Using Gamification to Drive Brand Awareness

using gamification

With more brands embracing the power of content to build brand awareness, power social media, SEO initiatives and generate leads, it’s not surprising that there’s an abundance of content on the Web.

If you’re an information-seeker, it’s a fantastic scenario. But for brands, that means more innovation and creativity are required to stand out from the crowd.

Using Gamification Turns the Ordinary into Extraordinary

Savvy brands are turning to gamification to differentiate themselves from the competition, creating more engaging, interactive experiences that captivate users’ attention and create lasting impressions. Audiences have always been interested in engaging activities that offer valuable feedback. Quizzes like this customer service evaluation and this one have been around online for years – and in print magazines for much longer.

Gamification ups the ante with a higher level of interactivity, competition, rewards, and rich media. Happiest Minds (PDF) describes the process of gamification as:

“. . .introducing certain game-like constructs such as points and badges to non-game applications like websites and social applications to increase engagement and loyalty.”

Designing and Implementing Gamification is a Complex Process

But there’s a lot that goes into the gamification process, from conceptualizing an innovative idea and finding a unique and intuitive way to gamify the concept, followed by implementing those ideas in a user-friendly design. Getting into gamification for the sake of being in on the latest trend isn’t a good strategy. It’s actually pretty easy to miss the mark with gamification, and most brands wouldn’t want to throw that kind of budget at a project of that magnitude if it’s not going to produce results.

When done right, gamification can result in 100 to 150 percent increases in engagement metrics like page views, time spent on site, and other community activities. But Gartner estimates that as many as 80 percent of gamification initiatives won’t meet business objectives, mostly due to poor design.

How Does Using Gamification Drive Brand Awareness?

In order to address the winning tactics in creating successful gamification initiatives, it’s important to understand precisely how gamification can enhance brand awareness. This happens in a few different ways:

  • The employee motivation domino effect: Gamification is used as a team motivation strategy internally, by creating friendly competition among sales teams, implementing badge programs and leaderboards, and so on. Motivated employees have higher levels of job satisfaction, and happier employees are more likely to deliver great service. Great service fosters brand loyalty and awareness.
  • Happy customers will spread the word about brands they love in the form of word-of-mouth marketing, social media mentions, and online reviews. Any of these scenarios results in stronger brand awareness.
  • Built-in social sharing features encourage social recognition. A best practice, implementing social sharing functions within the gamification interface encourages users to share their achievements, scores, badges, and the like with their networks. The result? Enhanced brand awareness.
  • Built-in bragging rights: When used internally as an employee motivator, brands are inherently building benefits that can be used in key brand messages. For instance, a company can highlight the fact that 95 percent of its customer service representatives have achieved A+ rating levels based on the company’s internal agent rating system.
  • And of course, the obvious scenario is one in which a company totally nails gamification, implementing a program that’s infectious and goes viral. Ultimately, these programs can become almost synonymous with the brand. Think along the lines of McDonald’s Monopoly.

The fact that gamification can influence brand awareness from multiple angles makes it an especially appealing option for enterprises. But to realize these benefits, effective execution is key.

Value and Motivation: Essential Gamification Components

Cognizant points out (PDF):

“Gamification can inspire a sudden spike in user interest and drive immediate results with even the most rudimentary game elements, such as points, badges, and leaderboards. However, if the audience does not realize value in the long term, the engagement begins to break down.”

Yu-kai Chou, a pioneer and keynote speaker in gamification, names eight core drivers of gamification. Meaning, programs hinged on one or more of these drivers are most likely to succeed. These eight drivers contain concepts that, to marketers, should feel familiar, encompassing ideas such as Development and Accomplishment, Ownership and Possession, and Social Possession and Envy.

In other words, gamification should create a meaningful experience and offer value to the user, by eliciting an emotional response or tapping into some external or internal motivator. After all, it is 75 percent psychology and 25 percent technology, according to Gabe Zichermann, author of two books on the subject, editor of the Gamification Blog and organizer of the Gamification Summit.

Cognizant also touches on four key elements of gamification, but from a more practical standpoint rather than a conceptual one:


What behavior are you trying to modify among the user base, and why? What does success look like? Tripit, for instance, uses a travel leaderboard to showcase travel statistics for users. The objective: Get people to use Tripit as their first choice for travel arrangements. If choosing one service over another was going to earn you some social status points, which would you choose?

Target Audience

A critical factor in the design process, the minute details of the interface and other elements must be carefully crafted to suit the preferences of the target audience. The Starbucks Rewards program is a great example of this, giving users the very thing most head to Starbucks for in the first place: Coffee.


Make it fun. Will your target audience respond to badges? What achievements and rewards will your audience find worthwhile? Check out this Service Provider Challenge tool as an example. This example turns some of the most frustrating aspects of service management into a lighthearted experience, providing actionable insights users can put into practice immediately.


The compelling reason or reasons that drive your audience to engage and continue to do so. Why will the target user participate? Take a look at Domino’s Pizza Chefs program, for instance. Users have an obvious need to continue using this application – every time they want to order pizza.

One of the greatest things about gamification is its limitless potential. Brands can literally take gamification anywhere they can conceive, and in most cases, the more innovative, the better.

With the opportunity to make boring and mundane tasks more exciting while building brand awareness at the same time, it’s no wonder gamification is taking enterprises by storm.

Gamification Photo via Shutterstock


Tom Demers Tom Demers is a co-founder and managing partner with Measured SEM and Cornerstone Content. Learn more about Tom by following him on Twitter @TomDemers or find him on Google Plus.

7 Reactions
  1. I am expecting gamification to be in the mainstream in the future. That’s because as more people use gadgets, they are also more prone to not only visually stimulating but also engaging and interactive media. Games will always top the list in this area. If brands can utilize this, I am sure that it will take marketing to the next level.

    • Hi Aira,

      Thanks for the comment – I agree I think gamification is definitely a useful tool, and as mobile devices are more accessible and development costs for these types of projects are lower its definitely likely they’ll be more prevalent.

      Thanks for the comment!