Guest Column - January/February 2012

Gamification—What, Why and How?

By Carmen Nesenson

Gamification is changing the way brands are engaging with customers. It is a popular and relevant marketing strategy to use in today's marketplace. For cutting-edge companies, gamification is one of the most effective ways to engage customers.

Though not a new marketing technique, it is currently the hottest buzzword in the marketing world. Over the past year, gamification has quickly become one of the most talked about online trends in marketing. Google Trends shows just how rapidly it has grown, with online searches for gamification increasing dramatically since January 2011.


For those who are not familiar with this form of engagement, gamification takes the mechanics of games, particularly what makes them fun and appealing, and applies these mechanics to non-game applications to encourage users to engage in specific behaviors. It is a twist that takes a standard activity or promotion and turns it into a fun and engaging game, allowing individuals to interact more closely with a brand and drive sales.

The gamification technique has proven successful at getting people to perform behaviors that normally are considered boring, static or routine. Because of the level of fun that the games bring to these activities, the participants become more engaged in the activity and the marketers receive greater results. Gamification can increase call-to-action response rates for marketers trying to get consumers to take specific actions, such as reading an article, watching a video, participating in an online forum, commenting on a Web site, taking a survey, visiting a Web site repeatedly, opting-in to communications or giving out personal information. The use of a simple gamification technique in these calls-to-action can take the results from average to exceptional.


These statistics show the reason that gamification has jumped as a top Googled search term for marketers:

  • According to Gartner Inc., by 2015, more than 50 percent of organizations that manage innovation processes will gamify those processes. By 2014, a gamified service for consumer goods marketing and customer retention will become as important as Facebook, eBay or Amazon. Also, more than 70 percent of Global 2000 organizations will have at least one gamified application.
  • The Los Angeles Times points out that corporations spent $100 million on gamification in 2010, and the number is expected to rise to $2.8 billion by 2016.
  • Games are the second most frequent Internet activity for Americans after social networks—more popular than e-mail—with Americans spending an estimated 906 million hours per month on social networks, 407 million hours on games, and 329 million hours on e-mail, according to Nielsen.
  • The videogame industry is one of the fastest growing of all mediums and is expected to be an $80 billion industry by 2014. And it is not just men and kids—nowadays more than 50 percent of gamers are female and 30 percent of the gamer population is older than 45. There are 40 million active social gamers in the United States (they play at least one hour per week) and more than 200 million gamers on Facebook.