The Rise and Rise of Gamification

Published by

Just like comic books and the recent rise of nerd culture, long gone are the days where gaming was seen as something for kids or only limited to games consoles. The normalisation of gaming on various platforms has increased so much that it was only a matter of time before innovative brands started incorporating game-design into their marketing strategies. Enter gamification.

What is Gamification?

Gamification is the process of incorporating game-design elements and game mechanics into existing experiences and platforms to drive user engagement, participation, interaction, and productivity, to name but a few of its uses. These existing, non-gaming platforms can include websites, apps, microsites, online communities, digital adverts, company intranets and more.

Gamification uses techniques and elements – such as competition, actions, rewards, points, personalisation – that game designers use in traditional games to encourage actions in non-game context in order to help brands achieve specific marketing objectives.

Now, without further ado, here are some great gamification examples that highlight how this technique is being used in marketing and customer retention by brands of all kinds.

Nike+ Run Club

If there’s one thing this big sports brand is good at, it’s extending their customer’s experience beyond products. Nike are great at creating an ecosystem that incorporates product, customer personas, and lifestyle. The Nike+ Run Club app is a perfect example of how to use gamification to increase engagement and interactivity while maintaining top-of-mind awareness.

The app allows the user to set training objectives, measure activity that has been personalised to them, and connect with a community of like-minded people. Statistics like run time and distance covered can be shared on social networks. One of the main gamification features in the app is the ability to win trophies and badges by taking part in challenges. All of this contributes towards a more realised customer experience. There’s plenty to be learned from Nike’s gamification example.

Karl Lagerfeld


Karl Lagerfeld tasked SMACK digital agency with creating both a digital and in-store campaign to support the fashion brand’s exciting launch of the SS20 Pixel Capsule Collection. It was important that the campaign was engaging to the audience while also being a tool for data acquisition. Our solution was to create a game that would be on the brand’s website and on screens in-store.

We are going through a period of 80s and 90s nostalgia at the moment. Shows like Stranger Things and upcoming movies like Wonder Woman 1984 and Ghostbusters 3 are evidence of what the zeitgeist is right now. Take these elements and add this with the fact that gaming itself has been part of the cultural landscape for over three decades now; the “pixel” in the name of the collection; a cat called Choupette, and what you get is a Karl Lagerfeld Pac Man-type game executed by yours truly.

The game involves helping Choupette – Maison Karl Lagerfeld’s very own real-life pet – collect points by clearing levels. This is achieved by catching as many bonus items as possible and defeating the cat’s enemies. The game is concluded when you get all the bonuses, or when baddies get you.

A function whereby users are eligible for a prize draw if they enter their details was included to capture emails as was part of the brief.

This gamification example shows how gaming can be incorporated into the marketing strategy of any kind of brand. It provides a platform for brands to showcase other elements that make them who they are in their given sector.

For Karl Lagerfeld, the Pac Man-style game displayed the brands playfulness, creative essence, an elevated brand experience, and the fact it is in touch with the modern consumer through digital innovation. In addition, the game was available at the most important touchpoints and encouraged interaction with the brand on its website. Give it a go here.


Oh, you thought you were just “bidding for an item”, just “requesting star ratings from your buyers”, simply “improving the percentage you get as a seller”, huh? Nope. What you’ve actually been doing is taking part in one of the early game mechanics integrations in the eCommerce sector.

With its bidding, feedback scores, and badges system, eBay is one of the earliest adopters of gamification as a way of providing an experience that goes beyond the core of what a brand does. Afterall, any old eCommerce website can offer user buying and selling functionality, but it’s how this is executed that makes this a gamification example worth a mention.

Think about the aforementioned activities: winning bids for products as a buyer, and getting ratings, stars, a “trusted seller” badge, and better percentages as an eBay seller. These are the elements at the core of gaming. It’s about risk, engagement, and rewards.

Whether you’re a buyer wondering whether to bid very high for an item now therefore possibly overpaying for it but at least blowing all other bidders away, or you’re a seller who’s decided to undercut competitors and provide in-depth product descriptions to boost sales and gain trustworthiness badges respectively, you are engaged while activating and using parts of your brain used for traditional gaming.

It’s these engaging, interactive gamification elements that have people still going on eBay when they could simply buy or sell the same items on Amazon. eBay – you slick little devil, you.

The US Army

With army-centred games Call of Duty and Medal of Honour being two of the most popular computer games in the RPG (Role-playing games) genre, it only makes sense for the armed forces to integrate gamification into their websites as a way of increasing traffic and gaining more recruits.

