In past articles we tackled analysis of gamification as a tool for arts organizations as well as some methodology about how to design a game or game elements. This post will relate to how gamification can be used as a tool for marketing efforts. Gamification can be message, channel, and even marketing education. A game can be a marketing channel of its own for your organization or it can reside within a number of other channels. As a marketing tool gamification is usually best tasked at enticing a specific market segment to engage in a free portion of your programming or educational efforts.
As barriers to participation abound, free, at least initially, is essential. The free doesn’t necessarily have to last forever and there are plentiful articles about the freemium model, its merits and faults for you to consider. Free is important because there are many, many other games out there that compete for discretionary time, although these games aren’t necessarily in competition with your game. For example, a geocacher, may or may not be interested in other types of games but is probably interested in other scavenger hunts. Similar to all other segmentation, games have their market segments and it is uncommon for market segments to blur.
As part of moving into engaging audiences, test or otherwise, you will need to design the instructions for how to play the game. As with the game, you will need to test the instructions for clarity and user-friendliness. If you find the instructions getting too long (over a page at the longest) consider breaking them up into smaller portions and feeding them to the audience incrementally. For live action games you will need to test out your instructions by reading them aloud to a group to check for clarity.
To start using gamification as marketing you will need to plan. Begin in advance of your regular marketing cycle and work out the game before you include it in your marketing plan for the year or target period of time. Given that whatever game you create will be an experimental effort within a larger marketing campaign it should be apportioned resources as befits any experimental effort: aka don’t stop doing what works in favor of using a gamification idea, rather use the gamification idea to engage with segments that are 1) likely to engage with games (have been proven to like the type of game and the format you are exploring), 2) are at least somewhat likely to engage with your project/program/organization and 3) that you have a way of reaching effectively.
In order to effectively market in a gamification project you will have to choose your mechanics wisely. The goal, under a large umbrella, is to sell your art: performance, education, or visual art. In past posts mechanics have been covered briefly but to see a larger overview of mechanics check out the SCVNGR list of 47 game mechanics. Each of the mechanics discussed in the article have a purpose and some work better for marketing (a shell game, viral game mechanics, leaderboards, countdowns, and disincentives) than others (endless game play).
Don’t forget to set goals. You have to realistically predict measurable effects to your efforts, just like with all things marketing. This is best done after you have tested the game on a sample group or two. What do you want the audience for your game to walk away with? Do you want the game to just familiarize a new market segment with your organization, aka inform them? Do you want the game to inspire them to buy tickets to your shows in the future or admissions to your museum? Whatever the goal of the gamification project, make sure it fits into the big picture: your marketing plan.
Some ideas around goal setting:
1) Measure income vs expenditure for the project but bear in mind that since the idea isn't to make money, at least immediately, try not to go crazy on the rewards side of things (limit expenditure)- rewards often times work best when they are unexpected (aside from the ultimate goal reward of course)
2) Look into measuring attitude and perception, pre-game and post-game, either through quick polling or through self assessment
3) Re-engagement should be a major part of your goals: getting the people who played the game to re-engage with your organization, and not just for the purpose of playing a game
It is worth reminding would be project managers at this point in time that the number one objective of any game project should be the fun of the participants. This should be a higher priority than any of the others. It would defeat the purpose and create more work for your campaign to surmount, ultimately fun gets a lower priority and you end up turning your participants off.
Oddly, in order for the project to be effective and boost your marketing efforts, you will need to market and promote the game. Once that you have your market segment and delivery method worked out, your game designed, and your goals settled on, you then need to move into implementation territory.
Like with any marketing efforts you need to have the infrastructure to manage both the product, the gamification project, and the potential response. Make sure that you have things in place so that the participants of the game can then start engaging in the appropriate product that you are using the game to promote. Also make sure you have the resources to make the game go smoothly without adversely impacting your organization's primary activities.