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Gamification Guide

The Foundations of Gamified Marketing

Chapter 1

Introduction to Gamification

Gamification is the process of integrating game mechanics into a pre-existing system, product or service in order to motivate users to achieve a task.

Gamification is performing at its peak when it taps into principles of motivational science in order to transform menial tasks into an engaging experience. When you gamify high-value interactions with customers, employees, and partners, you drive more sales, stronger collaboration, better ROI, deeper loyalty, higher customer satisfaction and more.

Gamification commonly employs game design elements to improve user engagement. Within the context of Marketing, it is when a brand uses a popular game template to promote a new product or service while offering attainable rewards that have proven to be used, valued and shared more so in comparison to generic handouts other traditional means of advertising often tag onto the end of their campaigns.

3 Reasons Why Gamification Marketing Has Become So Important

There are 3 pillars in the reasoning behind why Gamification Marketing is currently seeing such exponential growth in it's usage:

1) Accessibility

The ever-growing use of mobile devices is playing a pivotal role in making gaming ubiquitous. We’ve never had more accessibility to devices which provide gaming streams than we do right now. The abundant use of mobile devices across all ages and demographics only increases the importance of Gamification Marketing implementation. 

2) Excitement

Games are known to build excitement around a product. Through Gamification Marketing, consumers associate entertainment, victory and rewards with a brand which often results in a strong product awareness. With excitement built around an earned reward, users are 7 times more likely to value and use said reward over a generic handout.

3) Strong Ratings

Compared to video advertisements, games have been recorded to have a 181% higher click-through rate to proceeding webpages along with customers being 2.2 times more likely to enter their details at the end of a game. This means that brands can promote themselves through Gamification Marketing and achieve set objectives, knowing full well that they’ll have trackable analytics.

Gamification is a process, not a project. The project form of a Gamified Marketing campaign usually comes in the form of an Advergame.


An Advergame is an online video game that promotes a particular brand, product, or marketing message by integrating it into the game template, created expressly for promotional purposes. Advergames are usually interactive Flash, HTML5 or mobile app games designed purely for short-term interaction. Often a brand will pay a developer to make a game that aligns with an upcoming campaign. As such, they are often simplistic game templates, designed to hold a user's attention momentarily.

Advergames are often commissioned to support other media, not replace them. The idea is the more interaction with the property through  the game the stronger the associations. Yet, for users to interact with an Advergame, there needs to be a driving force, motivation for a user to make the switch from passive viewing to proactive engagement. User motivators can be broken down into the following two categories; Extrinsic and Intrinsic Motivators.

Intrinsic Motivators

An Intrinsic Motivator is a personal desire to keep playing, mastering, exploring, or otherwise, enjoying the world of a game. Intrinsic Motivators are rarely explicitly stated, but rather come as a result of the consequences of experimenting with and realising the depth of the game. Intrinsic Motivators are thus often quiet delights, secret joys and urges to simply embrace the trauma of a game world, but they are rarely expressible as a single known quantity. 

Players following Intrinsic Motivators are often culturally engaged with a game, 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 player to evangelise a marketing story.

Extrinsic Motivators

An Extrinsic Motivator is any possible known outcome which motivates gameplay. 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 rote gameplay such as grinding, and so Extrinsic Motivators usually lead to retention (negative engagement) rather than enchantment (positive engagement).

The key is to create an Advergame that strikes a balance of the two forms of motivators, building a campaign on both Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivational elements. What ingrains both forms of motivators into a Gamified campaign is the use of game mechanics.

Game Mechanics

Gamification is built upon Game Mechanics, which is proven to motivate and engage users. Whilst a sole reliance upon Game Mechanics is not enough to ensure a fully engaging experience, they are paramount within an initiative, if it’s to be seen as Gamification at all.

Using any combination of the following game mechanics, sets a precedent for a successful gamification initiative, 10 prime examples of Game Mechanics are as follows;

1. Meaning & Purpose

The simple use of narrative in the lead up to a task, helps draw in the participants and creates a sense of direction and purpose moving forward with whatever task has been Gamified. An example of this can be found within the area of Gamified health. The fitness app Zombie Run, uses story to motivate the participants to run faster and longer, creating a world in which zombies are pursuing them. The activity helps distract participants from the otherwise monotonous task of jogging (sometimes you just need to “run for your life” in order to run).

Some people just need to understand the meaning or the purpose of what they are doing. For others they need to feel they are part of something greater than themselves. Whether you have a full-scale story or just a simple notification before beginning a Gamified initiative, that can be the difference between a task being a chore or an experience.

2. Leaderboards

One of the best ways to motivate a user into giving the task at hand all that they’ve got, is to show them how they compare to others, as an individual or in a team. The use of time-based, team and individualised leaderboards helps users see where they rank amongst others.

Leaderboards cultivate the social aspect of points and badges. The sense of competition that is built around a leaderboard, gives people a chance to prove themselves against others. It can be a way to win rewards, but can also be a place where new relationships are formed.

