The versatility of gamification

Casey Campbell, Managing Director, North America at Gameloft for brands, looks at the many different ways in which brands can deploy gamification mechanics to good effect.

Gamification is widely recognised as an effective marketing tactic. Humans are hard-wired to enjoy playing games, and brands that can build an element of gamification into their customer engagement will reap the rewards. Gamification takes many different forms, and it can be hard to know where to start, or what might be right for your brand. In this piece we’ll outline different gamification mechanics available to brands, explaining what they are and how they work, with examples.

Category 1 – Playable Creative
The first category is Playable Creative, for maximum audience engagement with a brand message. Within this category there are several different options, some of which I’ll highlight below.

Interactive Video 
This unique video ad unit offers on-screen prompts to enable the audience to interact with the video. The prompt can take the form of a quick-reaction challenge, asking the user to quickly tap or swipe according to on-screen arrows before time runs out in order to advance the video.

Interactive videos can also provide branching paths, where the user decides which direction the video will take. The video pauses and the audience is offered a choice – their choice will affect how the narrative plays out for the remainder of the video.

Gameloft has created a number of these units for Lego’s Lego Technic and Lego City brands, to ensure that their audience was actively focused, engaged and entertained while watching a rewarded video ad. The interactive videos conclude with an end card and call to action, along with a ‘Replay’ button.

Not only did these interactive units see extremely high engagement and completed engagement rates, with up to 96 per cent Complete View rates, they also saw users replay the videos in order to improve their reaction time or to explore the story choice they didn’t pick the first time around.

Gamified AR Filters
Gamified AR filters are a great way for advertiser campaigns to stand out from the competition, and will boost not only engagements, but also completions. They are also an excellent way to provide influencer campaigns with a centerpiece of branded content – the influencer can play the gamified filter, and share it with their audience.

Gameloft has seen great success with gamified AR filters for Pucelle, and for Lego Legacy: Heroes Unboxed game. In the Pucelle campaign users controlled the actions of the character in a running game by tilting their head, while in the Lego campaign, YouTuber Unspeakable (Nathan Johnson Graham), used a selfie video overlayed with an AR filter to invite users to beat his high score in the game.

Gasoline company RaceTrac generated 103,000 impressions for a gamified AR filter it created to target baseball fans on Instagram. With fans unable to attend games due to the COVID pandemic, RaceTrac deployed the filter to engage with fans with a racing game featuring its mascot, The Freeze.

Cosmetics brand Sephora also saw great engagement with a gamified AR filter it created to promote products during Ramadan, with the mechanic delivering 5 per cent of total sales on the Sephora website during the festival.

Gamified Surveys
First-party consumer data is invaluable, but the methods of collecting it are challenging, particularly on mobile.  Here the user is dealing with a small screen, touch controls, and is potentially on the move with not much time to spare. These are all serious disincentives to completing traditional surveys, making data collection a poor experience for the user and costly for the party trying to collect it.

Gameloft’s solution is to gamify the survey, adding humour, animation, and visual interest to a task that’s typically boring. This results in very high survey completion rates compared to traditional surveys, and a more positive brand association for the brand collecting the data.

A campaign Gameloft ran for the French media regulator, CSA, used a fun, interactive, animated survey mechanic to ask people what type of programs they liked to watch, and what type they would be prepared to pay for. Almost one in three viewers who were presented with the survey engaged with it, a fantastic response rate.

Branded Minigames/Playable Ads
These have traditionally been associated with driving mobile game downloads, but they are also getting a lot of momentum with non-gaming verticals including CPG, entertainment properties and streaming, and quick service/fast food restaurants.
They are a fun, impactful way to engage an audience and get them to interact with your brand. It’s much more meaningful, compelling and effective to offer interactive content that’s consumed with focus and concentration, rather than content that is consumed more passively. They engage multiple senses – sight, hearing and touch – making it a memorable medium for storytelling that can run across all digital platforms, including mobile, web, social, and digital out-of-home.

Branded minigames and playable ads also leverage the massive impact gaming has had on pop culture, with the majority of people now playing and enjoying games in some form on a weekly, if not daily, basis.

In  its Playable Ads for Brands playbook, the IAB highlights five factors that make playable ads so appealing, noting that they are: interactive and fun; frictionless and ephemeral; opt-in; performant; and content-rich.

And in a 2018 study commissioned by Fyber and conducted by Sapio Research, playable ads were voted the most effective in-app ad format, with 28 per cent of the agency professionals polled choosing them over interactive ads (23 per cent); rewarded videos (22 per cent); riche media ads (20 per cent); native ads (4 per cent); and meta ads (3 per cent).

Category 2 – Native Integration into a Gaming Environment
Integrating gamification natively into a gaming environment enables brands to connect with a gamer audience where they play and socialize. Again, within this category, there are several options… 

Sponsored In-game Assets
Brands are now exposing gaming audiences to their products by inserting those products natively into the gaming experience. Brands including Valentino and NFL’s Detroit Lions are among those who have created in-game assets for the game Animal Crossing: New Horizons, tapping into a zeitgeisty game and conducted entirely free by using in-game tools to create their own branded content, available to all players.

Our advice here is, don’t try too hard to sell, but instead, focus on adding to the gaming experience and capitalizing on the exposure and goodwill of the audience. In our experience, creating a need or desire for the virtual product usually translates to an attraction to the product in real life.

Brands can generate good will and awareness within game experiences by sponsoring a booster or power-up within a game in order to help a player perform better and give them an advantage. These power-ups would typically cost real or in-game currency, but when provided by a brand for free, that brand can enjoy a positive association for improving the player’s gaming experience. 

