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Gamification Guide

The Foundations of Gamified Marketing

Chapter 5

Gamification Examples & Case Studies 

As the parent of any small child could tell you, turning an activity into a game is a great way to get them to participate in it. An example of this would be parents pretending that a fork is an aeroplane to get a child to eat, or they might use a song to get them to clean up.

In the case of Gamification marketing, the consumers fill the role of the children and the advertisers stand in as the parents. Gamification campaigns are an effective marketing tactic, and one that’s especially prevalent in the age of smartphones.

According to Forbes, 80% of smartphone users play mobile games on their device, and nearly 50% play games every day. Additionally, mobile game apps are used equally by both men and women. While more teens play mobile games than adults, 62% of adults do use these apps. It’s no surprise, then, that advertisers picked up on the marketing potential of mobile games. Here are a number of good gamification marketing examples, and what made them work.

1. M&M's Eye-Spy Pretzel

M&M’s Eye-Spy Pretzel app is a good example of a simple game with a big impact. Users have to find a pretzel hidden in an image full of M&M’s. This straightforward puzzle brought in 25,000 new likes for the company on Facebook and around 6,000 shares.

Invariably, advertising experts recommend that advertisers keep their games simple. The games should not be too difficult or include too many elements as this can cause the user to feel overwhelmed or frustrated.

As with all advertising, it is important to confirm targets before designing the game. This means deciding who the advertisement is aimed at – in terms of demographics and geographical location – as well as what kind of engagement it aims to elicit. Game Ads can be targeted to increase the number of people who are exposed to your content, the length of time they spend engaging with it, or the frequency of their interactions with your brand. Your advertising will only be effective if the games are designed with specific business needs and priorities in mind. In the case of the M&M game, the activity was specifically targeted to bring in new customers who would likely interact with the brand repeatedly.

2. Wheat Thins 

There are a number of ways to execute Game Ads. Some are primarily advertisements in the traditional sense, placed between levels or actions of a game. Some are primarily games, where advertisements are triggered throughout gameplay. For example, in a Game Ad from Wheat Thins, users have 9 seconds of gameplay, collecting falling chips, before they are shown a page of Wheat Thins products. This happens every time they play the game. Ideally, players will try to best their high score, while Wheat Thins aims to familiarise them with the company’s products.

A straightforward example of gamification in digital marketing.

3. Mazda Lightrider

Advergames are games custom built specifically to showcase a particular product or brand within an interactive game environment. Mazda used their Lightrider Game to advertise their 2015 Mazda2 models. The game took the form of a banner ad which allowed users to drive the cars and explore their features. This approach showed an interaction rate far higher than normal for the automotive industry – 3%, up from 0.5%.

4. Under Armour Trivia App

Under Armour organised in partnership with the Golden State Warriors and in particular Steph Curry for a surprise Trivia game to launch during the NBA playoffs. When Curry hit his first three-pointer of any game during the season, Under Armour would launch a rousing game of Steph IQUnder Armour developed the elimination style trivia app. Think HQ Trivia, but with more questions focused around “the Bay Area, Stephen’s rookie season, epic playoff performances, sneakers”.

Under Armour’s trivia game offered prizes to those who could answer all eight multiple choice questions correctly in the allotted ten seconds per question. Winners had the chance to split the prize pool, and a few lucky winners entered into a special raffle. Prizes in the raffle included the Curry 5 signature shoe, playoff tickets, Under Armour gear and more.

This campaign was a perfect example of a win-win for all parties involved, the viewership of NBA games increased, Under Armour’s sales increased and die hard fans had a chance to be rewarded for their knowledge.

5. NikeFuel

Using a game format for marketing increases the likelihood of users interacting with the product, along with repeat interactions in the future. One big reason for this is that games allow for advertisers to incentivise their audience to take note and engage. Tadhg Kelly, a game developer with 20 years of experience, says that good gamified marketing creates interest for users in three main ways: validation, completion, and rewards

Nike’s fitness app, NikeFuel, is driven by its users’ tendencies to share their fitness achievements for validation on social media. Users compete with each other and share their results on a daily basis. This creates a community around the brand, with users integrating the app in to their everyday lives, solidifying ongoing brand loyalty.

The validation technique is often used by social media sites in the form of likes, retweets, gaining followers and so on. These are all means of allowing users to respond positively to one another’s content. “Validation is one of the strongest drivers of long-term quality engagement because it helps communities form,” says Kelly.

6. My Starbucks Rewards

Another way of keeping users interested is in showing users their progress towards completion. As they interact with the app they are told that they are, for example, 70% of the way to a goal.

The idea of loyalty cards for establishments like coffee shops is not new. Starbucks took the concept a step further with their My Starbucks Reward app. The program works on a completion system, where customers rack up points towards bigger and bigger prizes whenever they make purchases. Where traditional ink-on-paper loyalty cards end up getting bent and forgotten in customer’s wallets, a neat and easy app version is more likely to encourage loyalty to the company. In late 2016, a report came out showing that up to 25% of all Starbucks purchases in the US were made through their mobile app.

Importantly, however, Kelly advises advertisers to keep in mind the limits of what their users will be willing to do to reach completion milestones. Being asked to share branded posts to their Facebook or Twitter accounts in order to reach the next level of completion tends to irk the average user.

7. Chipotle Love Story Game

Chipotle launched a memory game based on their short film “A Love Story,” in which customers are supposed to match real ingredients together while avoiding the use of added colours and flavours. Players are rewarded with a buy-one-get-one-free coupon for any food item. Conveniently, customers can play the game and receive rewards all on their mobile devices.

The reward encourages consumers to play the game, stay engaged with the company, and purchase more, while the game itself reinforces the brand message of using healthy, real ingredients as opposed to artificial colours and flavours. This is another gaming example that provides an opportunity for customers to interact with the brand while bringing attention and buzz to the company.

Playable advertisements hold great potential as a new tool for marketing. Well made Ads with Gamification elements can encourage greater interaction between users, who are more likely to become loyal customers. Where previously video advertising wore the crown, it seems like playable ads are coming for the throne.

“From my perspective, integrations in mobile games are an important way to leverage not only the 2-way engagement games offer, but the huge reach of the audience. According to Mary Meeker’s 2017 Internet Trends Report, three-quarters of mobile users are mobile gamers. In-game integrations offer unparalleled time spent and interaction with a brand. We’ve seen several advertiser integrations in games drive upwards of 15 minutes user/brand engagement.  

From rewarded video to esports, playables and video interstitials, game advertising is uniquely suited for consumer engagement and, as we all know, engagement is the new gold standard for marketers.” Gabrielle Heyman, Zynga, IAB Game Committee Co-chair

Although advergaming isn’t actually a new marketing method, for one reason or the other, many companies miss this opportunity to make potential customers interested in their products. As we presented above there are many advantages provided by this technique and if you invest in advergaming, you can rest assure that your campaign will give you long-term results!


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"Amazing. I would recommend Gamify tools to any marketing agency or any company looking for Branded Games."
Scott Bell
Brown Paper Bag Executive, Marketing Coordinator | Auckland, New Zealand

Interested in trying gamification for your business?