December 9, 2011

7 Game Dynamics to Propel Your Business

Everyone who knows me will agree that I’m a highly competitive person. I love playing games (especially those where I have a good shot of winning). The appeal of games, aside from the chance of victory, is the opportunity to work towards a goal and learn along the way. The mechanics behind games are what keep people like me coming back for more. Game designers understand the fundamentals that create fanaticism and loyalty among players, but now several brands are beginning to understand how valuable those strategies are for capturing consumers. And as a result, we’re seeing more companies starting to implement these game dynamics to power their businesses. I read a great article in Fast Company outlining 3 powerful game dynamics that got me thinking about all the various game dynamics that marketers employ to influence consumer behavior. Gamification spans way beyond points, badges and levels. Game mechanics are the building blocks that can be applied to gamify any typically non-game experience. Check out these game dynamics that are being worked into every day products and consumer experiences.


Discovery, or exploration, is a simple game dynamic that many marketers implement. Consumers love to discover something new, something that will surprise them, or something that have not been experienced by other people before. Zappos and Apple leverage this by allowing consumers to discover new products through videos and experiential product announcements. Domino’s employs this gaming tactic by allowing customers to track their order from the minute they place it to the minute it’s delivered. But even more powerful than solitary discovery is communal discovery. This is the exact dynamic behind things like fan challenges and like drives (i.e. when we hit 100,000 likes, we’ll give away a car) where people come together to help unlock or discover something.


This method is pretty straightforward. If you give consumers a certain amount of time to do something, it increases their likelihood to do it. Whether it’s a flash sale or an exclusive offer only available during a short window of time (i.e. Groupon, Living Social, Buy With Me), consumers will act frenetically until time runs out.


This is basically using a penalty or trap to induce a behavioral shift. By introducing a roadblock, you leave the consumer little room to stray from your intended end goal. Amazon is a perfect example for this dynamic. Amazon strategically removed all links from the checkout page on their site to tunnel the buyer to make that final purchase decision. Macy’s also does this to a certain extent. The giant retailer will offer sales and discounts and promote it all over the place, but if you look closely at the terms behind the promotion you’ll discover that the offer is only good when you use your Macy’s credit card. So by introducing this block, they are steering people to get the credit card.


People assign more value to opportunities when they are less available. This is called the scarcity effect. Scarcity can work in two ways. More people want something they know is hard to get even if it will soon become readily available. This taps into their competitive nature because they technically have to compete with others to get the desired product. When Apple releases a new iPhone people wait for hours and hours in line for the potential opportunity to own the new, sleek gadget. The second way it works is with products that may become scarce. People also want things that were once readily available, but may no longer be. Disney does a great job activating his behavior with their Disney vault. The Disney vault is the term used by Walt Disney Studios for its policy of suspending the sales of their animated features. And it works! People jump at the opportunity to buy The Little Mermaid when they know that Ariel and crew are going to soon be locked away in the Disney vault (even if they previously had no intention of owning it).


Let’s face it; we love creating and customizing things that we can then own. Ownership is game dynamic that basically creates loyalty among consumers by letting them own something of their own. I’m sure you’ve seen plenty of brands creating apps that allow you to customize your dream house or customize your ideal vacation experience for a chance to win it. Consumers spend more time with your brand during the customization process and then are that much more invested in you because they have something that is their own. NIKEiD has successfully implemented this ownership tactic by allowing consumers to build and customize their own sneakers.

Accomplishment and Progress

Consumers like to see progress and feel accomplishment, whether it’s their own personal progression and accomplishment or the company’s. This game dynamic is the foundation behind products like and Nike+. Both show your progress over time by providing you with statistics and historical data along the way. Nike+ goes one step further by adding a social context that lets you see your friends’ progress, making it a much more competitive experience, thus heightening the accomplishment mechanic. McDonald’s also uses this progression tactic with the signs outside of their restaurants that keep a tally of their burgers sold.

Loss Aversion

People are more eager to avoid a loss than to bank a gain. As consumers, we tend to feel losses twice as much as we feel gains. So communicating to consumers what they are losing is more effective than communicating the benefits they are gaining. Insurance companies do this every day. They focus on messages showing consumers how much they are losing each year by not adding a certain level of coverage to their plan instead of telling them they can save a year by adding it.

A variety of brands are using gamification strategies in unique and unexpected ways and I imagine we’ll only see that increase as these strategies prove successful.

Tags: Content Marketing, Strategy, Tools

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