The Joys of Gamification

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Gamification has been a buzz word for years, and lately, every savvy Digital Strategy professional has been thinking of new ways to incorporate this method into their strategic plan.

For those of us new to gamification, in general, it’s a method that we can use to increase and prolong user engagement. Gamification helps you acquire user data to gain clear insight about your audience while increasing your audience size. It also creates more opportunities for you to communicate key messages.

Many organizations are now realizing the importance of gamification, although it’s a big investment, when done well (and supported by a fully integrated digital strategy), it will have positive impact.

More than 70% of the world’s largest 2,000 companies are expected to have deployed at least one gamified application by year-end 2014 [Gartner]

You might wonder how gamification became a thing; some of the early adapters/innovators of this method included major airlines–with frequent flier miles programs–and large hotel chains–through loyalty cards. In the past decade, with the introduction of smartphones and mobile applications, gamification has dramatically increased user engagement.

Nike+ Fuelband
One great example of gamification comes from the launch of Nike+ Fuelband. The campaign centered around a smartwatch/smartband that could track heart rate, movement and more, during the user’s day/workout.

This gamification strategy used a combination of Nike+ Feulband and the Nike+ App to drive engagement. Once uploaded, the system works with your smart phone to monitor progression, give feedback and set goals while the user unlocks achievements, or share information other users.

This successful product gathers large amounts of user data for Nike. During it’s pre-release, it sold out (in four minutes) and caused the crash of But its biggest impact is reflected in the divisions annual profit, which saw an 18 per cent increase … Additionally, the band now offers to track users while they sleep.

Starbucks Reward Card
Another form of gamification that many of us are familiar with is the Starbucks Reward Card. Everytime users purchase an item from Starbucks using their card, they receive a star. Ten stars and they get a free drink; the more stars they get the more levels they move up, plus more freebies/incentives.

The great thing that Starbucks did with their rewards program, was integrating it with their mobile app. Now consumers could interact and engage by seeing how many purchases they made, make mobile payments, top up their card through their phone and receive updates or deals instantly.

Starbucks gamification strategy may seem simple but it’s a key to their success; with more than five million mobile payments per week, and two million card activations/day, and $1 billion in revenue from smartphone transactions each year, they have become notable for their gamification strategy and their stakeholders’ brand loyalty.

McDonald’s Monopoly
A well-recognized gamification campaign is McDonalds Monoploy. Some have called McDonalds a ‘Master of Gamification’; they’ve been implementing similar strategies since 1987 (when they first partnered with Hasboro). Variations of the strategy include the toy in the Happy Meal and the Special Edition Cups.

When I think of the McNopoly strategy, I’m drawn to the physical attributes. Although I’ve never used it before, I was not surprised to learn that McDonald’s have an expansive digital campaign that engages online users to enter their game-pieces online. It was offered to Canadians last year, but from what I can gather, their data and market research has enabled them to recognize that Canadian audiences prefer the physical playing board (opposed to their US audience, who like the online aspect).

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McDonalds always interporates its research results in the form of menu deviations, which enables them to adjust their products depending on regional preference.

*Menu Deviations: There are a number of products that deviate from the standard menu to satisfy a specific market — ie McLobster (Eastern Canada) , Cheese Fondue Chicken Burger (Japan),  McD Chicken Porridge (Malaysia), Brie Nuggets (Russia) and more!

The few examples provided were external campaigns; however companies successfully implement gamification techniques for internal audiences as well. Using this method on an internal audience can help align corporate trends by improving staff engagement, reducing sick days or modifying employee behaviour.

Some gamefication implementations have been critiqued as creating artificial senses of achievement. Other campaigns have encouraged unintended behaviours, which is an issue due to the importance gathering open data. In the case of Starbucks and Nike, they amass vast amounts of valuable data.

Gamification should always something you think about; but remember, a perfect strategy needs to have a omnichannel approach and must be implemented flawlessly to encourage user engagement. Are you now interested in gamification? Take a look at some resources below.


1. A gamification strategy can be implemented numerous ways and has benefits for both internal and external audiences. Common motivations/tactics tend to include: points, badges, levels, leaderboards, challenges and prizes.

2. Along with integrated digital media channels, interactive user experience, and a modern user interface, gamification can be one of your greatest allies, it should:

+ increase engagement
+ expand audience size
+ encourage brand loyalty
+ give you a wealth of valuable data

3. Below are some case studies and links related to gamification.

+ Gamification Wiki (resource library)
Mashable (article)
+ Yu-kai Chou Gamification (article)
+ Research Access (resource library)
+ Forbes (article)
+ Postano (article)

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Digital Strategy,Marketing
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