What is Gamification in marketing and why you should be using it

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Gamification in marketing is a marketing strategy that has yielded great results for some of the biggest brands in the world, as well as smaller businesses and newcomers across various sectors. Whether you’re new to this concept or looking to build on prior knowledge of it, here’s all you need to know about gamification in marketing including examples of how to use gamification in marketing.

Let’s be honest; we’ve all been there. Sitting or standing on public transports, sneakily watching our fellow passengers playing a game on their mobile phones whether we’re gamers ourselves or not. This could simply be due to the boredom of commuting or us being nosey parkers, but perhaps it’s something a bit more, dare I say, intrinsic? Could it be that the participation – whether passive or active – in games is something innate in humans? This writer thinks so and that’s why he doesn’t judge people (ahem, himself, ahem) who watch others playing computer games like The Last of Us on YouTube… while doing something much more productive, of course.

This possibly innate interest in game participation is why many successful brands have used gamification in marketing as a tactic to generate interest in campaigns, get eyes on the launch of a new product or service, raise brand awareness, increase website traffic, gain press coverage, show a more playful (pun possibly intended) side to their brands and much more. But what exactly does gamification in marketing mean?


What is Gamification in marketing?

It’s best to start this off by defining what gamification means. In essence, gamification is the process of applying gaming mechanics and functionality to traditionally non-gaming activities and platforms. Therefore, gamification in marketing can be defined as the process of incorporating these gamified mechanics and functionalities into and as part of a digital marketing strategy in order to achieve specific goals like those mentioned above, with engagement being the primary one. Apps, websites, microsites, digital adverts are all platforms that can be gamified and used as part of marketing campaigns.


Why use gamification in marketing?

Digital marketing is an extremely competitive space. Users are constantly being bombarded with communication from brands so it’s very easy to become a needle in a haystack. There is also the fact that the average user has come to expect more than simple “We are the bestest company in the world!” and “Buy new product now!” messages from brands. How can your brand navigate and stand out in a highly competitive field while delivering something different and engaging that highlights your brand’s uniqueness and leads to, well, leads, conversions and brand awareness? Implementing gamification in marketing is a viable option that has been used by some of the biggest brands in the world. Yet what’s great about using gamification as part of a digital marketing campaign is that it can be used by brands of all sizes across various industries and sectors. If it can exist in the digital space, it can be gamified. Let’s look at the specific benefits of using gamification in marketing.

Benefits of using gamification in marketing

1. Stand out from the crowd

As someone who spends the majority of his hours on one sort of digital device or the other for both work and non-work-related purposes, I am constantly inundated with ads and messages and outreach from businesses of all kinds, all vying for my attention, my engagement. I can honestly say the communications that have gotten my interest the most are those that offer a feature, such as gamification, that sets them apart. This is especially the case when it’s coming from unexpected brands.

I can’t afford to shop at Harrods (yet) and I know as much about high heels as an eel does about high hills, but a few years back I found myself downloading the Harrods app and spending a huge chunk of the rest of the day playing a game called Stiletto Wars that consisted of matching three shoes vertically or horizontally so they can disappear to allow the tiles to shift down – sort of like Tetris with high heels instead of bricks. My customer journey started from a Harrods branded digital advert that showed Stiletto Wars’ gameplay, a feature that stood it out from every other marketing message I’d consumed that day.


This example reveals two further benefits of using gamification in marketing: (1) If this strategy led to the engagement of a person Harrods likely didn’t have in mind when gamifying its app, imagine the sort of engagement it will achieve from those who it was targeting and (2) there is no gender or sex barrier when it comes to who your brand can target with a gamified marketing strategy.

2. Drive specific behaviour

Want your customers to perform specific actions such as downloading an app, providing contact details, subscribing, sharing, revealing their products or services of interest? Then applying gamification in marketing strategy is a great way to achieve this. The very nature of digital gaming is interactive so users are more inclined to perform specific behaviours that will either get them started with the game (e.g. downloading app, registering) or helps them reap the rewards of playing the game (e.g. claim rewards, points, vouchers by submitting contact details).

3. Build customer base and profiles

By raising brand awareness through the first gamification in marketing benefit and collecting data provided by the above benefit, you can really expand your customer base and segment them by specific demographics such as age, sex, device, location if you so wish. This is excellent for CRM and marketing outreach purposes.

4. Hit multiple points on the sales funnel

From display adverts to remarketing and retargeting, digital marketing offers various start-off points or entry points for users, taking them down the path of a customer journey that eventually leads to conversion and brand advocacy. But while many of these entry points are limited to only contributing towards awareness, gamified marketing is unique as a start-off point because it can contribute to each stage of a sales funnel.

Adding engaging gaming functionality and techniques to a marketing campaign raises awareness, so that when the user is considering a product or service in the sector in which you operate, your brand will be in his or her mind. Because you’ve taken the extra step to make your brand fun and captivating, the user may prefer to do business with you which leads to a purchase.


The data you are able to gather right at the start of the journey means you can directly target the customer with marketing materials through CRM and reward schemes that lead to loyalty to the brand. And because brands have become more than just logos and even products to the average consumer (think Apple), by showing how much you value them via rewards (which they can start earning right from the start by interacting with gamified marketing) and other useful marketing content, you’ll achieve brand advocacy.

Although already mentioned a few times, gamification in marketing offers a high level of audience engagement, a KPI that is vital in measuring the success of any sort of digital marketing campaign.

