Gamification: How to Gamify Your Small Business Marketing

The activity around Pokémon Go could be described as a 21st version of ‘Beatlemania’ – the frenzy that occurred for rock band The Beatles in the 1960s.

Savvy small-business owners are pointing out the existence of rare Pokémon creatures near their premises. Major corporations are contemplating spending big money to integrate their brands into the virtual reality game sensation. After being talked up for years, it seems gamification has finally come of age.

Gamification is not about thinking of people as being only rational economic agents of textbook theory. It is about consumers being irrational, emotional, status-seeking and entertainment-chasing. Is it rational to ‘capture’ make-believe Pokémon creatures? It isn’t, but a lot of businesses are going to make a lot of money out of a lot of people wanting to do just that.

Here are some marketing gamification ideas that can boost your small business’s bottom line.

Social Media Badges

This is one way of driving marketing and potential new business through gamification. How it works: after a customer pays a certain number of visits or spends a certain amount of money, they get a (digital) badge. They can then display this on their social networks to broadcast their ‘specialness’. Often the badge will describe them as something such as a ‘hero’ or ‘ambassador’.

It does take some creative thinking to find something compelling enough for people to want to share their social badges and stay engaged with your business in that way. But, if you’re willing to put some thought into them, badges can be incredibly powerful. For example, the blue tick ‘badge’ of Twitter indicates the person tweeting is an ‘authenticated user’ (such as a celebrity or journalist), and their tweets carry more weight than those of other users.

Gamification and Crowdsourcing

In 2008, Starbucks launched a ‘My Starbucks Idea’ website that combined gamification and crowdsourcing. Customers were encouraged to submit ideas (such as serving drinks with ice cubes that would never melt) and were awarded points and badges for doing so. Small business owners could to do something similar. They may or may not get some great business ideas for free, but customers would feel more invested in the business through a contest that gives them the opportunity to show off their creative ideas.

Product Co-creation

In July 2014, Domino’s launched ‘Pizza Mogul’, an online portal that allows customers to create their own pizza using a drag-and-drop menu of ingredients, then share it through their social networks. In addition, a customer gets paid between $0.25 and $4.50 every time someone buys their pizza creation. This also taps into the trend of people sharing their food photos on Instagram, Twitter and other social media sites, while linking it back to the Domino’s brand.

As a small-business owner, you don’t need to reinvent the wheel when it comes to using gamification in your marketing efforts. Look at what’s working for other businesses, both within and outside your industry. Then figure out how you can tweak and adapt those strategies to promote your own business.