Engagement with a brand is critical to its success in the marketplace. As described in a recent quarterly technology forecast from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), applying game-based design -- or gamification -- to mainstream business can help create the levels of passion and engagement necessary for a brand to stand out among its competitors and remain in the front of consumers’ minds.

Driving, Not Creating Motivation

One of the most interesting elements of PwC’s gamification strategy is the use of game-based design elements in customer experience to drive them to find their own motivation, rather than to create specific motivation for them.

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Typically, brand marketers focus on extrinsic motivation, or telling customers what their goals should be. But gamification allows customers to develop their own goals and motivations through game play, which may include experiences that do not directly benefit the brand, such as social interaction with other consumers, to ultimately create a more powerful positive image and drive more meaningful long-term customer behaviors.

Boosting Participation

Another important aspect of PwC’s gamification strategy is that it is designed to expand upon normal consumer behaviors, rather than create new behaviors. The report quotes social business consultant Sean O’Driscoll as saying there are five community motivators that are most effective at boosting consumer participation with a brand:

  1. Specialized knowledge: Giving customers specialized or privileged information and/or capabilities creates a feeling of being an “insider” and the intrinsic reward of mastery.
  2. Identity: Rewards such as badges for certain levels of achievement allow consumers to publicly highlight their accomplishments and status.
  3. Involvement: Directly interacting with top users promotes further engagement through the intrinsic reward of purpose.
  4. Belonging: Users should feel connected to each other and the brand community.
  5. Trust: The customer experience and associated game mechanics should be of high quality and completely secure to build crucial trust in your brand.


System Integration Possibilities

There are a wide number of ways businesses can integrate gaming technologies into their existing IT environments. PwC identifies four general system integration categories:

Learning Opportunities

  1. Visual Experience: Configurable components known as widgets can deliver visual gaming effects such as leaderboard and activity streams into the existing customer experience with relatively minor integration.
  2. Social Environment: These solutions integrate with existing user social profiles to maintain and display game achievements, progress and rewards.
  3. API-level Integration: Some gamification vendors offer platforms that directly integrate game mechanics into enterprise applications.
  4. Standalone Solution: Standalone gamification solutions require no integration with other parts of the enterprise and are usually specific to an industry or set of needs.

In addition, PwC recommends any gamification solution to deliver the following capabilities to the enterprise:

  • Feedback: User feedback is critical to ensuring a game is properly offering intrinsic motivation and increasing brand engagement. Feedback mechanisms should include visual, social and psychological.
  • Analytics: Feedback mechanisms need to be connected to “Big Data” analytics sources, which are often the databases supporting the gamification system.
  • Business Intelligence:  A stream of near-real-time data on user behavior allows constant monitoring and tweaking (if necessary) of the game environment and overall customer experience.
  • Management/Administration Tools: These tools allow performance targets and other parameters to be adjusted as needed.
  • Ready Integration: There should be a set of lightweight technology components that allows ready integration of gamification features into enterprise applications (such as widgets).
  • APIs: A formal set of gamification APIs enables deeper integration of gamification with business processes.
  • Underlying Platform: The underlying gamification platform should include user experience, systems integration, a gamification engine, reporting system, administration tools, etc.


 Active Engagement Modeling

PwC recommends that companies ensure the human element of their gamification efforts is there through a methodology it calls Active Engagement Modeling (AEM). The AEM methodology is broken down into seven steps:

  1. Establishing a Goal and Purpose: Gamification must have a specific end goal and purpose or design will be vague and not provide significant benefits.
  2. Confirming Target Audience: Different types of consumers respond to different rewards and challenges. Customers of a company selling athletic equipment will want a different game experience than customers of a company selling cosmetics.
  3. Establishing Specific Targets: These could include sales conversions, positive product reviews, Facebook “likes,” etc.
  4. Thinking, Feeling, Learning: Good marketing analytics are essential to fully understand how a game’s target audience thinks, feels and learns.
  5. Overcoming Obstacles: Every organization will have its own set of internal obstacles (lack of the proper IT tools, cultural resistance, etc.) to overcome.
  6. Understanding and Establishing Incentives: Game incentives must be firmly established by the company and understood by the consumer.
  7. Benefits: Companies must carefully measure benefits to ensure gamification provides a maximum ROI.

As a final piece of advice, PwC urges companies engaging in gamification to assign a full-time engagement manager to ensure the gamification effort is successfully implemented and then stays on track and evolves to meet the changing needs of organizations and their customers.