Games are as old as humanity itself. For thousands of years, we’ve been using games to pass the time, entertain ourselves, foster relationships with others, and develop our skills. Today, we even use them to create memorable, engaging marketing campaigns.

When companies like Nike, Coca-Cola, and Chipotle started using gamification in their marketing strategies, some people dismissed it as a trend. However, the numbers don’t lie: in 2012, the worldwide gamification industry was valued at $242 million. In 2020, that number is expected to reach a whopping $11.1 billion globally.

Gamification is here to stay, and for good reason—it’s the future. Read on and discover how marketing gamification can help your business, no matter what industry you’re in.

What Is Marketing Gamification?

Designed to be addicting and irresistible, games keep us coming back for more. Some games can keep us enthralled for hours on end. Games have mastered the art of motivation and engagement; marketing gamification tries to integrate those exciting elements into a non-game experience—letting you reap all the benefits.

Yu-kai Chou, the creator of gamification design model Octalysis and the #1 gamification guru in the world, describes marketing gamification as “deriving all the fun and engaging elements found in games and applying them to real-world or productive activities.” Game-like mechanics can be added to your website, app, or in-store customer journey to trigger a sense of achievement, promote competition, and boost user experience.

Why Is Gamification So Powerful?

Gamification works so well because it hits your customers’ psychological pain points. Gabe Zimmerman, the co-author of Gamification by Design, said that “gamification is 75% psychology and 25% technology.” That means that gamification plays on how our brains work to motivate us to make certain decisions.

When customers are actively engaged instead of passively consuming, they create a stronger emotional connection with the brand. By encouraging your customers to take a certain action and rewarding them for it, you’re creating a positive feedback loop.

One of the great things about gamification as a marketing technique is that companies of any size or industry can use it. Whether you have 100 customers or 100,000,000, gamification can increase brand awareness or boost your bottom line.

The Benefits Of Gamification

Increase Reach

Gamification improves your virality and helps you attract new customers, especially if your campaign involves social media integration (and it should). By presenting your products/services in a fun way, you make it easier for people to discover and engage with your brand. This is especially effective with Millennials and Gen Z-ers who are familiar and therefore more cynical of more traditional marketing approaches.

Engage Audiences

When convincing your customers to actively engage with your brand, few things work better than an incentive. Marketing gamification has been shown to increase the positive feelings associated with your business. This translates to a 100-150% increase in engagement metrics, according to M2 Research.

Improve Recall

Because customers are actively participating, your brand has a much better chance of standing out. Instead of just passively scrolling past a boosted ad on Facebook, your audience is internalizing your message.

Enhance User Experience

Gamification is effective in part because it initiates a conversation with your customers. You can gain valuable insight into customer behaviour by monitoring their progress. This helps you personalize your offers, creating an experience that is more tailor-fit for your customer base.

Retain Loyalty

Common gamification tactics involve rewarding loyal customers. You can build a community around your company and strengthen your relationship with them by offering incentives or by recognizing your top customers.

Boost Sales

One of the major objectives of any marketing campaign is to increase profits. Gamification promotes repeat business by constantly engaging your customers in a way that is fun, innovative, and rewarding.

The Challenges of Gamification

Don’t Make It Generic

A big mistake many companies make is adding game elements to their customer experience without considering how it integrates into the brand itself. Don’t gamify for gamification’s sake or else you run the risk of being unoriginal and generic.

Don’t Make It Mandatory

The power of gamification is that it empowers your customers to be part of the process. For them to feel like they’ve made a good choice, they need to have made the choice in the first place. Instead of forcing your customers to participate in the “game”, give them the option to opt-in when they want to.

Don’t Make It Complicated

While a little bit of challenge is not only expected but encouraged, your customers can be turned off if the process is too tedious. Keep it fun, motivating, and just difficult enough that they keep “playing”.

The Octalysis Gamification Framework

To better understand how gamification actually works, you need to understand Chou’s Octalysis model. It’s a gamification design framework that places an emphasis on human motivations. It promotes a “human-centric design” rather than a “function-centric design” by taking into consideration the emotions, feelings, and reasons behind the decisions we make every day.

By delving into human psychology, you can create better products, services, and customer experiences. Chou identified 8 main core drivers behind human behaviour. While you don’t do all 8 to optimize your marketing campaign, choose a few and execute them well.

