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Gaming as a form of strategic marketing.

We've all seen the brief: raise awareness, shape new customer behaviors, launch a new product and generate revenue.

Historically, this brief has been answered through an advertising campaign.  But in a world in which collaboration and experiences often trump one way communications, gaming is fast becoming a bankable marketing strategy.

A while back I attended a thought-provoking presentation by Dr. Jane McGonigal, a leading game designer and researcher, about the social benefits of gaming.  Dr. McGonigal believes that gamers exhibit four personality traits that are essential for problem solving:
  • urgent optimism
  • social collaboration
  • blissful productivity
  • epic meaning
Perhaps inspired by Albert Einstein's quote – "Games are the most elevated form of investigation." – her work focuses on ways to harness gamers' collective intelligence and creativity to solve societal challenges, such as imagining a world without oil, or new ways to bring water to sub-Saharan Africa.

Now companies are embracing gaming as a business strategy.  Within the past few months I've witnessed B2B gaming initiatives from IBM, Cisco, GE, SAP and Microsoft.  Each is using gamification to engage customers in a deeper brand narrative, or to train sales people.

BD'M used gamification to help United Airlines sell its new suite of Travel Options.  We designed a game around each Travel Option – e.g., Line Jump Hero, Legroom Legend, Mileage Ace – that could be played online or on smart phones.  After being played over nine million times and generating millions of dollars in incremental revenue for United, The Mobile Marketing Association named the Optathlon games the best mobile promotion in 2011.

This new presentation by PSFK provides a thorough and clear case for gaming as a business strategy.  Gaming has the potential to communicate; to teach; to solve; to alter behavior; to raise money.  It does so through its unique ability to tap into peer competition and one-upsmanship; stakes and rewards; exclusivity and access.