In the highly competitive world of sports branding, any advantage you can get over your competition is vital. There are numerous schools of thought on how exactly to accomplish this task, and almost all of them have one thing in common: audience engagement and loyalty.
While a multifaceted plan is best to ensure your approach is well-rounded and comprehensive, it’s important that you are intentional with each individual piece included in your overall strategy. The parts equal the whole, after all!
Gamification has long been a tool utilised by businesses to increase employee engagement and improve the effectiveness of job training and has recently made strides in business-to-customer relationships. It has a proven track record in the world of business, making its incorporation into marketing strategies a logical next step.
In fact, introducing gamification to your marketing strategy could make an immediate positive impact. We’re here to make that transition and incorporation as easy as possible, but first, let’s look at some of the basics of gamification.
What is Gamification?
Before embracing the revolutionary tool that is gamification, it’s important to know exactly what it is. Understanding how gamification works as well as how it fits into a marketing strategy will allow you to clearly determine if it will fit your needs and how it can be specially tailored to your purposes.
Simply put, gamification is the integration of gaming mechanics into something preexisting—from training programmes to websites—in order to increase engagement and participation. Notice the term “gaming mechanics” and how it differences from “games,” as this is a key difference between the two.
Gamification does not inherently mean gaming. Instead, it is the utilisation of gaming elements into the structure of something. In this way, it has a specific business-driven purpose beyond simple enjoyment. In order to properly incorporate gamification into a marketing strategy, a suitable need and opportunity must first be identified.
How Gamification can Increase Engagement
As with any proven marketing tool, gamification has the potential to be massively effective if used correctly. If used improperly, however, increased audience participation can be fool’s good. To avoid falling into the latter category, it’s important to have a grasp on how gamification can best increase engagement.
Because gamification is such a trendy tool in the world of marketing, it can be easy to look at it as a cure-all and begin incorporating it into your strategies without proper planning. This is where gamification falls flat. Instead, you need to set your brand apart from the rest by integrating gamification in refreshing, meaningful ways.
How to Introduce Gamification
There are a few elements of gamification that stand out as being imperative if your brand is to use this technique effectively. From proper incentives to making the integration user-centric, each decision you make when introducing gamification is vital.
Know Your Audience
The key to basically any marketing strategy is connecting with the intended audience effectively. Sure, you may get lucky when taking shots in the dark or be able to attract a greater audience through some sweeping societal trend that’s totally out of your control, but you’ll almost always find yourself needing a highly-specific plan aimed at a well-defined target audience in order to see success.
This necessity becomes even more obvious when gamification is involved. Because you are incorporating elements of gameplay into your marketing, you’ll need to know your audience in order to provide appropriate content that will appeal specifically to them. This can involve everything from demographics to the time of the year, so it’s equally as important to be adaptable.
Have a Purpose
No business would aimlessly throw time, money, and resources at a marketing strategy. Instead, a need is first identified and thorough research is completed before a comprehensive plan is drawn up and put into action. Gamification should be treated the same way.
What is the goal of integrating gamification into your marketing strategy? Is it to increase engagement? Drive sales? Being able to pinpoint exactly what problem gamification is intended to solve is key to introducing to your strategy in a meaningful way.
Hand-in-hand with having a goal is setting well-defined objectives. While goals and objectives sound synonymous, it can help to think of objectives as checkpoints along the path to achieving your goals. In other words, objectives should be quantifiable indicators of success.
This leads to the final element of having a purpose for gamification—you must be able to analyse and quantify the usefulness of your strategies. Be sure to utilise the appropriate metrics to determine the successfulness of your gamification integration. From statistics on playing time to more nuanced data from analytics, measuring success is vital.
Research and Adapt
Once you have determined exactly who your audience is and the purpose for which you’re incorporating gamification, you need to do your homework. This includes everything from identifying key attributes of your audience—age, interests, and so on—to looking at your successful competitors to see what they’ve done right.
It’s important to realise that your first attempt (or five) might not provide the exact results that you planned for and desired. That’s okay! Instead of stubbornly pushing forward or giving up altogether, learn from your failures and adapt your approach.
The processes of researching and honing your marketing tactics are never-ending. Whether it’s a change in the season, a sweeping societal fad, or something else that is entirely outside your control, you will always be tweaking your gamification strategies. Embrace it!
Make it Appealing
Using gamification to increase audience engagement has one key requirement: your audience has to participate. While some free spirits may wander into your new marketing strategy and find themselves hooked, the average person will ask why they should join.
This is where you have the opportunity to offer various incentives and really incorporate gaming elements. Whether your technique uses rewards and perks for loyalty or incentives for simply signing up, motivating your target audience to initially engage with your new gamification strategy is one of the most difficult steps along the road to success.
Once again, you need to know your audience and thoroughly research what appeals to them and what drives them in order to successfully make your gamification appealing. Promotions that don’t apply to the intended demographic won’t effectively entice people to participate.
Remember: your strategies will fall flat and your desired outcomes will not reach fruition without audience participation. Know who you’re targeting, do your research, and provide proper incentive.
Keep it Engaging
As you walk through a department store, grocery store, mall, or other places of business, you’ll often be bombarded by employees offering samples of the latest and greatest product offering. Many times, you’ll simply walk by without trying the sample, but occasionally you may indulge them and taste that cheese or give the new fragrance a sniff.
How often do you end up purchasing the product based on that brief sample? We’re willing to bet the answer is “not often” or “almost never.”
That’s why this last step to introducing gamification to your marketing strategy is of the utmost importance: once you incentivise someone to try what you’re offering, you have to convince them to continue using it.
This is easier said than done, especially in an era where your audience has an inordinate number of other things demanding their attention, from your competition to social media to their day-to-day lives. As such, your creativity and innovation are key in your quest to retain your audience once you’ve drawn them in.
Challenges, a sense of competition, rewards and incentives, and other gameplay elements can all serve as motivation to keep users engaged. It’s important to remain adaptable and ahead of the curve with your motivational techniques, as your audience’s demographics and interests may shift with the seasons, societal trends, or any other number of factors.
Our Final Thoughts
Gamification is a proven tool in business-employee relationships and a rising trend in business-audience interactions, and for good reason. When introduced to a marketing strategy in the correct manner, it has the potential to not only attract new audience members but also increase their engagement with your brand and its content.
As with any marketing strategy, however, preparedness and proper research are integral in success. Designing, analysing, and adapting such a nuanced tool can be incredibly difficult—as most rewarding things are—which may make professional outside help and predesigned gamification elements hugely beneficial.
Regardless of how you plan to utilise gamification into your marketing strategy, this guide will serve as a strong starting point. To more fully understand the process of realising your brand’s gamification potential and find further aid in developing a strategy unique to your needs and desired outcomes, we recommend you continue to research this potent tool.
Ready-made toolkits are available to brands looking to start from an established foundation and build their own personalised approach upon it. Companies like Komo are making it easy to not only get started with modern marketing tools like gamification but also to create sustainable and adaptable versions that are innovative and unique to your brand.