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Vircomm Summit 2014: Gamification for Brands

One of the most common buzzwords from the Vircomm Summit 2014 was gamification. Dr. Michael Wu, Chief Scientist at Lithium Technologies, briefly touched on this on the first day of the conference, as part of his ‘Social Science of Acquisition’ talk. On day two, he explored the idea in greater depth during the workshops.

Gamification is something we are all familiar with, whether we know it or not. From playing Super Mario on N64 to seeing updates on your Facebook newsfeed about your friends collecting points on an app, it’s human nature to love games. They’re fun, they’re interactive; they’re something to talk about.

According to Lithium, 200 million people play games per month on Facebook, and 42% of online gamers are female. Brands are beginning to recognise that gamification can deliver strong social experiences for fans, without understanding the social sciences behind it.

What is gamification?

Gamification can be defined as using game attributes to drive game-like behaviour in a non-game context with predictability. Or, to put it simply, encouraging your fans to do something because there’s a reward – emotional or physical – when they complete the task.

The Fogg Behaviour Model (FBM), developed by Dr. BJ Fogg, founder of the Persuasive Technology Lab at Stanford University, lists three behaviour patterns that influence gamification:

  • Motivation: wanting to do something
  • Ability: doing something because we can
  • Trigger: being told to do something

These three things have to happen at the same time to attract attention and drive action.


Imagine seeing a competition to win an all expenses paid holiday to the Bahamas via a Facebook app. The competition has just launched and there is only a week to enter.

You’ll be motivated to enter because you have the ability to log into Facebook, and being told that there is a limited time to enter will be your emotional trigger.

How gamification can benefit brands

Gamification is ultimately a brand’s way of getting its customers to do something for them, and rewarding them accordingly. It’s a two-way street where everyone can benefit; not only will it grow the social media footprint for brands by driving SEO and traffic, it will encourage participation and build loyalty.

Fanzy is one of the apps leading the way on gamification. The Facebook app is a straightforward loyalty program that allows brands to launch competitions. A clutch of well-known global brands such as Microsoft, Thomas Cook, Spotify and MTV have used Fanzy to reward their communities.

In 2011, Tiesto, the superstar DJ, used Fanzy to promote his album to the 10 million fans connected on his Facebook page. With a range of prizes available, fans were encouraged to comment and like Tiesto’s content on Facebook, while retweeting and mentioning Tiesto on Twitter to climb the leaderboard. Within 6 weeks, he’d generated over 800,000 social mentions.

DJ Tiesto on Fanzy

Understand your audience: the four gamer archetypes

To see commercial success on any social media, you need to know your audience. Tiesto, for example, may have been talking to avid music fans aged between 18 to  35, but different factors would have prompted them to engage with his Fanzy competition; what was in it for them, how challenging the tasks were, whether their friends were interested in joining in.

In the world of gamification, users can be split into four gamer archetypes:

  • Achievers
  • Explorers
  • Killers
  • Socialisers

Achievers are driven by status. Knowing that their skillset separates them from everyone else, and having the opportunity to boast about this, will be enough to encourage these fans to get involved.

Explorers are driven by discovery. They don’t like to be rushed and like knowing they’re valued. Calling on a unique skill that they possess will be a trigger for them to engage.

Killers are highly competitive. They will be the ones striving to hit the next level; pushing themselves further to reach the top of the leaderboard. Killers respond to challenges.

Socialisers hate confrontation. They key way to get them involved, is to show them that all their friends are taking part. How many of you avoided playing Candy Crush until you saw your friends were doing it?

The four archetypes of gameification
In an ideal world, brands will recognise these characteristics and ensure their gamification strategy appeals to the relevant  archetypes.

Is gamification a long-term strategy?

The short answer is no. While gamification is a great way to kick start campaigns, it doesn’t necessarily lead to sustainable long-term strategies for community engagement and growth.

It relies on a short-term hit of excitement when, say, a competition launches. Followed by a plummet in interest when you realise that someone else has won, not you. Unless there are higher stakes and bigger rewards, your community will grow tired of being asked to do something that isn’t challenging.
Successful strategies for gamification

For brands to obtain the optimum level of engagement, and make the most out of gamification, they should do the following:

  • launch their strategy at the start of a campaign to generate word of mouth
  • ensure they understand their audience
  • check that their content appeals to all four gamer archetypes
  • motivate their users to get involved, while ensuring they have the ability to carry out what is asked of them, to trigger a response.

Thanks again to @mich8elwu for an inspiring and interesting session.

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