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While game design is certainly a highly technical skill, marketers do not need to be game designers to create customer-facing campaigns that are engaging and impactful.
Instead, by simply thinking like a game designer, marketers can implement strategies that create well-designed, game-like experiences that motivate consumer behavior.
Here are three ways that marketers can think like game designers when implementing campaigns.
Put the consumer at the center of the campaign
First, it's important to establish clear brand objectives for gamification before developing a gamified program. And it's equally important to decide what you want the consumer to achieve before gamifying.
The challenge for marketers is to make these objectives – which may conflict for the brand and the consumer – align in a way that is motivating and engaging. Rather than asking what the brand can get from the program, instead think like a game designer and ask what the consumer will get from it first.
Users will respond to this customer-centric approach, which makes it easier for brand objectives to be achieved without turning your consumers off.
While not a must for every brand or program, allowing consumers to customize part of their experience with your program puts them at them center and can help deepen engagement. A great example can be found by looking at PNC Bank’s “Christmas Price Index” initiative.
For 30 years, PNC Bank has calculated the total cost for one set of each of the gifts noted in the song “The Twelve Days of Christmas.”
The exercise is meant to educate consumers on how inflation and price fluctuations in the cost of goods and services cause year-over-year differences in product prices.
As part of the campaign, users were encouraged to design their own Twelve Days of Christmas characters, then submit to see the current market price for the item and the YOY percent change in cost.
Next, PNC gave rewards to participating consumers, including 3D printed versions of custom toys featured in the song that were delivered to entrants’ homes prior to Christmas.
This program’s educational component was ideal for a subject matter that otherwise could be deemed mundane by consumers – and it proved that even more conservative industries like banking can execute a gamification-inspired campaign in a way that connects with consumers.
Create an engaging experience
One of the most important things understood by game designers is that the experience needs to be engaging or users won't come back.
Part of creating a successful experience involves offering compelling visuals. But the experience also needs to take into consideration how the consumer progresses through the journey from start to finish, as well as how he or she feels while participating (hopefully a positive experience that is neither boring nor frustrating to complete).
Successful game designers take a wider view of the consumer journey and aim to shape that journey into an experience that is meaningful, intuitive, visually compelling, and fun.
A great example of creating this type of customer-driven experience is Old Navy's SnapAppy program, which was designed to change habitual shopping patterns and drive sales. Old Navy shoppers were encouraged to download a mobile app to “snap” the Old Navy logo and specific icons found in-store and online to unlock fun surprises and rewards.
Surprises revealed to shoppers included games, style tips and special deals for Old Navy products. In addition, shoppers could save their surprises within the application and redeem their coupons in the store.
In its SnapAppy campaign, Old Navy successfully executed a twist on the traditional scavenger hunt that blended offline and online experiences in an intuitive and fun way.
Measure and optimize effectiveness
Most importantly for marketers, it is essential to have a clear goal in mind with actionable KPIs that can be measured. However, you need to leave room to make adjustments in real-time based on how consumers actually engage with the campaign.
Key metrics to evaluate include actions completed, time spent using the experience, and monthly active users. Equally important to sustaining success, however, is watching what your users do and reacting accordingly.
Game designers create their games to be iterative and they make design adjustments based on what users show them they like most based on their actions.
As a marketer, you should apply this by allowing consumers engage with your program, and then make continual improvements based on what their actions tell you.
Gamification focuses on the consumer, not the brand. As a marketer, you can integrate smart gamification strategies by approaching consumers with a "what can I do for you" attitude rather than "what can you do for me". Your consumers will enjoy spending more time with your campaigns and you'll have a stronger relationship with them as a result.