Josh Poulain, Entrepreneur

Today I’d like to talk a little bit about perhaps the single best

way to encourage engagement with your brand or business: gamification. It
doesn’t matter what business you’re in or who your audience is – there is a
game that can be made for your business that will peak the interest of your
customers, creating engagement and interaction with your brand in a genuinely
fun and (hopefully) unique environment.

As people get busier, we’re starting to tone out the unnecessary
noise of a lot of traditional marketing channels. Most of us don’t even notice
billboards anymore, and the cost of print & television advertising is hard
to justify as a small localized business. It’s not exactly a secret that people
are spending more and more time on their smart phones and paying less attention
to external advertising, so as business owners and as marketers it’s up to us
to go where our customers are going.

Gamification provides an abstract marketing channel – you’re not
interrupting your customer’s day with aggressive ads, you’re offering rewards
for completing fun tasks associated with your brand. This can mean integrating
simple reward badges for reaching certain achievements on your website, or it
could mean developing a full blown platformer that revolves around your business
model. It all depends on you, but it doesn’t have to be complex or expensive to
be effective.

Psychologically, gamification is used to drive users towards a
certain action. This is usually done through positive reinforcement and
feedback, with research indicating that negative feedback or punishment for not
completing a task will almost always disengage the user completely. Over the
last few years lots of major companies have been using gamification in
different ways, including Starbucks offering custom badges from Foursquare, and
Coca-Cola releasing several mobile apps to engage with customers. By checking
in to multiple Starbucks locations, for example, you get unique Foursquare
badges. Again: this only works if the rewards are positive – there are no
negative badges for not visiting Starbucks regularly.

You may be thinking that badges are arbitrary, and can’t possibly
have any real effect on your customers thought process – right? Not exactly.
People love feeling like they’re progressing towards something, especially if
it feels like playing a game. By incorporating gamification into your marketing
strategy you are giving your customers a reason to continue to use and engage
with your brand in a way that motivates them to do something they might not be
inclined to do otherwise – such as make a purchase. To quote the popular
gamification guru Gabe Zichermann, “if you can make something more fun,
and include notions of play, you can get people to do things they otherwise
might not want to do”.

There are a lot of different ways to incorporate gamification
into your marketing strategy, and they don’t all have to be elaborate or
expensive. The biggest thing to remember is to keep it simple, easy to use and
rewarding and your customers will keep coming back. When done well,
gamification makes a great addition to any marketing or social media strategy.

Josh Poulain is an entrepreneur and web developer from Halifax. In 2012 he started the first online grocery store in Nova Scotia serving the entire municipality. Most recently he has started numerous coding clubs for elementary school kids, helping to foster an interest in computer sciences for kids in grades 4-6. He can be reached at or follow him on Twitter at @joshfromMinty.