Gamification, when approached without any prior knowledge or research can lead to flawed decision-making and disastrous outcomes. Underestimating the value of all the elements that make up an effective gamification initiative is what produces errors and poor results.
That’s right folks, we have so many recorded errors from both business and branded gamification initiatives that we had to compile a fresh list of common mistakes to avoid. If you haven’t already read our first entry of common gamification mistakes, then we advise that you do so here.
In this post, we are going to show you 7 more of the most common mistakes made during the process of creating a gamified experience, so you can be aware and avoid them at all costs.
1. Too many rewards
Rewards are viewed as a positive motivator that help identify accomplishment, this is a good thing. Yet, too much of a good thing can become bad. If users are being rewarded for every little action the clarity and weight of rewards is lost on them, making the reward system null and void.
The reward structure of any game plays a significant role in its success. If you constantly throw points, badges, and rewards at your users then they won’t take them seriously. It will suddenly become easy, the rewards won’t feel special.
Gamification is geared towards encouraging users to carry out specific actions, rewards are an indicator of growth and progression – if users are being rewarded for everything, the gamification pathways and direction becomes muddied, the objectives and intention for the user is unclear.
The best way to avoid this issue is by keeping both the objectives and rewards simple. Choose two or three actions that you want your users to carry out. By rewarding users for carrying out these specific behaviours you can motivate them to do exactly what you want.
2. Overlooking social integration
All of Gamify’s clients are both offered and recommended that they add social sharing options at the end of a marketing campaign, most of them are more than happy to, but for a select few that have paper-thin reasoning as to why they do not want a social media presence. We will show them comparative case studies that display the divide between social and non-social campaigns. Once we’ve gone over the analytics, we manage to get most of the clients back onboard.
Whether you’re conducting an engaging initiative for e-learning, stirring up some friendly competition in the office or marketing a product to consumers, if you’re not offering a social component to your initiative then you are greatly reducing potential numbers of both participation and engagement.
Effective gamification doesn’t confine itself to solo ventures. In fact, it flourishes under the possibilities of social sharing, chatrooms, social media groups and so on. As social creatures, if we do not have the ability to display our achievements, communicate or be a part of a community, the motivation may be lacking in our actions.
It’s for this reason that social components being integrated into an initiative are an important enhancer to the overall results of the initiative.
3. Unclear user objectives
If you host a game night at your house and you bring out a game that none of your friends are familiar with. Naturally, the next step is for you to give a clear rundown of the games rules and objectives, so why would you not do the same for users within a gamified initiative?
Unfortunately, far too many companies rush into the creation of a gamified initiative, only to completely bypass the planning and goals stage. Most former clients, manage to define what it is they hope to get out of a campaign and even how they intend to get there, but a large number of those clients need to be walked through what the users objectives are and how to clearly communicate them.
Defining both the criteria and the expectations is a must, in order to give users a seamless experience. A lot of people that have never tried gamification before, try to jump into it using complex techniques and features. This can easily confuse, and overwhelm users, which results in poor final numbers and clients feeling that gamification is ineffective. Do not fall into this trap, this may seem like a small detail but it carries a great weight with it.
4. Hoping Gamification will solve a brand’s problems
Gamification is often viewed by companies as a fringe tool for marketing, internal operations and e-learning. When companies find that their standard practices are not delivering the results that they hoped for, they often decide to shake things up and try something “new” to see if results change.
This great expectation for gamification to eradicate a company of its preexisting problems, combined with a lack of knowledge as to how to best utilise gamification, almost always leads to disappointment. When we acquire a new tool we expect to see the results happen instantly, and forget that it starts off as just that, a tool. Like any tool, it needs a context to function. It also needs someone to handle it. It can’t do the whole job by itself.
Andrzej Marczewski, currently the #1 authority in Gamification (January, 2019), has some thoughts on the matter, “The biggest mistake is thinking that gamification alone will solve long-term issues within a service. If the root issue is not understood then gamification will often only add a novelty boost in activity.”