1. Meaning & Calling

The first motivation deals with doing something because it is greater than yourself, like moderating an online community or contributing to a social cause. This also pertains to someone believing they have a special gift or are “chosen” to do something.

2. Development & Accomplishment

The second motivation is perhaps one of the most commonly used in both games and gamification. This speaks to our human need to make progress, develop our skills, and overcome challenges in a way that is measurable. Companies can address this need by incorporating points, badges, or leaderboards into the customer experience.

3. Empowerment & Feedback

The third motivation is less tangible than #2 since it deals with the inherent fun of creating. When customers are encouraged to be creative and express themselves, this inspires constant activity. You can create a long-lasting, fun experience without having to add new content or refresh your campaign. Sandbox games are a big example of Empowerment & Feedback at work.

4. Ownership & Possession

In a consumerist culture where owning something means being someone, ownership & possession is a big motivator. This is what causes us to accumulate wealth, goods, and status (whether real or virtual). This is the psychology behind collecting things that may or may not have any actual monetary value, such as dolls or accessories for your online avatar.

5. Social Influence & Relatedness

The fifth core pertains to any social element that motivates us as humans. This includes the need for an emotional connection or the desire to be at the same level or above your peers. The more relatable your brand, and the more you build a community around your campaign, the stronger this core is.

6. Scarcity & Impatience

We are all familiar with the feeling of wanting something only because you can’t have it. Scarcity and impatience play on many different fears, like fear of missing out, fear of being seen as lowly, etc. This is why limited-edition products are so effective, they convince the customer that if it’s rare, it must be worth having.

7. Unpredictability & Curiosity

The seventh motivation explains why gambling addiction is a real problem, and why plot twists are so prized in modern literature and film. There’s a certain thrill that comes with not knowing what will happen next. The game of chance is a powerful motivator, as seen in raffles, giveaways, sweepstakes, and lotteries.

8. Loss & Avoidance

The eighth and final motivator is the fear of loss and avoidance. Many of the other cores encourage action with the promise of a reward, but this core acknowledges that wanting to avoid a negative consequence can be just as powerful a motivator as any positive reinforcement.

Who Can Benefit from Marketing Gamification?

Businesses of all sizes can incorporate gamification techniques into their brand. Smaller businesses are often focused on gamifying at the product level, or creating an addictive product that consumers will want to buy. Medium-sized businesses often care about gamification at the marketing level, while bigger companies rely on gamifying their operations to encourage positive employee behaviour.

Gamification can be seen in a wide variety of projects and companies, like sportswear (Nike), beverages (Coca-Cola), social networking sites (Facebook), and more.

How to Introduce Gamification into Your Marketing Strategy

Gamification is more than just starting a loyalty/rewards program and then calling it a day. While those can be great marketing tactics, it’s not the only way you can introduce game-like elements into your marketing strategy. There are many different possibilities to engage your consumers; the only limit is your creativity and imagination (and budget).

The first step in redesigning your marketing strategy to include gamification is understanding your customer. Learning about your customers and what makes them tick is absolutely crucial in gamifying the brand experience.

Once you know who your target audience is, you can start brainstorming. Take a look at your brand, your products, your website, and your current customer journey. Identify the points that could be gamified or figure out if you need to encourage new customer behaviours to make gamification work.

Next, think about what incentive you’re offering. It could be something tangible like a discount code or free stuff. It could also be something immaterial like exclusive content or ranking on a leaderboard. The reward should tie back into who your customer is and what they value the most.

Before you execute your new marketing campaign, make sure you’ve set clear, measurable goals. Your key performance indicators are a great way to monitor your progress. Plus, they act as a guide to designing the right gamification elements.

If you’re overwhelmed and need help, don’t hesitate to engage our expertise. We can work with you to build a bespoke campaign to reach new customers, build engagement, and increase profits. Check out some of our case studies to see how we’ve helped other brands get amazing results.

Examples of Game Elements

Points, Levels, & Leaderboard

Customers can earn points and upgrade levels by completing tasks or purchasing from your business. They can then be ranked according to how many points they’ve earned, fostering a sense of competition and achievement.


Reward your customer for completing certain milestones such as “Profile Completed” or “First $500 Spent”.


