Center of attention: By helping to boost the popularity of the marketing web site for the TV show Psych, the site itself has become more attractive to advertisers such as Starbucks.
BigDoor tested one idea on an investor’s blog. Brad Feld, a managing director at Foundry Group, promised to spend 30 minutes talking with readers who earned 10,000 points by checking in to the blog, adding comments, sharing posts on Twitter, and completing other actions that promoted him. The first session with Feld—a coveted reward for startup entrepreneurs looking for venture funding or plain old advice—was claimed within hours.
Interest in gamification has increased sharply over the last 18 months says Gabe Zichermann, chair of the Gamification Summit, a conference that held its first meeting this fall, because “traditional media efforts, including traditional efforts on top of social media, are losing efficacy,” he says. Word of mouth has long been considered the best kind of publicity, and Zichermann believes games can give fans of a product a way to pass on the word about it without causing anyone to feel the heavy hand of a marketing department.
However, not all products or services will benefit from gamified branding. “You have to have a reason for people to engage online,” says Aaron Shapiro, chief executive of the Brooklyn-based digital-strategy agency Huge Inc. For example, Shapiro doesn’t think that adding rewards, leader boards, and other game mechanisms to a cereal brand’s website or Facebook page would do much good, because he doesn’t see much reason for people to casually visit the sites in the first place.
There is also a risk that gamification will become the victim of its own success if companies start tacking virtual rewards onto almost anything users do to interact with a business online. “Peer recognition can only go so far,” Shapiro says. “There are only so many times people can get badges for stuff before it loses meaning.”