Gamification: Does it belong in the business world?

Okay, I admit it. I was a video game child. My father is a very tech-savvy kind of guy so I grew up playing computer games, Nintendo, Game boy, you name it. I still pick up a handheld game or download a game application on my phone now and then. Video games are a great way to kill boredom and have some fun; but did you know they can be used for business? For educating yourself? It’s time to turn on your smart phone or Nintendo 3DS because today, we’re looking into gamification.

My schnauzer says it's game time!

It’s game time!

Gamification totally sounds like a made-up word, but it is a real concept that has picked up speed due to technological innovations and strategic planning in the world of business and communications. Essentially, gamification is the idea of integrating game-like elements (such as winning points, unlocking new levels, etc) to tasks that are not game-oriented. The main goal of gamification is to help engage the audience with a brand. I’ll go over some examples, but this website has a more in-depth definition of the concept that may help you.

One of the most common tasks to apply gamification to is school. Assignments and homework generally are not all that fun. Kids often learn at a young age to procrastinate and by the time we reach college, self-motivation to do homework or study is sometimes nonexistent. I remember a website I discovered in elementary school that has online games to help learn academic concepts. Some of you may know it. It’s called Funbrain. The idea behind this website is the games you play on the site help you learn basic academic concepts like math or vocabulary. Obviously, college students would not use this particular tool but it is a clear example of applying gaming to real-world tasks.

I have quite a few stars left until my next reward

I have a few stars left until my next reward

Another not so obvious example of gamification is the Starbucks app. I’ll use any excuse I can get to talk about Starbucks, but this is the real deal. Starbucks has a member rewards program where you register a gift card to the application. When you pay with the gift card, you earn stars that fill up the cup in the application. After earning so many stars, you can receive discounts,free drinks, things like that. The only gamification element of this is the earning rewards. However, it is engaging people with the Starbucks brand and making money for the company.As if Starbucks needs help making money. Although, their recent #racetogether scandal may have cost them some loyal customers.

I think the idea of gamification is cool. Really cool. However, I do see downsides. If you use an application that is too game-oriented and not enough task-oriented, is your audience going to remember the brand or the game? Can you have a clear call to action with this kind of tactic? Maybe, maybe not. Targeting a specific audience is really important here. What about people who aren’t into gaming or earning reward type media? This tactic is likely ineffective for that demographic, as well as people who are not plugged into social media.

Check out these links for more information and perspectives on gamification!

Until next time, on PR Talk.

P.S. Yes, that is one of my dogs. He is a miniature schnauzer named Binkley, very sweet, and a total spaz.


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