Challenges give your customers a sense of purpose. If you give new challenges regularly, it encourages your customers to keep coming back to complete them.


This is most often found on sites that offer a variety of products. Quizzes are fun and easy to complete, and you can add value to your customers by allowing them to discover new products that are customized based on their answers.

Other Tips

  • Make it as fun as possible. If your game elements aren’t enjoyable, it defeats the purpose of gamification.
  • You don’t have to splurge on your first big gamification campaign. Stick to a reasonable budget and slowly invite your customers to be part of the process. You will learn as you go.
  • Once you’ve done it a few times, take bigger risks. Implement bigger and more fun elements.
  • Focus on creating simple yet attention-grabbing processes. Divide it into short, easy-to-understand steps so that you don’t overwhelm your customers.
  • Integrate analytics tools into your campaign so that you can get insight on user behaviour and make sure you’re achieving your goals.

Marketing Gamification Trends

Gamification is not exactly a new concept in marketing, but there are fresh, new ways that you can apply it to your business. Here are the most recent and upcoming trends in marketing gamification.

Augmented/Virtual Reality

Nothing says immersive like augmented or virtual reality. The technology is young, but many brands are jumping in on the trend. AR, in particular, is great for letting your customers interact with your products or the world around them in an exciting, innovative way. An example of using augmented reality in an effective way was Pepsi Max’s Unbelievable Bus Shelter campaign which brought an unbelievable experience to London commuters by taking over an everyday bus shelter.

Mobile Apps & Technology

Mobile is definitely the future. Consider adding apps to reinforce your business model. You can implement a rewards program, offer exclusive deals, and update your customers with the latest news through a mobile app.

Social Media

Social networking sites are an invaluable tool in any company’s marketing strategy. You have to integrate social media gamification into your marketing campaigns to remain relevant and interesting to a younger, tech-savvy audience.


Gamification and blockchain can go hand in hand. Blockchain is more of a complementary technology that you can use to ensure scarcity in a digital economy where everything can be replicated, copied, or pirated.

How Other Brands Use Gamification in Their Marketing Campaigns

Many companies use gamification without even knowing it, but the ones that do it deliberately are taking it to the next level. Big companies like Nike, Starbucks, LinkedIn, Coca-Cola, and M&M’s have successfully improved brand awareness and increased engagement through some amazing marketing campaigns.


In 2012, sportswear brand Nike launched an app called Nike+. It may seem like a simple fitness app on the surface, but adding game-like elements helped Nike foster a sense of community and add value to their customers. The app was compatible with the Fuelband and allowed users to track their workouts, monitor their progress, share their fitness achievements with their friends, and compare ranks on the Nike+ leaderboard.

My Starbucks Rewards

On the Starbucks rewards app, customers could earn stars for every cup they bought. They could then level up and redeem special offers like free coffee, gifts, and discounts. This encouraged people to purchase more Starbucks cups to try and get the awesome perks.


The Coke-SkyFall partnership was one of the biggest viral marketing campaigns of 2012. Real customers got the chance to win free tickets to the highly-anticipated James Bond movie SkyFall by participating in a series of challenges. The participants loved that they got to pretend to be an elite spy for a few minutes while viewers around the world liked and shared the video, generating even more buzz for Coca-Cola.


LinkedIn is a great example of how you can implement gamification even in the smallest of ways. By looking at the customer journey and identifying where they could add game elements, LinkedIn convinced incentivized users to interact more with their platform. The website shows a progress bar when you sign up for the site, and you can progress by completing tasks such as uploading a photo, filling out your profile, and connecting to your contacts on LinkedIn. They also reward you by “levelling up” your profile and making it more discoverable to potential recruiters.


More evidence that keeping it simple can go a long way, a single graphic on the M&M’s Facebook page was able to engage thousands of users across the globe. The M&M’s Eye-Spy Pretzel photo challenged people to find the pretzel among a sea of M&M’s. Again, very simple yet incredibly effective use of gamification methods to get people to stop, engage, and share.

M&M's gamified Facebook campaign

Become A Marketing Gamification Guru

Done right, gamification can be a very powerful marketing tactic to boost sales and strengthen your relationship with your customers. Want to get in on this innovative, engaging, and thrilling trend? Reach out to us to start a conversation about how Komo can help your brand with its next bespoke engagement campaign.

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