars, self-expression and creation, personalisation. Games in the creative fun category often involve personal character development and customisation. Good examples include massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPG) such as ‘World of Warcraft.’ Another great MMOG is Destiny 2, if you already play it and your stuck on the nightfall mission then check out destiny 2 nightfall boost. This will help make it a lot easier for you to beat the mission.

A core component to games being fun is the reward systems they offer to the player, with a number of the key ones including:

Point systems, leader boards, in-game currency, levels, missions, badges / trophies, social media integration

The more successful games employ constant near goal completion based on the rewards above – which includes a large number of short and long term goals to keep the gamer constantly interested through positive reinforcement.

When we talk about implementing Gamification in marketing it doesn’t necessarily mean a full blown game app that’s going to blow the budget; marketers can infuse simple reward system measures into their value proposition to help drive engagement and advocacy. A perfect example is LinkedIn with their endorsement structure – allowing people to accrue points in skills they have been endorsed for by others – which has become one of the websites most unique and prominent features.

Implications for Strategists and Researchers

The scope for using Gamification in research can be defined at the micro level to enhance the research process and amount of information gathered, as well as on the macro level to help guide the marketing strategy of a particular brand.

Internally Gamification can help to provide valuable data that can be used to assess behavioural trends in consumers. For example, Nike+ is a product that allows people to track where they run, how long they run for and at what times they run. Whilst this is value provided to the consumer in using the product, it indirectly gives Nike access to a vast amount of demographic and behavioural market research data which they can use to understand their users better.

From an macro perspective we can use research to understand the types of games various segments of consumers enjoy playing, as well as identifying how different styles of games and gaming initiatives fit with a particular brand. Heineken used Gamification to leverage its sponsorship with the Champions Football League, by creating an app that asked viewers to answer real time questions relating to individual games – Will the penalty be saved? Will the goal be made by a header? Will they score in the next 20 seconds? – With points offered to viewers by answering correctly, which could then be translated into prizes. The driving force behind this campaigns success was the inherent understanding Heineken had into its target market which helped it develop a strategy based around their interest of football.

Ultimately Gamification has many uses along the marketing spectrum, whether it is to increase brand awareness, engagement or loyalty; raise awareness of social, political or economic issues; or to employ hard to budge behaviour change in consumers – its principles are becoming much more common in the modern day savvy marketer’s toolkit.