This is exactly what Gameloft has done working with Michelin to provide a performance booster for players of the Asphalt 9 racing game for free, sponsored by Michelin.

In-game integration
Brands can insert their IP into gaming environments, so that the gamer is interacting with it or even playing as a brand’s property.

A good example of such an integration is a campaign we ran with the band, Fall Out Boy, to promote the release of a new album, Mania. Working with the band’s record label, Universal Music Enterprises, we produced car skins, music integration, and a brand new story mode for Asphalt 8: Airborne, that aligns with the experiences of the players. The music integration saw three tracks from the album added to the game’s soundtrack, while the story mode enabled players to take on tasks for the band members with the goal of becoming their most trusted driver, and also, to race for the band at the FOB World Tour.

Elsewhere, quick service restaurant KFC opened its own digital restaurant within Animal Crossing for an unofficial crossover, while last November, Fortnite developer Epic Games teamed up with Disney to offer Fortnite players a free two-month subscription to Disney Plus if they bought virtual items in the game. Disney property Tron has also featured in Fortnite, with themed outfits and accessories.

Games as Event Platforms
More so than ever during the pandemic lockdowns, players have turned to multiplayer games as social platforms where they can relax and interact with friends, at a time when socializing in real life is not possible. Brands can now sponsor performances that take place within these games, reaching an audience that is there to relax, socialize, and enjoy new virtual platforms for entertainment.

Last April, rapper Travis Scott gave a spectacular virtual concert within Fortnite, with his virtual avatar sporting Nike gear for the occasion. Scott was following in the footsteps of electronic music producer and DJ, Marshmello, who made his Fortnite gig debut back in February 2019. Other artists to have gone down the same route, staging gigs in virtual environments, include Massive Attack, Pussy Riot and PartyNextDoor.

Category 3 – Gamification of Non-gaming processes
By gamifying non-gaming processes, brands can engage with consumers in a fun, memorable way, and encourage desired behaviours in people.

A great edutinment example is our work with Ferrero to create branded content that can enrich the lives of players, in this case kids and families, in a brand-safe way. It’s an app called Applaydu, created for Ferrero’s Kinder chocolate brand, which is very popular with children. We worked with the University of Oxfords Department of Education to create the app, which brings Kinder’s toys to life through augmented reality (AR).

The app is aimed at children aged four to nine years old and is designed to encourage bonding between parents and their children through games, interactive stories, activities, and more. It does not include ads or in-app purchase options, and has additional parental control features to ensure the app is safe.

Here’s what Emiliano Laricchiuta, Global Head of Kinder Products with Surprise, says about Applaydu: “By sparking the imagination of children, and uniting adults and children in play and enjoyment, we believe that Applaydu can play an important role in helping ensure that a happy child today will be a better adult tomorrow.”  

And a Teacher’s Review on the Educational App Store had this to say about the app: “This is not a small app. It is filled with content that covers a range of activity types. These are not just variations on a theme, either, but provide distinct play and learning experiences…In the AR part of Applaydu, children use their devices as a portal into a space where the apps animated characters can engage with the real world. While still in its infancy, this technology still has an element of magic around it. Children, and adults too, find the way these fantastical elements appear in the physical world to be fascinating. It is simplicity itself to make this work so dont feel your child might struggle with it – if they can use the devices camera, they will be fine.”

The app has also earned an average 4.5 out of 5 review rating on the reviews site,

In the healthcare sector gamification can be used to educate people and make complex concepts easier to understand. Take diabetes, for example. There are three apps or sites that we know of that have been created to help people better engage with and understand diabetes.

HealthSeeker, which was around from 2010 until 2014, was the first social game for patients with diabetes. It encouraged users to select missions that would help them achieve health goals, such as losing weight or eating more healthily. Over the course of those four years, the app saw more than 3,700 completed missions and more than 42,000 healthy actions taken.

Launched in 2015 by AstraZeneca’s, the Fit2Me site offers diabetes patients a personal healthy lifestyle coach who can help them with their food choices and physical activities. Finally, COPEDS Black-Belt is a resource currently being developed Jennifer Dyer, MD, MPH, of the Central Ohio Pediatric Endocrinology and Diabetes Services (COPEDS). It will encourage users to progress to  black-belt status by testing SMBG (Self-monitored Blood Glucose) levels four times per day or by administering fast-acting insulin at meals at least three times each day. It will also enable physicians and carers to track patients’ progress.

Customer Loyalty and Rewards Programs
Gamification is a great way to bring a customer loyalty program to life in a fun and interactive way. Starbucks is a famously successful example, with its program that rewards loyal customers with, naturally, Stars. Earning 150 Stars gets you a free drink, while 450 Stars gets you to Gold Level status where you get extra shots of espresso, dairy alternatives, selected syrups and whipped cream, all on the house. NBC and Nike are two other brands that have found success in gamifying their loyalty programs.

Virtual Events Gamification
The last 12 months have all been about virtual events, and while it’s impossible to recreate the atmosphere and buzz of an in-person event, gamification can get a virtual event much closer to the real thing.

You can offer rewards to incentivize attendees to interact with the event sponsors, or share their experiences of the event on social media. Create a public leaderboard, where an attendee’s rank increases, the more he or she engages with the event. They can then use a high ranking to prove to their colleagues that the time at the event was time well spent.

Hopefully now you can see that gamification is not a one-tricky pony. It comes in many forms, and can meet many brand objectives. To find out more about how to put gamification to work for your company,