Community is a powerful force, speaking to something fundamental about us as human beings. We like to belong. And we like to feel we belong to something with other people who are like us. It is within the places and groups that we choose to belong to that we strengthen our sense of who we are – and that is something that makes us feel really, really good.
As marketers, helping our customers to feel good is what we could call ‘the marketing love-train’. If customers associate your brand with a sense of belonging and feel-good-ness, you’re definitely kicking some marketing ass.
It’s also the approach that many video games use to foster community and loyalty, and can be applied equally to brands. Building community is one of gamification’s strengths.
Harnessing our core human motivations
At its fundamental level, gamification appeals to core human motivation such as the need to:
– belong (a very human core motivator around belonging and social connection)
– connect with a sense of meaning (connect to the brand values which they resonate with)
– connect with ways to express autonomy (from brand advocacy/championing within social media, to wearing brand clothes, to “user generated content” in a digital environment like Pinterest)
– experience mastery (to feel like a brand expert and perhaps to ‘level up’ in digital entertainment)
If a marketing campaign is able to meet these core human needs or motivations, then increased brand engagement will follow.
Most traditional marketing projects have a hard time including any of these appeals. However, gamification provides real ways to build these key human motivators into a brand campaign to give you the kind of customer engagement you’ve only dreamed about.
Building a brand community
When people are more engaged with your brand and given the tools to socialise it, the result is a brand community (with all the appropriate marketing benefits like increased loyalty, referrals and sales).
In a recent article Consumer engagement in a virtual brand community: An exploratory analysis, Roderick Brodie (et al) from the Auckland Business School explored the nature and scope of consumer engagement in an online brand community. It was found that engaged consumers exhibit enhanced consumer loyalty, satisfaction, empowerment, connection, emotional bonding, trust and commitment. It’s not so hard to extrapolate those into the kinds of consumer behaviours that make marketers feel very happy on the inside too.
Gamification tools like challenges, collecting badges and sharing experiences give that community something to talk about and interact over.
Here are some examples of how:
Getting to know you
Human beings are relational beings, and as online marketers the more we embrace this the better! If you can provide a rewarding and entertaining experience you’ll increase the ways in which your customers can be ‘in relationship’ with your product, service or brand. This works to increase brand affinity. When you’ve got customers commenting, sharing links and making repeat visits to your site, you’ve also got more chances for positive changes in consumer behavior.
Creating multiple ways to interact with the brand
Relationship can’t happen in a vacuum. You need to spend time together, have fun together, find the stuff you enjoy doing together. In order to create a closer relationship, you need your customers to spend time with your brand. Gamification provides marketers with effective tools to set up action-reward dynamics for specific kinds of engagements – for example a Gamified Facebook app which has as its goaldriving traffic to your website.
Fuelling word of mouth
Once you have a relationship, what will you talk about? Gamification can create more topics of conversation, or ‘social currency’, than just your product or brand. Importantly, an interesting game dynamic lets cusomters share stories about themselves and what their interaction said about them – comments which are more likely to be shared than product stories.
With online tools, it’s easy to track and measure who’s sharing and where new arrivals to the site are coming from.
Hacking intrinsic motivations
Gamification provides marketers with potent tools which enable them to “hack” into the intrinsic motivations of their customers. These tools enable us to find ways to align the actions of customers with our brand values; so that they can translate these into meaningful ‘brand actions’ such as brand advocacy, and a whole raft of others consumer actions which will positively impact on your brand.
People want to belong. A sense of belonging and engagement creates loyalty. The behaviours exhibited by engaged and loyal customers very often translate into sales.
This, we want.
This post originally appeared on Gamedojo – Levelling up the New Zealand game industry.