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We Don’t Need No Stinking Badges

Or maybe we do … As consumers of all sizes look for ways to increase profits and loyal customers (aka repeat business), they look for ways to reward these customers in a fun and interactive way.

So what is Gamification?  While the word still hasn’t made it to Webster’s dictionary, it has made it to the marketing strategy of companies large and small.  Gamification marketing is the strategy of using game dynamics to engage consumers and accomplish goals.   Gamification; badges, levels of achievements, virtual currency, rewards and leader boards have made it in to the mainstream of a business’ marketing strategy and is here to stay.

M2 Researh, an Encinitas, CA based technology research firm predicts that “gamification” will increase from an estimated $242 million in 2012 to $2.8 billion in 2016 and that many businesses (small and large) will use some for of gamified applications as part of their marketing strategy.

Everything Old is New Again

But isn’t this just a new approach to an old technique?  Yes and No.

The military provides one of the oldest examples of now gamification using elements of badges, rank and rewards.  Soldiers start at the bottom, going through basic training, learning skills and then accomplishing various missions.  As they complete a new level, they rise in the ranks.  Their ranking distinction, uniform, badges and stripes indicate their level and it is considered an honor to reach a higher status.

Airlines have been offering points for decades and businesses have rewarded loyal customers in a variety of ways, whether it was a punch card, an extra donut or remembering loyal customer’s names and orders, but now the game has changed (no pun intended).

Consumers are looking for fun ways to connect to businesses and a reason to “belong” or behave in a certain manner and businesses are looking for ways to encourage repeat visits to their websites, facebook pages or brick and mortar stores.  Rewarding a customer with a freebie or high score can cement customer loyalty and provides a powerful arsenal in a business’  marketing weaponry.  Technology, social media and mobile apps make it easier to attract, track and reward customers and the gamification trend makes it fun.

How Gamification Works

It is simple – gamification works by encouraging users to engage in certain behaviors, by showing a path to mastery, and by taking advantage of human’s psychological predisposition to participate in games and competitions.

Smart businesses use gamification to increase consumer engagement and influence consumer behavior by rewarding their customers with both tangible and virtual items (like points, titles, leader boards, exclusive privileges, etc).

Gamification makes it fun for consumers and profitable for businesses, if it is done right … and consistently.


Before You Start Playing the Game …

As in any other marketing efforts, you should:

  1. Think about your target customers …
  2. Decide what services/products do you offer them …
  3. Determine what you want them to do or the goals of the campaign …
  4. Figure out what type of gamification marketing campaign you will create (you can do more than one …

Types of Loyalty Programs

There are a number of types of loyalty programs and for businesses it is NOT a one size fits ALL.  Some customers may respond better to one program, while others to another?  Or one program may reward your already loyal customers, while another encourages new customers.

When deciding on a loyalty program, you need to decide the following:

  1. Which types of programs will motivate your customers?
  2. What types of programs can be easily implemented and tracked by both your staff and your current technology?
  3. What type of points, discounts or offers do you want to offer?

Once you have thought of that you can consider the following types of programs:

  1. Earn Points (earning points can either result in monetary rewards, virtual rewards or recognition).
  2. Earn Status (a status costs the the business very little (even when tied do discounts and give aways), but does a lot to maintain loyalty and repeat business.  Who doesn’t want to be the mayor of their town or a Gold Member.  I have been a Gold Member with American Express for years and each time I hand out my Gold card, I feel a little special).  This is an easy one to implement with little cost as long as you let the customer know their status on a frequent basis.
  3. FREE Stuff (similar to earning points, gamification campaigns can be as simple as buy x amount of goods or services and receive x amount of free stuff.

This is an over simplification of the types of gamification programs there are and gives little guidance on how to implement these marketing programs, but I am hopeful it will get you thinking about how loyalty and gamification should be engrained in your marketing plan, in much the same way that traditional advertising, online advertising and social media marketing are.

Come back to the Wild Words Blog by Lupo Solutions frequently for more information on how to use twitter, facebook, Local SEO, Loyalty Programs, Gamification, Blogs and Articles to promote your business.


Carol Lee Collins is a published author and has written articles and blogs about a variety of subjects including SEO, loyalty marketing, content marketing and small business tips.

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Tell us what do you think.

  1. landing page template says: November 10, 2012

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  2. Justin says: November 13, 2012

    Great to see you get the site up, CL!

    I know that mid-sized businesses can use gamification effectively and a ton of tech start-ups are doing it (Love my Mayor badges on Foursquare!) but it’s hard for me to see how this would apply to a true “small business”.

    As marketers, we’re always looking for ways to move readers/listeners down the pipe from a casual reader/listener to a true fan…I believe gamification is great for this. Looking forward to seeing more from you!

    • Carol Lee Collins says: November 13, 2012

      Thanks Justin. You keep up your great posts too, I enjoy reading your updates!


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