It is human nature to play. We are programed to do it from day one. Play enables us to explore new things, to stretch our abilities, to learn and adapt. Sadly, as we get older, adulthood sneaks up on us. We stop “playing” and the very phrase “playing games” takes on exasperating, tear-jerking and time-wasting connotations.
However, the explosion of mobile and Internet-enabled technologies over the last decade means we have been able to create, participate and play in new ways. It has been a de facto legitimization of game play for adults.
To illustrate, the finger-achingly addictive game Angry Birds has now been downloaded over a billion times. To put it into context, only 275 million copies of Monopoly have been sold since it was created in the early 1900s. And, the hit mobile game Fruit Ninja makes $400,000 a month in ad revenue from the game, proving that getting people playing pays.
What is most intriguing about this growing penchant for gaming is that brands, employers and even governments are using it to encourage and motivate people to act. For the uninitiated, this concept is called “gamification,” and it is only now beginning to gain some real traction.
Gamification, by definition, is about applying game-design thinking to non-game applications to make them more fun and engaging. Tap into people’s natural desire to compete and play, and it results in high levels of engagement.
Gamification is currently being used intelligently to tackle some very big societal issues, motivating people to change even deep, ingrained behaviors. For instance, research claims that 32 percent of adults and 17 percent of children in America are obese. This number will rise to 42 percent by 2030, according to recent data from the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. Online rewards program Zamzee is using gamification to get kids and families off the couch and doing more physical activity. And it is working.
Another example is the brilliant Recyclebank, which uses gamification to inspire more people to recycle. Recycling is almost a necessity now. But we are falling extremely short across the globe. For instance, 50 percent of Americans do not recycle daily. With Recyclebank, you earn points for taking everyday green action. You can then redeem those points to earn rewards.
Gamification is also being leveraged successfully in the office. In fact, according to Gartner, by 2015 over 50 percent of organizations will be using gamification to engage employees. Recently, the UK’s Department of Work and Pensions challenged its 120,000-strong workforce to come up with fresh ideas via a collaborative social game called “Idea Street.” Game mechanics, points and leader boards have ignited thousands of employees to submit ideas.
It is also super-effective for motivating sales people who are already attuned to incentive programs based on tiered rewards.
For marketers, gamification is a very effective and genuine way to get consumers to interact and build relationships with a brand. Tabasco created “Pass the Tabasco” for Facebook, a nice way to discover new food pairings with the famous sauce, encouraging users to shoot their own cooking films and upload them to the Tabasco site. Likewise, Volkswagon has begun to leverage people’s love of driving games with the practical need to urge people to take a test drive. Check out the Sports Car Challenge app.
So you can see that humans want to play. It is part of our makeup. By adding game-design thinking to interactions, sales processes, services or solving complex issues, we can achieve far greater engagement and results. And that brings me to one of the best parts of gaming: winning. Marketers who leverage this burgeoning tactic are certain to acquire a taste for it and that never grows old.