Gamification marketing is described as the usage of game design elements to enhance non-game goods and services by increasing customer value and encouraging value-created behavior. Gamification has its origin in the beginnings of two-way communication, in which the receiver gives feedback to the sender. The forms of this interaction within the marketing field are present since “the art and science of choosing target markets and getting, keeping and growing through creating, delivering and communicating superior customer value” is existing. Through the emergence of digital marketing with the first computers, the customer relationship management (CRM), and content marketing in the late 90’s, interactive marketing has been revolutionized. The launch of social media platforms such as Facebook or Instagram further intensified the online interaction between brands and their communities.
The marketing environment is rapidly evolving, and evidently, the customer’s decision with which brand they will go is influenced by much more than just the product or the service. The clients want to identify themselves with the brand to create a long-term relationship and, therefore, demand more and more unique experiences on the entire customer journey. Supporters of gamification believe that the incorporation of game-design elements such as levels, social competition, or rewards in marketing strategies can have a direct influence on brand awareness, customer engagement, and loyalty. Moreover, an improvement of the customer data quality can be expected.
The application of gamified activities emerges in many industries, including organization management, healthcare, or education. While online gamification marketing is a trend that slowly gains more attention, offline gamification came up a long time ago. A prime example of offline gamification marketing goes back to 1987, when Mc Donald’s started an advertising campaign in the form of the Monopoly game. Alongside their meal, consumers got monopoly “cards”. These cards either came with an instant prize (e.g. a burger) or with the intention of collecting a set of “cards” with the same color to win main prizes such as money, cars, or holidays. In 2005, Mc Donald’s built on this success and expanded this concept to the online world. With the implementation of a virtual Monopoly board, users were able to enter a code and play online games alongside the physical aspect of the game. Consequently, MC Donald’s could measure the increased engagement and published an increase of 5,6% in overall sales in the U.S.
According to Adamou, it is important that games include goals, feedback and rewards, rules, and autonomy opportunities. Goals are the intrinsic triggers why people participate. Feedback and rewards stand for extrinsic motivation. Rules outline the limitations for a player while the autonomy opportunity gives the participant the freedom to do different things by choosing their own way. Obviously, the level of this autonomy varies from game to game. This theory is complemented with progress paths that allow the community to improve and climb the different levels. Social connection makes a game even more interesting when they can compete with friends or other people from the same target audience. Last but not least, the design and simplicity of the game also decide over success or failure. Gaming elements in marketing campaigns do not necessarily have to be fun as long as they initiate intended behavior. More important is that the company keeps creating innovative ideas for the campaign to achieve long-term goals.
The difference between gaming and gamification is that games are self-complained and serve for fun, while gamification encourages somebody or a community with intrinsic motivation and rewards to engage with a certain brand. It is considered as an interactive content marketing tool which is derived from the gaming industry. It can be considered as an entire theory behind gaming.