Gamification marketing vs. games for marketing


Written by plinq

 On 5/13/19 11:53 AM


It seems like “gamification” was one of the hottest words in the professional world a few years back. Everywhere you turned, you heard about how and why to apply gamification to certain areas of business. Many companies applied gamification internally to motivate workers to work harder, others used gamification in marketing to encourage customers to shop more.

But, in the present moment, we’re seeing that gamification hasn’t produced the amazing results businesses were hoping for.


When you take a deeper look at it, it shouldn’t be surprising. Gamification applies game concepts to boring situations. It has a noble purpose, but, why take a game and take out all the fun parts? Instead of gamification marketing, you should consider mobile games for marketing. These mobile games keep all the fun aspects of games and are more effective in promoting sales and customer loyalty.

We’re going to fill you in on what both gamification marketing and games for marketing are, how they’re being used, and the effectiveness of each in driving sales, retention, and loyalty.

Gamification Marketing

What is gamification marketing?

Gamification is adding game aspects — competition, ranking lists, scoring systems, and incentives — to something that’s not a game. Businesses often use gamification to do competitions such as who can make the most sales calls, who takes the least amount of sick days, and other activities, to try to increase productivity.

The most common example of gamification in marketing is a loyalty program. A brand may offer free or discounted products to a customer who shares the company on social media, buys the most products, and other activities, to try to encourage word of mouth and increased sales.


Who uses gamification marketing?

Maybe the more appropriate question to ask is “who doesn’t use gamification marketing?”. The concept of gamification marketing goes back as far as the first loyalty program, and now that mobile loyalty apps are easily accessible to nearly all businesses and consumers, every recognizable consumer goods brand has one.

My Starbucks Rewards is a great example of gamification marketing. Starbucks ranks its customers in different categories, all of which come with different perks. As customers purchase more and more, they move up the rankings. Each ranking also has increasing benefits, which further incentivizes customers to purchase.

How effective is gamification marketing?

Though Starbucks has a well-known loyalty program, they run into the same problems other companies face when implementing gamification. 54% of loyalty memberships are inactive. Many customers download a loyalty app or join a loyalty program to get the initial reward that comes with it, but quickly lose interest in the program thereafter.

And loyalty program participation isn’t looking to get any better in the future, 78% of consumers report they’re retracting from loyalty programs at a faster pace than 3 years ago. When almost every company is using these gamification marketing techniques, it’s becoming harder to stick out favorably in the mind of consumers. Consumers see these techniques as generic, and that perception is severely lowering their level of engagement with brands.

Due to the drop off in participation, brands are trying to incorporate gamification more creatively to win consumers over. Some are effective, most, not so much. But it makes us wonder why marketers are applying game aspects to so many non-game situations, instead of leveraging the power of actual games to reach consumers.

Games for marketing


What are games for marketing?

Games for marketing, also known as advergames or branded games, come in different forms, but essentially, are any downloadable or Internet-based game that advertises a brand-name product by featuring it as part of the game.

Because they’re games, they possess the game qualities that gamification tries to replicate — competition, ranking lists, scoring systems, and incentives. These qualities in their natural habitat are very influential on people.

Who uses games for marketing?

Games for marketing isn’t a new concept. Many brands have paid to place their products in games to try to make their brands more favorable. But, with that being said, games for marketing are evolving into something much more powerful than product placement.

The new kind of advergames that we’re talking about are games that are centered around brands. Instead of a player playing a game that happens to have a branded-product in it, a player is taken to a game world that — with custom music, colors, game features and products — holistically reflects the brand.

These kind of brand-representative games are still rather new and underutilized.

How effective are games for marketing?

Branded games are still in their early years, but they’re already pushing out some seriously impressive results.

Whereas typical loyalty programs are losing members every second, one of our recent games (which was integrated in a loyalty app) showed that in a 28-day period, app retention among game players was 6 times higher than non-game players. Players want to keep the game and, therefore, your loyalty app, so you don’t have to be as worried about customers downloading the app and only using it once.

But keeping the app and actually using it are two separate issues. You want to keep customers engaged with your brand to build relationships and drive sales.

So how effective are games at increasing engagement?

With that same game, game players stayed in the loyalty app for almost double the amount of time, per session, of non-players. Games captivate consumers and keep them locked-in on your brand. And they also keep them coming back. Game check-ins were almost double that of app check-ins.


But what about word of mouth?

We can just rely on intuition for the topic of shareability between gamification and games. How many times have you seen somebody share on social media their promotion in Starbucks ranking? Probably never, because people don’t like to flaunt that they’re the top spender.

On the other hand, thousands of people every day share their Fortnite wins on Snapchat, Twitter and Instagram stories. That kind of sharing drives word of mouth. People love to show off gaming leaderboards, rankings and wins because these demonstrate skill and experience. This conquest for bragging rights develops passionate players and fans of your brand.

Games for marketing give you all the benefits that gamification marketing has failed to achieve. Instead of replicating games, leverage the power of games to take your brand’s customer reach and sales to the next level.

If you want to get an even better idea of how you can turn your brand into a game, request a free demo!

Request a free demo!