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WOI 101 – Gamification Marketing

Gamification, i.e., building in small rewards to “gamify” a process and motivate the user to engage more, is not new but is fast evolving. Humans are wired to act in response to reward or anticipation of reward and gamification goes to the heart of this psychology. From fitness devices to productivity apps and loyalty systems, gamification is now a popular addition to traditional stakeholder engagement

What is Gamification?

Gamification “is the craft of deriving fun and engaging elements found in games and applying them to real-world or productive activities,” according to Yu-Kai Chou, Author and early-supporter of gamification. As the name implies, it takes the fundamentals of gaming and applies them to work, commercial projects, and consumer campaigns.

Rather than being function-based i.e. prioritising efficiency and/or reaching an outcome quickly, gamification is more human-focused. In this approach, the priority is human (stakeholder) engagement. At the core of capturing this is an understanding of human behaviours, motivators, insecurities, and emotions.

What are the core factors of gamification? Genuine and sustainable gamification campaigns should seek to put the customer first and add value to their experience. Gamification techniques “push” people forward, some in an inspiring and empowering way, while some in a manipulative and obsessive manner (think dopamine chasing with limited reward). A good use of gamification should trigger positive human behaviours and emotions.

gamification marketing fitbit dashboard

Where can we see gamification applied?

Anywhere and everywhere from banking to luxury products, e-commerce, human resources, and retail. From your FitBit that rewards you for hitting 10,000 steps to your employer’s HR system that gives you a virtual high five a work-based achievement, the application of gamification is getting broader and deeper.

Fundamentally, a prime way to engage customers is by using games that reward them for playing and shopping with your brand. This is gamification at its best. If engaged consumers are the goal, gamification can help with that retention. According to Gallup, brands that successfully engage their customers realise 63 percent lower customer attrition and 55 percent higher share of wallet.

Gamification vs. Incentives

The most significant difference between incentives and gamification is that the former generates motivation that is momentary vs the latter which strives for continuous engagement.

With incentives, the user is motivated to achieve an outcome until it is reached; it boosts engagement temporarily but does not mean the user becomes engaged. We can take a salesperson as a classic example, if they reach their target, they receive a bonus (incentive). Then there are new, cyclical targets that can isolate the individual so that they do not feel engaged with the team or the company. Incentives seek to motivate the person to achieve a specific outcome, rather than engage them long-term. Whilst outcomes are important, engagement is a more sustainable tactic towards achieving long-term growth.

gamification marketing campaigns - starbucks

How to develop a successful gamification marketing campaign

1: Motivate your players

By offering rewards to players as they achieve milestones you will encourage engagement, generating high conversation rates. Competition is also a powerful driver of engagement, and a national or even international leaderboard will motivate players even more. If the top ten reach a certain stage, then might receive exclusive bonuses, kudos, or other rewards, enticing others to follow suit. Sports brands including Fitbit and Strava use gamification to motivate their players to take more steps, run that extra km, take on challenges, and keep people striving for the next milestone or event.

2: Attract new customers with contests, giveaways, and rewards

To attract new customers to your business, offer them a first-time buyer reward, say a 10 or 20 percent discount on their first order if they sign up or join your list. You can also offer rewards for referring new customers, increasing the reward for additional referrals. Another way to attract new customers is to hold a contest or sweepstakes that requires entrants to provide their name and email address to play. The HK virtual bank ZA is a classic example. Their “Power Draw” (reminiscent of the fairground game with a giant claw to try to pick a cuddly toy), offers clients up to 200% cashback on their offline purchases.

3: Use games to educate stakeholder groups

A bank could differentiate by creating an online game that challenges players to build a financial empire through placing sound investments. Such a game (without any real financial risk) can help people to understand the bank’s product profile while developing their own knowledge base. It adds value and has a win-win model. To foster further engagement, build in “nest branded messaging” and relevant advice into the game (subtle advertising) so players learn more about your products as they play.

gamification marketing Nike

4: Promote a new product or service with a fun, informative game

Sports brands such as Nike have already succeeded in the gamification space. Partnering with the Zombies Run app, the Nike Fuel app collates a runner’s data could show where you were and how close the zombies were. Users are encouraged to run more to “beat the zombies”. It is a simple yet effective way of using Nike’s data to motivate the end user towards their goal. The outcome is increased awareness for the brand and a more engaged and delighted end user.

5: Reward (and retain) customers by having them earn points for shopping with you

Instead of relying on loyalty points to retain customers, use gamification elements to make it fun to engage with your brand and the community that you are trying to build. You could, for example, create a “scavenger hunt” style game where members need to find the daily deal to “win”. If they find it, they earn an exclusive offer, like a coupon or extra loyalty points.

You can also reward customers by giving them points for the more or more often they buy. An example would be a restaurant booking platform, players would get more cashback than the points they have earned. Another example is the lucky draw element where players can use their points accrued to go into a “pot” and the name(s) pulled out could win a big prize such as going to Mardi Gras in New Orleans.

6: Make sure games are easy to play and winnable

Keeping games simple and ensure customers feel that they have a good chance of winning. Gamification is only going to engage customers if people can see themselves with a chance of getting something “out of it”.

“Swipe and win” are popular with retailers such as Sainsbury. Save up enough on their loyalty card “Nectar” (e.g. GBP10), players can swipe their card and potentially receive a voucher (of varying amounts like a scratch card) which can be used at stores next time.

7: Make games mobile and social media-friendly

Mobile scratch and wins are a clever way to motivate customers to interact with your brand, especially as more and more consumers are using their phones to shop. Using a link from a mobile message, you can direct the customer to a mobile web page with a virtual scratch and win offer. The customer can actually ‘scratch off’ the cover image to reveal a prize that they can redeem at the point of sale or online.

8: Social media is king

Social media within the gamification campaign of a brand will naturally increase brand awareness. With social games, players commonly choose to share their results on social media on something like a leaderboard. This behaviour inherently expands your brand’s audience via each player’s friends, virally extending the reach of your brand identity to entirely new consumers.

Another way that social media plays a part in gamification is as a task to gain more points in a loyalty card scheme. As part of a rewards program, customers get rewarded for following and sharing their experience on social media, Certain number of points will be added to the client’s card and then transfer into goods or services that they need.

Gamification is like any tool that a brand or a marketer can use. However, without understanding especially regarding their core marketplace, then it will not be effective.

Want to find out more about another tool to be used to help enhance traditional marketing and branding tools, please read this


About WOI

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