How to use gamification in marketing

Now that you have a theoretical understanding of gamification and how it can be used as part of marketing strategy, let’s look at some gamification in marketing examples to see how some brands have used this strategy to achieve specific marketing objectives.

Brand: Karl Lagerfeld
Objectives: Raise brand and product awareness; Increase sign-ups for email newsletters


SMACK digital agency had the absolute pleasure to work with luxury fashion label Karl Lagerfeld on a marketing campaign for its Metallic Ikonik Collection that involved gamification. Like most memorable campaigns, the execution was simple yet fun: every week there’s a product from the aforementioned collection up for grabs. To have a chance of winning it, all you have to try and do is catch the item before it vanishes and is replaced by other items – like trying to press pause on a particular song as your music player shuffles very quickly through a selection of songs randomly. You catch the item by clicking the Katch button at the bottom of the screen. The longer you take to “Katch” it, the faster the game makes the items come and go. Eye-hand (finger?) coordination and speed is critical.

Users have three attempts at catching the item. If they succeed, they have a chance of being selected to win the product they caught. If they don’t, they can try again the following week when a new product will be up for grabs. Either way, users have to submit their name, email address, and store preference which opens up the opportunity for email capture so that the objective of increasing email newsletter sign-ups can be met.


I failed all three attempts miserably (no laughing at the back: I did mention earlier on I was more of a watcher than a gamer) but I left my contact details because I wanted to try again the following week and because the products that were a part of the game looked amazing.

This gamification in marketing example shows how by adding gamified functionality, interactivity and engagement elements to a marketing campaign can increase product awareness and help build customer databases. Check out another marketing campaign that involved gamification that SMACK built and executed for Karl Lagerfeld here.

Brand: KFC
GameShrimp Attack
Objectives: Raise awareness and generate excitement for ebi (shrimp), a new product on its Japanese menu; Incentivise customers to try the new product

A recent estimation listed Japan as the third biggest market – behind only China and the US, two nations with much larger populations – when it comes to gaming revenue. This is worth mentioning for this example because gamification as a general concept can be a great marketing tool for capturing the attention of a market that is already very interested in gaming. Gamification in marketing allows brands to tap into the culture or zeitgeist if you will, of the market being targeted.

On to the gamified campaign itself. When KFC added shrimp to its menu in its Japanese restaurants, the fast food brand wanted to generate excitement. The brand went for a strategy that not only involved increasing awareness, but also included incentivising users to actually try the product by rewarding them via discount vouchers. The solution was Shrimp Attack, a game that involved protecting KFC’s chicken kingdom’s castle from ebi shrimps by slashing at them when they popped up from the bottom of the screen. The more shrimps you slashed, the more points you got, the more discount vouchers you were rewarded with.


Gamification in marketing that hit several culture points is what made KFC’s Shrimp Attack campaign so impactful. This gamified marketing campaign was so successful in fact, the product eventually sold out due to high demand from customers, to the point where the campaign had to be stopped halfway through its original planned duration.

Brand: Ted Baker
GamificationHook Your SoleMate
Objectives: Attract new and existing users without advertising; Create additional marketing in line with overall Valentine’s Day campaign


As part of the brand’s wider Valentine’s Day campaign, Ted Baker approached SMACK and tasked us with creating a piece of marketing that would engage both new and existing customers. With years of experience in gamified marketing and a deep understanding of how the audience views the brand, we decided that gamifying a landing page on the official Ted Baker website was the best route to take. If executed right, it would not only pull in users, but also be worthy of mention by the press, further widening the reach of the campaign.

What we built was Hook Your SoulMate, a multi-award nominated, multi-device psychedelic fishing game that involved users casting a hook and fishing for a mate for a given sea creature or item. Users who successfully caught a soulmate had a chance of winning a prize: a £1,000 shopping spree at Ted Baker.


The result was 50,000 additional visits to the Ted Baker website (10,000 of these being in the first 24 hours of the game’s launch) with 36% of users returning to the site, and a very low bounce rate (users leaving the website completely after playing the game) of only 21%. Learn more about this gamified marketing strategy and see the game in action here.

If your brand objectives include engaging new and existing audiences, driving traffic to your website that leads to repeat visits, taking advantage of seasonal holidays/celebrations, and rewarding customers, your brand could do a lot worse than utilising gamification in marketing as a tool to achieve these goals.

Brand: Dior
Gamification: Plaza 66 Store Opening, China
Objectives: Generate awareness of the grand opening of a new store in Shanghai; Engage audiences in an emerging affluent market

As previously mentioned, China is estimated to be the top market for gaming in the world. It is also one of the fastest growing economies with a growing demographic of people who can afford luxury goods. Many of these people are active on the world’s biggest standalone mobile app; WeChat. It made perfect sense then for Dior to consider these three factors and implement them in its marketing strategy objective of raising awareness about the opening of its new store in Shanghai.

What Dior did was go for gamified marketing as a strategy. The brand created an interactive treasure hunt-style game that involved participants having to collect six items from the brand’s latest collection within the game world. Successful participants could then launch a virtual hot air balloon for a chance to win tickets to the real life opening of the new store.


By using gamification in marketing, Dior was able to take advantage of technology (WeChat as the gamified platform), consumer/market norms (gaming culture in China), market segmentation (targeting the affluent market), and the leveraging of its brand reputation to create a successful campaign to penetrate an emerging market interested in its products.

Gamification in marketing is a tool that can help brands achieve their marketing objectives in a fun, engaging, captivating, and memorable way by tapping into the historical human interest in playing games and satisfying the marketing communication demands of the tech-savvy modern consumer. 


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