Game On: Strategies for Effective Gamification in Promotional Marketing

In today's fast-paced tech industry, staying ahead of the curve is not just a goal but a necessity.

Abigail Hickey

Game On: Strategies for Effective Gamification in Promotional Marketing

In today's fast-paced tech industry, staying ahead of the curve is not just a goal but a necessity. For professionals in this field, continuous learning, networking, and innovation are paramount. In this article, we will explore the concept of gamification and its application to engage and motivate consumers effectively. Gamification refers to the integration of game elements, mechanics, and principles into non-game applications or systems to engage users, motivate behaviours, and enhance user experiences. It leverages the psychology of gaming to encourage participation, problem-solving, and interaction in various technology-related contexts.

You may be wondering, “What is the psychology of gaming?”

Gaming has become a key part of modern society, with millions of people playing games every day whether it be for fun, or for educational purposes. Game psychology is a field of study that explores the psychological aspects of gaming, including: video games, board games, sports, and other forms of play. It examines how games influence human behaviours, emotions, cognition, and motivation, just to name a few key aspects. One of these key aspects is player motivation, game psychology often investigates what motivates individuals to play games. This includes looking into factors such as achievement, competition, social interaction, mastery, exploration, and escapism. Linking very closely with this is player experience researchers look at how games evoke emotions, create suspense, and engage players emotionally and cognitively.

But how can this be used in the world of promotions?

Game psychology plays a significant role in promotions and marketing for many reasons, such as engagement. Games are inherently engaging and can capture the attention of consumers effectively. Incorporating game elements into promotions well makes them more interesting and enjoyable for participants, therefore increasing consumer engagement with your brand and raising overall brand awareness. Games can encourage participants to create UGC (user-generated content) such as reviews, testimonials or creative submissions, which can be leveraged in future marketing efforts. As well as all of the endless positives there are to creating gamified promotions, in a crowded market, promotions with game elements can help your brand stand out from the competition. A unique and enjoyable promotion can create a memorable impression which has the potential to be turned into long-term engagement. This ongoing interaction can build a stronger connection between consumers and your brand.

So how do we gamify?

Well, as a general rule, games tend to have the following:

Game mechanics - this refers to the rules, systems, and interactions that govern how a video game or tabletop game functions. These mechanics are the building blocks that define how players can interact with and navigate the game.

Dynamics - this is how the player interacts with the game mechanics in order to fulfil an overall objective or goal. These can be simple or complex.

Game rewards/incentives - this is basically the payout/reward for the player in the end. This can be a physical reward such as something in a game, or a gift voucher.

Why do we play games?

People play games for numerous reasons, and there is a lot of research into why we play games and we’ve touched on some of these reasons earlier when we spoke about game psychology. But we can summarise these down into a few simple reasons.

Achievements - trying to gain more points/ the highest amount of points, being the first to do something

Immersion - being immersed in a game world that's different from our own - in some of the best games, people claim they can get lost within them.

Competition - defeating opponents; this is typically done with a leaderboard or via a high score.

Cooperation - people enjoy creating communities; socialising within games; and working with each other towards a common goal.

Fun - which is arguably the most important one of them all. People play games for fun and entertainment, if a game doesn't meet these expectations then people won't play it.

What keeps people coming back and encourages others to also play, the majority of the time is reward. As most people are aware, dopamine is a chemical that produces pleasure. However, to be even more accurate, this is a chemical that actually balances incentive salience. What is incentive salience? It's a term used in psychology and neuroscience to describe the motivational and rewarding aspects of stimuli or cues in an individual's environment. It's related to how certain cues or stimuli can become particularly attractive and enticing, therefore leading to a strong motivation to approach or interact with them. This can be seen often in gaming such within games, especially promotional games, where there is reward anticipation. Players become motivated by the prospect of winning rare and uncommon products. This can lead to a positive feedback loop, making players more eager to play the game and acquire new prizes etc.

Another trick that works successfully is emphasising exclusivity. People love to feel like they're part of something not everyone can be. This can be considered to be a badge of success. Don't try to market your product to everyone as this can make it less appealing. Instead, identify your target audience and think of all the ways you can make them feel special. Another concept related to exclusivity is the fear of missing out or more colloquially, ‘FOMO’. By introducing an element of scarcity into your campaigns - whether it be how long the games are open and available to be played or something else. It may be seen as one of the most overused psychology tactics within marketing today, but it has lost little to no effectiveness. The key to being successful when using this tactic is to respect your customers and not fake scarcity. As the power of scarcity can quickly fade as your customers realise that you’ve been lying.


In conclusion, the concept of gamification in marketing is a powerful strategy that leverages the psychology of gaming to engage and motivate consumers effectively. As the tech industry continues to evolve rapidly, staying ahead of the curve is essential, and gamification offers innovative ways to do so.

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