Gamification – power up your marketing

Things are so much better when they’re fun: gamification lets you level up your marketing and boost interaction and engagement among your customers. We explore two inspiring best cases and walk you through the best gamification elements.

Gamification in marketing: gaming elements and awards
Image: © anatolir / Adobe Stock

Gamification power-ups

From targeting and personalization to measuring performance – we’re all familiar with the typical components of a successful marketing formula. However, far too frequently, marketers still neglect gamification when building their campaigns and assets – and, by doing so, miss out on giving their marketing a huge boost. Gamification is based on psychological findings that have proven successful across all industries, not just in marketing:

  • Motivation uplift: Gamification elements such as points, medals, ranking lists, and top performances motivate your customers to interact and solve challenges.
  • Engagement boost: Gamification draws your customers’ attention to your marketing campaign in a fun way and makes your target group more engaged.
  • Learning effect: Your customers will generally learn better in a game format. You could leverage this to communicate key information about a new product, for example.
  • Teamwork makes the dream work: During group-based games or challenges, your customers can become ambassadors of your brand by delivering user-generated content. That also increases the community feeling.
  • Feedback and recognition: Direct feedback in the form of points, badges, and other rewards gives your customers a sense of recognition for their efforts.

The history of gamification:
Games have been played since the beginning of time. The idea to use gamification beyond video games arose in the late ’90s, when companies and researchers tested playful elements in the world of work, for example to train employees. Such elements were also used in marketing at an early stage. However, gamification was initially not taken seriously in a professional environment, meaning that the playful marketing strategy only caught on slowly. Today, it is a welcome and popular distraction from day-to-day life for most people. Gamification elements are now widely used in software programs and social media apps.

Award-winning best cases

Each year, the German Association for the Digital Economy (BVDW) presents the German Digital Award (DDA) to highly innovative companies and campaigns making a difference with gamification in their marketing. The following two gamification examples have impressed the jury.

#1 “Cheat Cookies” by Oreo and Xbox

The cookie giant Oreo and game console manufacturer Xbox successfully incorporated gamification as part of its “Cheat Cookies” campaign and went on to win the DDA’s 2024 anniversary prize as the best entry since the award started 10 years ago.

During this collaborative promotion, gamers were able to unlock exclusive in-game content in popular Xbox games by scanning symbols depicted on Oreo cookies. In this way, customers were digitally rewarded for their buying behavior, providing both a fun purchasing and gaming experience.

#2 O2’s “Every Home” in Minecraft

The Internet provider O2 also turned its attention to gamers when it came together with players of the PC game Minecraft to build a unique architecture. During a thrilling live event hosted by high-reach streamers, this digital world was advertised and made accessible to all gamers, who were assigned a challenge with a chance to win a reward. This allowed them to form a connection with the brand in a fun way. This outstanding example leveraged gamification elements such as challenges, rewards, and teamwork so successfully that it won a silver DDA in 2023.

Now it’s your turn to try your hand at gamification

As with any good game, there are some rules and mechanisms you should know about to successfully integrate gamification into your marketing. So, we’ve listed seven gamification elements below for you to try in your next campaigns:

  • Loyalty program: Even a simple points system can make interacting with your brand an entertaining experience for your customers. Make sure to offer enough rewards for loyal customers who buy your products, engage with your content on social media, or subscribe to your newsletter.
  • Contests and competitions: There’s a bit of competitive spirit in all of us, and that’s why contests and challenges work so well. Especially on social media, this kind of format is now an established marketing tool that usually proves really popular with followers. From photo or video challenges to quizzes and surveys, you can use a vast array of elements to make your followers and customers feel more connected to your brand.
  • Badges and awards: Rewards are the name of the game. And you can offer these to loyal customers in the form of cool digital badges. Provided as files or filters, customers can add these to their profile pictures on social media – and promote your brand at the same time.
  • User-generated content: Content produced by your followers is the key to high-performance, organic content. By setting challenges and the like, you can motivate your customers to create and share their own content, especially on TikTok and Snapchat. For example, you could ask your followers to share their stories and experiences with your product. You could then award prizes or give special mentions to the best posts.
  • Virtual worlds and avatars: As we saw earlier with O2 and Minecraft, building your own virtual worlds can enormously boost your success. By doing so, you give your customers a framework to personally interact with your brand and win prizes, etc. That will enable you to build a strong and loyal community with whom you can share exclusive product demos, events, and competitions.
  • Augmented reality (AR): You can use AR to create interactive and immersive brand experiences, allowing your customers to virtually test products, take part in interactive treasure hunts, attend special AR events, and more.
  • Blockchain and NFTs: You can create one-of-a-kind, digital collectibles using blockchain technology and non-fungible tokens (NFTs). This is an ideal way to reward your customers for carrying out certain actions or reaching specific milestones.

No opponents, just teammates: gamification in marketing

What is currently dominating the marketing scene? According to Toan Nguyen, marketers have been mainly turning to purpose-driven marketing in recent years. However, as the founder of Jung von Matt NERD, he has made it his mission to not only communicate strong messages, but also incorporate more gamification to reach target groups in a fun way. In the DMEXCO podcast, he talks to Verena Gründel about why it’s essential for brands to build gamification into their marketing strategy. Listen to the full podcast episode here (audio in German).

We think it’s always a good idea to link your brand with positive experiences. And what could be a better way of doing that than making it fun? So, game on!

Digital Digest NL_en