Play The Game

Written by Manish Agarwal | Updated: Jan 3 2013, 21:17pm hrs
Advergaming and gamification are helping brands reach tech-savvy, young customers in a non-intrusive way and even motivating the end user to adopt new behavioural patterns, creating ample buzz in the bargain

A leading fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) company wanted to engage consumers in its new product offering. To create awareness about the product and to drive sales, the brand created a social media campaign and launched a game. And if you are wondering why a brand needs a game, then look at Microsoft Ribbon Hero 2. Its a training game to learn how to use all Microsoft Office products.

A brands effectiveness is judged by the number of loyalists it has. To ensure loyal consumers, a brand conceives strategies that will strike a connection with the consumers. Today, brands are focusing much on retention of customers rather than acquisition, and there are fewer tools available for retention, the usual ones being email, contests and campaigns. At the same time, there are nearly 50 million casual personal computer and mobile gamers in India. Therefore, brands can leverage the popularity of their products on these highly active, tech savvy, new age consumers. Brands that incorporate concepts such as advergaming in their strategy can reach their end users in a non-intrusive way where the end-user gets the brands message in a fun and interesting way.

One brand that has leveraged its popularity on the concept of advergaming is PepsiCo. They created a complete digital package which included a mobile game and live screening via Facebook to drive Pepsis Change the Game campaign. The game, just like the Pepsi ad campaign, is an amalgamation of soccer and cricket. The game was based on augmented reality where in the user can actually kick the ball towards a player, the game increased user engagement and created ample amount of buzz for the campaign.

Just like advergaming, gamification is also used by brands to engage and interact with their consumers. Zapak created a Gaming Olympiad for Hero Moto Corp during the Olympics this year, which was a virtual gaming experience of London Olympics 2012. Social media platforms such as like Facebook and Twitter were used to engage gamers by feeding live updates and making exclusive content accessible to them.

When you talk about gamification, it is not just a mere loyalty programme; it is a strategy that works across platforms (web, social, mobile), processes and devices. In recent years, there has been growth of integrating game designs and mechanics in non-traditional industries. This is due to the growth of mobile usage as well increase in consumer adoption of social media. If you look at Twitter, it enables translation of the entire Twitter platform in various regional languages via crowdsourcing from its users without any major investments.

Gamification as a strategy digs deep to create something that fosters change and sustains user behaviours. Whether its about the tour of a website, intranet usage, contest, TV campaign digital extension, or a tutorial on how to use net banking, brands on the digital medium too need to get people to learn new behaviour. Thats what gamification does. It uses the dynamics and mechanics of psychology that make games so addicting, so sticky, so engaging. Its a known social behaviour that everybody wants to feel like theyre progressing. The goal of gamification is to make people do want the brand wants but structure it in such a way that the consumer wants to do it.

Gamification can also make intimidating processes fun, which could help boost sales. Adobe needed a way to encourage trial users to become paid licensees of Photoshop. However, sometimes anxiety over learning how to use the software can get in the way. Hence Level Up for Adobe Photoshop was created. The game trained users on how to use Photoshop by doing, and not just reading the manual or watching tutorial content. As a player completes a task and learns how to master object removal, her score goes up. The game sent users on missions like remove red eye or touch up this photo, and players were able to earn points, rewards, and the chance to win Adobe Creative Suite 5.5 Master Collection software.

Rewards can be used to motivate a user to behave in a particular way or do a certain deed. Talking about rewards, financial rewards definitely work, but theyre not the only way to motivate participants. Offering points, status, rewards, voting power, and early access are all viable ways to motivate participants. Rewards may be about access, which can be as simple as exclusive preview to new release, crowdsourcing ideas from users, gaining entry to a secret contest, even priority support access. Or they could come in the form of engagement, inviting customers to be a part of our test phase or name our product, which would allow the winner to bask in the glow of having his idea selected from thousands.

Bragging rights can also be a pleasant motivator, especially when social media or a group environment is involved. The more social an experience becomes, the more valuable things such as lead access and reputation are.

As with any technology implementation, organisations must clearly define a need for gamification. In the case of SAP Labs, social games have been a driver within its developer and user network community. Participants win points and level up when they contribute content to blogs and forums.

This strategy leads to the addition of another P in marketing Power. Gamification is about creating meaningful personal goals for users, employees, customers and compliment it with an interactive game, feedback and rewards.

Strategies such as advergaming and gamification are hugely popular in the gaming industry. While the gamification industry is already a $250 million market, the advergaming industry is pegged at $25 million in India across PC and mobile. Although it is not that massive right now, it has the potential to reach $70 million in the next two years.

The writer is CEO, Reliance Entertainment Digital