August 19, 2013

Gamification Makes a Splash in New York

Guest Post By Serge Lobatch

Not unlike the term “social media” in recent years, “gamification” is being tossed around in the marketing community as the next big thing in web and mobile. In some way nearly every application, brand and marketer now uses social media. So too will game mechanics be employed in the coming years.

Now, a new upcoming conference in New York in September will focus on this emerging trend of gamification – the process of using game thinking to solve problems and engage audiences. Designed to help marketers improve engagement and customer experience, the Enterprise Gamification Forum will feature speakers from Cisco, Prudential, Wall Street Journal and other top companies.

“Anyone who has ever lost an afternoon playing Temple Run or Farmville knows games are addictive and engaging,” says Cliff Medney, Chief Creative Strategist at Flightpath, who is conducting a workshop at the Enterprise Gamification Forum. “For consumer target audiences under 45 or so, the ‘language of games’ – game dynamics, interfaces and interactions – have been with them since childhood.”

Advergaming has been in the marketing toolkit for a while, and is a proven format to draw web traffic and engagement. Advergames serve double-duty: as media that consumers interact with for hours and as promotional vehicles that drive response and generate leads. It makes sense that marketers would capitalize on such a popular platform to build relationships. A recent Saatchi & Saatchi study shows that close to half all employees play game on their mobile phones every day.

The most obvious form of Gamification involves adding simple game mechanics like points, badges and leaderboards to websites and apps. But gamification is more a point of view than functionality overlay to add to one’s website. As consumers seek more reward and more engagement from experiences, long-standing marketing techniques are losing effectiveness. Brand communications need to be engaging enough so people will pay attention to them and stay focused on them for a longer period of time.

For example, North Carolina based Selleration recently launched a 3D game world targeting the sales profession, to help salespeople with key concepts and selling skills. The ‘Uptick’ program uses animated avatars to present key sales scenarios, integrating authentic scenario content in branching dialogue conversations with coaching reinforcement. The game-based experience is a fun cutting-edge format to help them improve their sales performance with confidence.

Gamification requires new thinking for brand marketers. In linear brand storytelling, consumers can only imagine the possibilities that surround the narrative; a story is a controlled experience in which events occur in the same order, and in the same way, each time you read (or watch, or listen to it). Gaming is not inherently a storytelling medium. Players navigate the possibilities by their choices and actions. We’re invited to create and interact with elaborately simulated worlds and story lines. Every player’s path is unique.

This approach requires that marketers think through the brand experience as a self-led journey. The brand elevator speech is giving way to the brand experience speech. What is changing with gamification is that the brand experience itself is being “gamified”.

“Games enable people to create their own world through play”, says Robin Riddle, Publisher at Wall Street Journal Custom Studios who is speaking at the Forum. “The gamers’ mindset – now ingrained and ubiquitous — is the true impact gamification will have on marketing culture.”

Gaming may well become the predominant art form of the 21st century, as film was of the 20th, as the novel was of the 19th. Top marketers are now exploring and embracing these new ways of delivering brand experiences.

The Enterprise Gamification Forum takes place September 23rd through 25th at the AMA Executive Conference Center in New York City. More information at www.egfnyc.com

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