Extrinsic vs. Intrinsic Motivation in Gamification Marketing

Sunday, April 17, 2022

Gamification marketing is the process of gamifying an experience in order to increase user engagement and conversion rates. For gamification to be successful, it needs to take into account intrinsic and extrinsic motivation.

In this article, we'll focus on how both forms of motivators are used within gamification marketing in order to engage customers more deeply than ever before!

1. What are Extrinsic and Intrinsic Motivation?

The gamification industry is growing at a rapid rate, and it's easy to see why. Gamification design taps into people's natural desires to be rewarded for their efforts.

The difference between intrinsic and extrinsic motivators is that extrinsically motivated users will complete a task due to external rewards helping drive and motivate results, while intrinsic motivation comes from within the users.

In terms of gamification marketing, extrinsic rewards could be things like badges, points, or rewards that are offered to customers for completing certain tasks or reaching a goal.

Intrinsic motivation would come from the feeling of satisfaction and pleasure that people get from playing games and interacting with content in a fun and engaging way.

Intrinsic Motivators

An intrinsic motivator is a personal desire to keep playing, mastering, exploring, and otherwise enjoying the world of a marketing campaign. Intrinsic rewards are rarely explicitly stated, but rather come as a result of the consequences of experimenting with and realising the depth of the campaign.

Human motivation is often made up of quiet delights, secret joys, and urges to simply embrace the campaign world, but they are rarely expressible as a single known quantity. 

Customers following internal motivations are often culturally engaged with a campaign, feeling like they are participating in something worthwhile and uplifting.

Often this is closely twinned with creative urges, and so intrinsically motivated players could be described as enchanted (positive engagement) rather than retained (negative engagement). They are also the most likely kind of customer to evangelise your marketing story.

Extrinsic Motivators

An extrinsic motivator is a possible known outcome that motivates play. Extrinsic motivators might be internal or external to the game (called rewards and prizes respectively) such as a particular power-up or cash. Extrinsic motivators can be strong drivers of play but at the expense of creative problem-solving.

Players in search of extrinsic motivators will often engage in mechanical gameplay such as grinding, and so extrinsic motivators usually lead to retention (negative engagement) rather than enchantment (positive engagement).

2. How do marketers use extrinsic motivation to get people to buy their products or services

Marketers often use extrinsic motivation as a way of getting people to immediately engage with and buy their products or services. This can involve providing rewards, such as coupons or discounts, or punishments, such as fines or penalties.

Think of extrinsic motivation as both the carrot and the stick methodology for getting users to perform an action.

While extrinsic motivation can be successful in getting people to take action, it often fails to produce long-term results and can even lead to negative outcomes, such as cheating or resignation.

This is where striking a balance of including intrinsically motivating factors can help prolong targeted engagement results.

3. How does intrinsic motivation work in the context of marketing

Gamification marketing is the process of gamifying an experience in order to increase user engagement and conversion rates.

For gamified marketing to be successful long-term, typically, marketers want people who are motivated intrinsically to buy their products because they will continue buying them without any external incentives needed.

Some of these intrinsic motivations that can be used in gamification marketing include;

  • Autonomy: The desire to be self-directed and in control of one's own life.

  • Mastery: The urge to get better and better at something that matters.

  • Purpose: The yearning to do something that is significant and has meaning.

  • Competition: The drive to be the best or at least better than others.

While these descriptions may sound rather extreme (especially for a marketing campaign), think of them on a micro-scale being baked into the psyche of all decision-making and actions that individuals take throughout all areas of their life.

It's essential that intrinsic and extrinsic motivations be balanced in order to produce the most successful gamification marketing campaigns possible. When used correctly, intrinsic motivation is more likely to result in long-term positive behavioural change, while extrinsic motivation can provide short-term motivational boosts.

4. What are some examples of companies that use intrinsic motivation in their marketing campaigns

Some examples of companies that use intrinsic motivation in their marketing campaigns include Apple, Nike, and Coca-Cola. All three of these companies have been incredibly successful in their marketing efforts by creating products and experiences that are intrinsically motivating to their consumers.

Apple, for example, is known for its sleek design and user-friendly interface. This makes their products highly autonomous, which appeals to users who want to be in control of their own lives.

Nike's "Just Do It" slogan is a great example of how the company uses mastery to motivate people. The slogan challenges consumers to get better and better at something that matters to them, which in this case is exercise or physical activity.

Coca-Cola's "Open Happiness" campaign speaks to the intrinsic desire that people have for purpose. The company's message is that their product can bring happiness to people's lives, which resonates with many consumers on a deep level.

As you can see, all three of these companies use intrinsic motivation in very different, but effective ways.

5. Is it possible to use a combination of extrinsic and intrinsic motivation in a marketing campaign

The answer is yes. It's important to understand that gamification marketing is based on the principles behind intrinsic motivation, in which individuals are urged and challenged to do something because they want to, not just because it gets them a reward or avoids punishment.

However, extrinsic motivators can be very effective in gamification as well by providing short-term motivational boosts that can lead people towards intrinsic interests such as competition or mastery. The balance of including both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation will create gamified campaigns with long-term success and positive behavioural change for the user.


Extrinsic motivation is externally driven, while intrinsic motivation comes from within. When it comes to gamification marketing, extrinsic reward often refers to tangible rewards that are offered for completing a task or playing the game.

Intrinsic motivation, on the other hand, usually means players feel satisfaction and enjoyment from simply seeing success within the campaign's game mechanics.

In some cases, both intrinsic and extrinsic rewards can be present in a user's experience.

If you want to use gamification in your marketing strategy, it’s important to understand which type of motivation will work best for your target audience.

For more insights into how gaming principles can drive sales and engagement online, check out our blog page for new posts.

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