3. Loss Aversion

No one likes to lose things. Fear of losing status, friends, points, achievements, possessions, progress, and so on, can be a powerful reason for people to maintain and move ahead with a task.

Think of it this way. What motivates you more, earning $5 or not losing $5? Did you feel that instinctual need to check your pockets? It’s funny how having something within your possession, gives you an unspoken responsibility to care for it.

When you start a game of FarmVille, you’re gifted with a piece of digital farmland, filled with crops and livestock. The sense that you must care for your land and all that is within it has managed to keep some players still to this day logging on to Facebook, to see how they’re progressing.

4. Feedback

When participants in a Gamified initiative are regularly notified of goals and achievements, this feedback allows for them to feel a sense of progression, which then encourages participants to lean in to the progressive momentum and achieve further results.

Progress and feedback come in many different forms for many different user types, particularly as they all need some sort of measure of progress or feedback, however, some types work better than others. A few examples include, onscreen notifications, text messages, word of mouth or emails. Feedback can be used to congratulate a user for reaching a goal, encourage the next step to a milestone or promote a new reward.

5. Badges

An indicator of accomplishment or mastery of a skill is especially meaningful within a community that understands its value. Badges are often used to identify skills and expertise within a group.

Once the participants have accumulated a certain number of points, they may be awarded badges. Badges are a form of virtual achievement for the participants. They provide positive reinforcement for the targeted behaviour. Unlike Leaderboards, that are consistently updated, badges are awarded to individuals as a landmark of their own personal achievements. A physical reminder of what one has accomplished, badges address the motivational driver of collection and achievement.

Badges have a social aspect to them, as we humans often crave outward recognition for our accomplishments. Gamification understands this and utilises this driver within initiatives to get the most out of participants.

6. Points

If Badges are landmarks in accomplishment, then Points are the pathway unto those landmarks. Points are tangible, measurable evidence of accomplishment.

Points help participants monitor their progress, both by keeping score and establishing status. Points are awarded for completing activities, sharing, or contributing.

Points are the granular units of measurement in Gamification. They are single count metrics. This is the way the system keeps count of the player's actions pertaining to the targeted behaviours in the overall Gamification strategy.

7. Levelling Up

Creating tiers of achievement, helps build an overall sense of where a participant sits within a line of progression. By having levels in place, you’ve created an indicator of long-term or sustained achievement for participants in an initiative. Levels indicate that an individual has reached a point of achievement and progression that has elevated them into a more advanced ring of goals and objectives they are now deemed capable of achieving.

Levelling up is used to identify status within a community and to unlock new objectives, badges, activities, and rewards.

Levels and goals help to map a users progression through a system. It can be as important to see where you can go next as it is to see where you have been.

8. Goals

Goals are the objectives that points, badges and challenges all stem from. The direction of the narrative will lead participants to pursue these goals and, as a result, unlock rewards and recognition.

Missions or challenges give users a purpose for interaction, and educate users about what is valued and possible within the experience.

Goals are a powerful Game Mechanic to motivate people to action. If the narrative gives a sense of purpose, then goals give a sense of direction. Goals are most effective when they lead individuals to believe they are working to achieve something great, something awe-inspiring, and something bigger than themselves.

Challenges help keep people interested, testing their knowledge and allowing them to apply it. Overcoming challenges will make people feel they have earned their achievement.

9. Social Network

When you think of Game Mechanics, and just games in general, you think of the social aspect that comes with engaging in an activity. Having a community within a Gamified initiative is where it will derive its meaning for goals, badges, competitions, and other mechanics. We are social beings and relationships have a powerful effect on how we feel and what we do.

Having an opportunity to share participant achievements creates energy. Others learn about goals, badges, and rewards that they may want to pursue. Status can lead to greater visibility for people, creating opportunities to form new relationships. You can also make use of feedback mechanics such as leaderboards and certificates.

10. Challenges

Challenges help keep people interested - just when participants may feel like they have mastered all that there is to master, and interest begins to drop off, that is when you test their knowledge and provoke them into applying it. Overcoming challenges will make people feel they have earned their achievement.

Keeping individuals on their toes with strategically placed challenges means the longevity of participant attention goes further than if it were simply left in the hands of the originally outlined goals. Gamification is all about user engagement and challenges are a way of making the process less robotic, forcing individuals to get off autopilot and actually get involved in what they’re doing.

“Working with Gamify meant that we did not have to reinvent the wheel when creating a game for our client. The game that we created exceeded all expectations and the support from Gamify was second to none."
Matt Ellwood
Creative Technologist, True Marketing | Auckland, New Zealand

Next chapter:

Chapter 2
The History of Gamification

A quick overview of the history of gamification, combined with an abridged timeline of milestone cases and developments in the world of gamification.

Interested in trying gamification for your business?