Editor's Desk - January/February 2013

Wow, It Really Works

Over this past weekend, winter finally seemed to shuffle its way through the doors of the new year. Not that it finally snowed around here. (We should be so lucky! My poor skis are going on two years of dust collection.) No, it looks like we'll have to make do, for the time being, with freezing rain.

Still, one of the great benefits of a little early January wintry weather is that it gives you some time to play with all the new goodies you got over the holidays. (Unless you got a boat. Or waterskis. Or a new hat to wear in the garden. Then you're just going to have to wait or book your flight out of town.)

In our house, Santa was good to my 6-year-old girl. Among other goodies, he brought a Nintendo Wii. Then grandma made it a gift for the grownups by adding a Wii Fit to the mix. And let me tell you something. Working out with a naggingly sweet little computer voice? It's terribly addictive.

Why am I telling you about our favorite Christmas present? Well, because it gave me some perspective on a hot topic in incentives, motivation and engagement that I just didn't have before.

I'm talking, of course, about gamification, which is, according to this month's feature on the topic, "the use of game mechanics to drive game-like engagement, action and behavior adoption." And, as Brad Callahan of Marketing Innovators says, "In simple terms, gamification works because people love to play games to win, achieve, discover and interact."

I've never been a big gamer, but let me tell you something. When it comes to motivation? Giving you that little boost to keep at it? Wow. Gamification really seems to work.

For me, at any rate, the prospect of beating the high score my husband set earlier in the day in Rhythm Boxing or Push-ups or what-have-you is super motivating. And when I unlocked the Advanced level in the Kung Fu game, I think I might have done a little victory dance. (Thank goodness the video only works in one direction, eh?) The non-gamified elements of working out with Wii Fit—my daughter cheering me on or, more often, shouting, "Faster, Mom! Faster!"—only boost the motivation that much more.

The prospect of getting a reward—even something as small as a "You Go Girl!" or the chance to try a different biking route or sequence of Kung Fu moves next time—is pretty powerful motivation. And the gamification of exercise? Well, let's just say this is the first time since I blew out my spine that I've been eager to push myself beyond a brisk hike.

Gamification isn't the only tool in your toolbox to motivate and engage your audience of employees, customers or partners, of course. You also need to take it one step further to offer meaningful and powerful rewards. Beating the game is motivating, but only for so long. Badges, unlocked levels, e-recognition and so on is effective, but I'm willing to bet that when you combine these technological tools with some meaningful, brand-name merchandise rewards, you're going to boost engagement even further.

This month, we offer you a deeper look at gamification, in a feature story that begins here. But we also cover some of the most innovative and powerful merchandise rewards you can find, from the still very hot home goods to tried-and-true classics like watches and clocks and the up-and-coming digital download market.

And, of course, we don't stop there. We also offer you the latest news, innovative products, a look at how the "new normal" of the economy is affecting incentives, gift cards and more.

Go ahead. Turn the page and unlock the next level of motivation for yourself and your team. If you need me, I'll be on the Wii skis, working on boosting my score.


Emily Tipping
Editorial Director,