Gamification vs Game-based Marketing: Understanding the Difference

Sunday, March 6, 2022

The terms gamification and game-based marketing are often used interchangeably by some to make reference to a marketing campaign that is designed for customers to play games with the chance to win themselves a reward of some description, while simultaneously engaging with branded material in an interactive nature.

This is a bit of a broad-stroke description that contains elements of both gamification and game-based marketing when in reality they are not the same thing.

In this blog, I want to cover the differences between Gamification and Game-based Marketing.

Gamification vs Video Game Marketing

When it comes to Gamification, there’s often a divide between what it is and how it can be used effectively. Where things can sometimes get a little confusing is the difference between gamification marketing and Video Game Marketing (or Advergaming).   

But don’t worry, Gamify is here to not only show you the differences between the two but also the best ways to use both Gamification and Video Game Marketing. 

Let’s start with Gamification

We could talk about gamification for hours, but to keep things nice and simple, Gamification looks at how adding game mechanics and ideologies to non-game or real-world frameworks, such as receiving badges or rewards for spending more at an online store, can trigger motivation within customers.

These frameworks can vary from eCommerce to marketing strategies, all the way through to referral programs that reward your ability to connect your network to a brand’s product.

Gamifying your marketing can look like, designing your marketing campaigns to have some of the same features you would find when playing games: points, badges, challenges, leaderboards.

Gamification within marketing is designed around specific goals that marketers want to achieve through their efforts--generally something like raising awareness or increasing engagement with customers or prospects.

Why use Gamification?

Gamification can be compared to marketing techniques such as loyalty programs or viral marketing - adding game elements and game mechanics in the hopes of motivating people into performing tasks on a psychological level. This is referred to as intrinsic motivation.

Where gamification comes into its own is in both customer engagement levels and customer loyalty. The more positively engaged your customer is with your brand or subject matter, the more likely they are to not only purchase more frequently but also refer your product or service to their friends.

When they do refer their friends, either by email or social media, Gamification strikes again with a shiny referral program - rewarding both your existing customer with either credit or discounts while also giving your new customer a warm welcome with a tasty discount for a positive user experience that increases brand awareness.

What's an example of Gamification?

It’s all well and good hearing about gamification, but seeing it in action is a thing of beauty. 

For a good example of gamification elements being used to engage and motivate a user, enter Waze. 

Waze is a great example of a company taking existing technology and incorporating game design elements into it to increase engagement from users and in the process, revolutionise the way it’s used.

The navigation app uses game elements in a way that is seamless, rewarding, and complementary to its core functionality. The more a user attributes to the app in the way or better routes, traffic jams, and accidents, the more experience points they’re rewarded. As users continue to progress in points, their user avatar advances up the Waze Levels, Waze's very own take on progress bars, having users upgrade from Baby Wazer to Waze Royalty. 

So, what is Video Game Marketing?

Video Game Marketing or “Advergaming”, just like Gamification revolves around increased engagement from users, points, and rewarding the customer. The difference is that the application is within the bounds of an actual game, also referred to as a branded game.

Developed with the sole purpose of marketing a brand or product through engagement software. The use of advergames is an effective way to increase user participation with existing content from a marketing campaign, by way of integrating branded material within the game's content.

There’s also a difference in how and when a video game marketing campaign is used within the customer lifecycle. Where gamification often scales with the customer as they grow with your brand, video game marketing is often at the beginning or middle of the customer lifecycle, aiming to temporarily hold their attention in a skills-based branded game campaign filled with rewards.

The desired measurable outcomes of video game marketing are often different as well, with advergames more often focusing on lead generation, positive brand association, and product promotion.

What's an example of Video Game Marketing?

An example, you ask? 

Brands have been using game-based marketing for decades now, while most examples these days come in the form of mobile games, the earliest example dates back to the 1983 arcade release called Tapper. The arcade game targeted bars to promote a new beer by Anheuser-Busch and was so popular that the game got an unbranded public release!

While users are happy to practice skills in playing Tapper and engage in friendly competition, the game-based marketing system is exposing users to material directly related to Anheuser-Busch's new beer promotion.

This level of interactive exposure to the market with no real significant barrier to entry is the kind of marketing that sales teams could only dream of.


In summary, neither gamification nor game-based marketing are new concepts yet their definitions are often blurred.

In Gamification, a game design or game principles, are overlaid in a non-game context. Gamified systems are not games in the sense of providing compelling challenges and rewards that make for an enjoyable experience.

In Game-based Marketing, on the other hand, you're looking at developing a new game from scratch which has marketing material being promoted throughout gameplay.

The goal of game-based marketing is to integrate traditional methods of marketing into game-based thinking.

With the goal of it being marketed and sold to customers similar to how any other type of product or system would be sold.

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