By Nick Rojas
The fact that, according to accounting firm PwC, the U.S. video game industry will grow 30 percent from $15 billion in 2014 to $19.6 billion in 2019 has not gone unnoticed by advertisers here and around the world.
In the increasingly digital environment of the 21st century, a new generation is growing up surrounded by gadgets like smartphones, video game consoles, tablets, and other types of computers. Unsurprisingly, this is having an impact on how they behave as consumers.
The old, boring, direct sales techniques our parents have gotten all too familiar with are no longer effective. Instead, many marketers have turned to a whole new concept that taps into the digital trends of the last two decades – gamification.
Gamification takes elements that so far have only been known to people within the world of video games – such as “point scoring,” “competitive players,” and “game rules” – and integrates them in many modern sales and marketing campaigns to engage potential buyers on a more emotional level.
What’s So Appealing About Games?
Video game worlds are immersive. They take you out of the ordinary and provide instant gratification by letting you escape into an entirely new world that can be controlled by you.
The ability to manipulate this fun environment mixed with the constant adrenaline rush one feels when competing against someone else is what makes video games so compelling and often times addicting.
In fact, it makes you, the player, feel important by providing extra validation, especially when you are winning.
How Do Marketers Fit Into All This?
If you take all of the elements above – fun, immersive environments, instant gratification, feeling of importance, and frequent adrenaline rushes – you might begin to understand how advertisers are compelled to apply those techniques to their own marketing strategies, and consequently entertain instead of bore their customers.
Different Types of Gamification in Marketing and Sales
Points, Points, Points
Points Reward Programs are, by now, probably one of the most well-known gamification techniques among customers and marketers. This includes the likes of airline miles, gas station rewards, cash back on credit card purchases, and coupon programs in grocery stores.
It all comes down to the same principle: the more money you spend, the more points you get, which you can turn either into more of the same product or other rewards like cash. This resembles the idea of “levels” in video games – it feels great to move up as you gather more and more points.
With smartphones on the rise, there now are gamified coupon apps that let you personalize (=manipulate) your shopping cart by collecting different offers from different categories and applying them to your purchases. Providing coupons in an interactive app environment is much more fun and immersive for consumers than having to cut them out of print advertisements. In many cases, the more you interact with the app, the more rewards will come your way – you are yet again one level up!
Also, there is nothing more instantly gratifying (and slightly addicting) than standing at the checkout and seeing your prices drop, while customers behind you (think: competitive players) have to admit that you really “won” this time.
Some brands have taken gamification to a whole new level by using QR codes (a new type of barcode), which consumers can scan with their smartphones on surfaces like billboards, posters, and product packaging to unlock special prices or other rewards like exclusive videos and images related to the product. This creates a second, virtual layer around the actual product and lets the user escape reality for a brief moment. In other words, QR codes help embed game elements into real life.
Speaking of embedding game elements into real life… movie studios and video game manufacturers now go as far as creating entire augmented reality experiences to promote upcoming blockbusters. Augmented reality, with the help of mobile screens, lets users see virtual objects like spaceships or zombies in their immediate environment. It can also take participants on adventures like scavenger hunts to discover “easter eggs” that will tie directly into the movie or video game plot that is being promoted.
You probably know of – or have already participated in – fun little social media games like “Which Harry Potter Character Are You?” The goal here is to give users a personalized experience while reminding them of products they can buy.
As you can see, gamification is an extremely powerful tool and one that’s here to stay – especially in this new digital world we live in.