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Gamification Marketing: When Playing Games is a Good Thing

Last Updated April 26, 2021

Girls just wanna have fun

Cyndi Lauper only had it half right—everyone just wants to have fun, and that’s because we’re naturally wired for play.

Studies show that play improves brain functionality, stimulates creativity, relieves stress, and triggers the release of the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. It’s probably why 80% of U.S. households own a gaming device. 

Games trigger our competitive drive, appeal to our sense of achievement, and generally make everything more fun. So why wouldn’t they deserve a slice of the pie in your marketing plan? 

Gamification Marketing Rules

Gamification marketing is the practice of utilizing game design elements such as badges, points, levels, and progress bars in non-game contexts to promote interaction, increase engagement, and motivate customers to perform a desired action.

Companies have employed the strategy of gamification marketing for decades. Think of McDonald’s peel-off Monopoly game stickers or the incomplete ring on your Apple watch nudging you to take a few more steps before bed. (Don't judge my lifestyle, Apple!)

Gamification is used to encourage interaction, influence behavior, and boost interest in everything from health and fitness, to education and employee engagement in the workplace. When Spotify and Living Social replaced their annual reviews with a mobile, gamified solution, more than 90% of employees participated voluntarily. 

Here are a few of the ways you can use gamification marketing to create a more memorable experience for your customers. 


Badges are a great way to reward loyalty and encourage activities that create value for your business.


When Samsung enlisted the help of gamification software company Badgeville, their goal was to increase the number of product reviews users posted on its website. Together they launched Samsung Nation, a loyalty program that encouraged users to write reviews and watch videos in order to earn badges. The partnership produced a 500% increase in customer product reviews and a 66% increase in site visits. (Is there a badge for killer marketing?)

Make it Social

Verizon Wireless teamed up with gamification expert Gigya to gamify its online community hub, Verizon Insider. Gigya’s software allows users to connect to their social accounts during the login process, enabling them to interact, comment, and share content on Verizon Insider using their social identities. 

Verizon implemented badges to incentivize behaviors that brought back referral traffic to the site, like commenting or sharing articles. The result? More than half of the site’s users participated in the new gamified environment.

Those who logged in via social media spent an average of 30% more time on the site and generated 15% more page views. 


Contests are a great way to trigger your customers’ competitive spirit and answer the question for the ages—what’s in it for me?

When Volkswagen decided to crowdsource ideas for its product line through its People’s Car Project, they created a dedicated website that let users design their own dream Volkswagen. Turns out there were a lot of car designers in the making, just waiting for their shot. More than 33 million people visited the site and 119,000 ideas were submitted. 


Why not recognize your customers for being loyal to your brand? Loyalty programs reward customers for purchases with points that can be used for future discounts and product purchases.

Perhaps no one does this better than Starbucks. Their well-known “My Starbucks Rewards” program has a staggering 16 million active members and counting. The more a customer spends, the more they save on future purchases, effectively turning the straight line of the customer journey into a loop. 

Gamification marketing works, but is it here to stay?

By 2025, 75% of the global workforce will be made up of millennials who cut their teeth on computers and video games, so the answer is likely yes. As always, carefully consider your audience and outline your goals before jumping in, but chances are you have a lot to gain by adding gamification marketing to your strategy. 

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