Level up: Seven games that are actually marketing campaigns

Ever heard of gamification? It’s when a company uses game-related elements outside of the gaming world. Many businesses use it as a marketing tool, causing friendly competition among customers, which in turn produces a loyalty to their brand.

Because gamification is so versatile, it can apply to practically every kind of business. That’s the beauty of it: gamification can lend itself to many different purposes, benefiting employees and customers alike, whether it’s used for marketing, company culture building, project management, recruitment, or even taking care of employee health.

Below are seven businesses that have skillfully used gamification to boost employee morale and customer satisfaction.

1. M&M’s

This is a gamification classic. In 2013, M&M’s launched an incredibly successful game as a part of its M&M’s Pretzel marketing campaign. It became an instant hit among M&M’s fans.

Users were presented with a large graphic of M&M’s candies, with one small pretzel tucked away among them. The task was to simply find the hidden pretzel.

How did M&M’s benefit from this game? It boosted user engagement with the brand, bringing over 25,000 new likes on the company’s official Facebook page, as well as more than 6,000 shares and 10,000 comments.

The game was a miniscule part of a massive marketing campaign, but it offered a fun way to engage with the company’s new product, and it effectively spread the word about it all over social media.

2. U.S. Army

Here’s an interesting example of gamification in action: a promotional and recruiting tool that generated quite a lot of controversy. America’s Army was developed to serve as a recruitment tool for the U.S. Army. Candidates interested in enrolling can sign up, download the game for free, and test their skills in this multiplayer strategic shooter environment to see if they’re soldier material.

Initially, candidates are asked to fill an online profile with their real data and become a part of the community called the “Online Army.” During the game, talented players are rewarded with badges of honor, similar to real life.

Of course, a virtual game hardly reflects the real nature of combat. The game primarily works as a marketing tool promoting the U.S. Army, consequently increasing the number of recruits.

3. Nike

Nike launched a campaign called NikeFuel, part of its vast Nike+ community. In NikeFuel, users compete against each other in terms of their daily amount of physical activity. An app on their smartphone notes all activities performed by users and converts them into points.

After reaching a certain level, NikeFuel unlocks special trophies and rewards. Nike’s customers are then motivated to not only continue being active, but to share their results on social media and increase the brand’s visibility.

Nike made sure that its customers are engaged and driven enough to repeat tasks. The campaign also encouraged specific behaviors, such as sharing app results on social media.

4. Starbucks

Starbucks is known for its care when it comes to customer and employee loyalty and engagement. My Starbucks Rewards uses gamification to transform a traditional card loyalty program into something much more complex.

After registering, customers gain stars with every purchase, which can later be exchanged for free drinks and food. The game has levels that can be reached by visiting a Starbucks store. It’s simple and includes material rewards: a perfect marketing tool!

5. Heineken

An example of a brilliantly executed social media campaign with a smart use of gamification techniques is Heineken’s “Crack the U.S. Open” contest on Instagram.

What Heineken did was basically put together more than 200 photos and create a horizontal mosaic of tennis fans sitting at the stands. Instead of organizing a simple giveaway contest, the company let users sign up to win exclusive tickets only after completing a photo hunt.

The photo hunt attracted over 1,500 people during the first three days of the campaign. Over the course of the contest, Heineken noted a 20% increase in its total number of followers. Heineken engaged its audience and enjoyed an increased awareness of it role as a sponsor of the U.S. Open.

 6. Domino’s

Domino’s recently launched an ordering app that uses gamified marketing techniques. The app has been released in many countries and has drawn the attention of customers and marketers alike.

The game is deceptively simple. Using the app to place their orders, consumers take on the role of pizza makers, adding their favorite toppings and placing them in the oven for baking.

This app connects to the nearest Domino’s location, which promptly delivers the customer’s pizza to their doorstep. The app is intuitive and fun—as a result, Domino’s increased its sales and engaged its target audience.

7. Coca-Cola

Coca-Cola is a recognized investor in state-of-the-art marketing strategies, and “Shake It” was no exception. In Hong Kong, the brand offered teenagers a free app for their phones.

During a television spot that ran in the evening, those who downloaded the app were asked to shake their phones to win prizes from Coca-Cola and partners such as McDonald’s. The app proved to be a fine combination of old media, mobile technologies, and gamification, allowing a younger audience to interact with the brand.

Gamification in business is not only a trend—it’s a tradition. In 1987, McDonald’s started things off by incorporating Monopoly-inspired marketing techniques. Sure, gamification can help a brand skyrocket on social media, but most importantly, it boosts a company’s bottom line.

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