Gamification… Marketing trend for 2012

The other day, I was searching online the different marketing trends for 2012.  I came across gamification.  This is not a concept that I was familiar with, so I was intrigued to learn more.  Once I started exploring online, I realized that I was in fact aware of gamification.

What is gamification?

I looked up gamification at and, both sites said that the word is not in the dictionary.  So, I had to rely on different websites to define the word.  One thing I can say for sure is that there is no cookie cutter definition for gamification.  Here are two definitions:

(1) Gamification typically involves applying game design thinking to non-game applications to make them more fun and engaging. Gamification has been called one of the most important trends in technology by several industry experts. Gamification can potentially be applied to any industry and almost anything to create fun and engaging experiences, converting users into players. (

(2) Gamification is the use of game design techniques and mechanics to solve problems and engage audiences. Typically gamification applies to non-game applications, particularly consumer-oriented web and mobile sites, in order to encourage people to adopt the applications. It also strives to encourage users to engage in desired behaviors in connection with the applications. Gamification works by making technology more engaging, and by encouraging desired behaviors, taking advantage of humans’ psychological predisposition to engage in gaming. The technique can encourage people to perform chores that they ordinarily consider boring, such as completing surveys, shopping, or reading web sites. (

If I had to summarize the above definitions into a few words, I would say that gamification is creating games to encourage a desired outcome or behavior.

History of games, a brief summary

To fully understand gamification, I wanted to explore the history of games to see how they have evolved overtime.  One thing that stood out is that games have been an integral part of human social interaction.  The following is a great chart that I came across showing a brief history of social games:


What are marketing examples of gamification?

Based on the first definition of gamification, applying game design thinking to non-game applications to make them more fun and engaging, it is easy to say that it is not a new concept.

An example of gamification that I am very familiar with are points programs for airlines and hotels – the more points earned, the more rewards.  These programs have made me loyal to certain airlines and hotel chains, as I like the reward of free flights and hotel rooms.  Fast food chains have used gamification to encourage consumption and repeat business – for example, McDonald’s every year has ‘Monopoly’ and Tim Horton’s has ‘Roll Up the Rim to Win.’

It appears that gamification, as the hot trend for 2012, is really looking at the second definition listed above applying gamification to non-game applications, particularly consumer-oriented web and mobile sites, in order to encourage people to adopt the applications.

Smartphones allow us to stay constantly connected to social networks.  Companies have taken advantage of this technology by using programs like Foursquare, a location-based social networking website for mobile devices.  For example, when I visit a coffee shop like Starbucks, I can use Foursquare to check in letting my social network and Starbucks know that I am at the location.  The benefits of checking in using Foursquare is that I can earn badges, points, deals and more.

With people spending more and more time online, gamification is being used to drive traffic and engage users on websites.


Recently, Pepsi has gamified the The X Factor, a television music competition, creating two websites Pepsi Pulse and Pepsi Sound Off social media platforms.



Pepsi Pulse shows tweets about The X Factor and organizes the tweets into categories.  This site makes it very easy to see what is trending and retweeted.  Pepsi Sound Off allows people to post comments, vote, win prizes and more while watching The X Factor show.  I turned on the television to The X Factor and logged onto the websites.  On Pepsi Pulse, it is actually amusing to see the tweets by category in real time.  On Pepsi Sound Off, there are different bottle caps that users receive based on different activities performed on the website.  For example, a thumbs up bottle cap is unlocked when a user gets their first fan.  I felt like I was watching the television program with friends who share a common interest.

In my opinion, gamification is not a simple concept for marketers.  It requires a lot of planning and market research for the execution, and then continual follow-up to ensure that predetermined goals are met.  As new technological innovations are unraveled, the scope of gamification as it applies to marketing will also evolve.

A couple links to learn more about gamification:


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