Andrzej then follows up with a solution, “you need to educate people about why they need to use a specific service first, then start to apply things that make that use feel rewarding and if possible, fun. But they have to understand the real value to them and the company first!”
5. Misuse of game mechanics
Points and Badges need to be informational to the user, full stop. There are motivational undertones present when users are able to visually track their progress, but don’t fall into the trap of trying to stretch game mechanics beyond their sole purpose.
A common Gamification mistake is over-simplifying the strategy to focus simply on badges, points and leaderboards. There is a lot more to Gamification than this.
Points and badges are definitely important, points denote achievement and measure a user’s achievements in relation to others. It also keeps them motivated to reach the next level or earn a badge. Badges, which mark special achievements and give users something to remember, feel connected, and show off with, are also an incredibly powerful tool. What we need to remember is that it is not all about points and badges.
Game mechanics are the tentpoles of an initiative, the tent cover is comprised of the content and objectives. Too many “tentpoles” and it becomes overkill, too few “tentpoles” and the integrity of the initiative is compromised.
For a gamification effort to be effective from a learning and motivational perspective, achievements must be earned and not given. Use achievements that reward the learner for a certain level of performance, not just for participation.
You’re not going to get people to do something they don’t want to do by giving them points and badges. You have to think of Gamification as a way of amplifying an existing signal. When you are creating your Gamification strategy, think about the challenge you are trying to overcome. Points and badges should be looked at as a way to recognise an achievement, not the reason for your users to do something.
6. No clear campaign goals
Gamify has had no shortage of clients that have excitedly contacted us shortly after deciding they want to have a gamified experience for their next marketing push, followed by a stunned silence when we ask them what their campaign goals are.
Without a clear plan in place, you will not be able to manage the game mechanics, keep the game alive, or make improvements to continuously update it. Gamification has had a long road to recovery, from the initial days of hype wherein over 80% of gamified initiatives fell flat. The reason for such high failure rates were and still are due to poor design, which is an outcome of having no clear campaign goals.
Clients often approach gamification with a broad stroke overview of how a campaign will work, assuming that putting your branding on a game and hoping that people will play said game, yielding… positive results?
While that approach is naive it’s at the very least heading in the right direction, but how do you measure the success of a campaign with this train of thought? How do you even define whether or not a campaign was a success? Campaign goals are the cornerstone on which the rest of the campaign is built upon. If you do not have defined goals in place, all other campaign efforts are in vain.
To avoid this common mistake, set aside some planning time. In order to have an effective gamification design you must start with defining and having a clear understanding of what motivates your users and what your main goal is. Some examples could be to achieve higher engagement levels, change user behaviour, stimulate creativity or increase user loyalty just to name a few.
7. No user motivators
Gamification is not a passive form of marketing, it requires users to be enticed and motivated in order to participate and carry out a desired action. This is a higher risk form of marketing compared to most traditional means, yet it reaps a higher reward in both the immediate and long-term.
The hurdle of taking users from passive viewing to an interactive state is the first challenge your campaign needs to overcome, simply to initiate customer engagement. From there you need to be able to sustain user motivation.
Motivation is the why, it is what will make someone care, and what will encourage a user to continue. Simply put, if people are not engaging with your campaign then they are not motivated.
A simple way to approach this challenge is by looking at the campaign from a users perspective and ask yourself, “What do I get out of this?”
The strength of your answer usually lies in there being multiple answers to the question, rather than just one.
If you can hit multiple pillars of Psychologist Martin Seligman’s PERMA model (Positive Emotion, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning, Accomplishments), chances are you will hook your users.
These gamification mistakes can really hurt a campaign’s numbers. More importantly, they have the power to diminish the value of your brand. Avoid these pitfalls and create a winning gamification strategy that suits both your brand and the user.
For further reading to help you understand and plan out a gamification campaign, check out What are Game Mechanics?, 10 things to consider before you commission a game & 8 Pillars Of Successful Marketing Campaigns.