The US Army, in particular, has gone all-in on gamification. Visit the main website and you will be greeted with a video that looks straight out of a cutscene from a video game. However, Its main gamification incorporation takes place on its sister site, AmericasArmy.com where Proving Grounds – a game it calls “The official game of the U.S. Army” – sits.

Proving Grounds is a first-person RPG that allows you to walk in the shoes of a US army personnel, shooting enemies, throwing grenades, saving the day, you know, the usual stuff of soldiers.

The use of gamification in the website as a whole is extremely effective in engaging the user who can edit his or her own missions, view a breakdown of weapons used in the game, join forums, gain access to the US army’s official comic book (no stone is left unturned without the US army’s boot print), navigate possible army career paths, and more. This is a gamification example that really shows the huge potential adding game mechanics to a website has.

Molton Brown

Speaking of which, here at SMACK creative digital agency, we would never dream of humble-bragging too much…but we can at least have a reverie or two. Indeed it was a dream come true to do some gamification work for one of our favourite luxury British fragrance and personal care brands, Molton Brown.

Having worked with the brand in successfully digitising their Christmas film Finding Poppy in the past, SMACK was tasked with developing creative links between their TV films and their digital campaigns. What SMACK did was to expand on the story of one of these films by gamifying the content on an online platform. The game involved the user having to help the titular Poppy, a dog, reunite with her owner in time for Christmas.

We also created another gamification-inspired platform for Molton Brown in the form of Albin’s Adventure, a simple yet addictive game that involved throwing snowballs at gifts hanging from Christmas trees and catching them in a sleigh led by Albin the goat.

Both of these games included rewards in the form of possibly winning actual prizes. Users had to enter their email addresses in order to claim their prizes or be entered into a prize draw.

Finding Poppy gained 47,685 entries, 32,367 users, 21,967 referrals through social media, and most importantly, 18,983 email captures that the brand could add to its mailing list.

As for Albin’s Adventure, the game led to 134,000 site visits, 75,500 unique players, 46,222 total emails, and 14,675 unique email captures.

These two are all-round great examples of gamification that incorporates branding alignment, seasonal marketing, multimedia marketing, email list building, user engagement, and interactivity that led to higher website traffic and increased brick and mortar footfall. We had as much fun building these games as customers had playing them!

Seeds of dreams – L’Occitane en Provence

Let’s be honest: being environmentally friendly is big business and is a marketing tool incorporated into modern-day branding. Sustainability, going green, recyclable, are all buzzwords slapped on marketing paraphernalia.

Again, it is easy to be skeptical or cynical about what brands are trying to achieve with environmental “wokeness”, but there are companies out there really doing great work and who have sustainability at the very core of their values and products.

One such company doing stella work is L’Occitane en Provence, a natural beauty brand. To take things beyond simply writing blurbs on its website and shooting the breeze about sustainability, the brand built a truly beautiful game website to further drive home its principles while also engagingly educating the user on environmental friendliness.

The game involves picking a seed out of three choices (I’m a nut, so I went for an almond seed), planting it, and taking care of it. You do this by pressing down on water and sun buttons at the bottom of the screen. As you do so rain will fall and the sun will shine on your seed respectively.

You have a limited amount of each to use, however. This is where a further gaming element comes in. between the water and sun buttons is a control pad button. Click on this and you are giving the opportunity to gain some more water and sun for your little baby (that’s not me being cute either, you literally have to show the seed some love by clicking on its face now and again).

As you nurture your seed, it begins to grow (and it will start to tell you when it needs water, love, or sunlight). Facts such as the amount of trees from your chosen seed L’Occitane has helped to plant and fun facts about your seed pop up after each round of games you play too.

The more you engage with the game, the more rewards you get, like more seeds to plant and new games unlocked. The game also encourages the user to register via email to get the most out of the experience.

This is a truly wonderful example of gamification because, aside from being gorgeous to look at and fun to play, it taps into the maternal and paternal nature of humans, therefore leading to a high amount of engagement. I guarantee that you will walk away from playing this game with the simple things we can all do to help the environment be more sustainable in your mind, and L’Occitane as a brand you will remember whenever you want to purchase natural beauty products. Everybody wins, yay!


We’ve become a more demanding society when it comes to tech. It’s not enough that our fridges store food; they have to be able to play music too. A watch that only tells the time? What the hell is that? I need my heartrate info right now!

The apps we use for our everyday lives are not exempt. A productivity app that simply allows you to list and tick off tasks will not suffice. You see, we need to feel rewarded for doing our own dishes.

Cynicism and jokes aside, gaming mechanics has allowed app developers to add gamification elements to what can be mundane applications, making them fun while motivating us to get stuff done. Todoist is a productivity app that has incorporated gamification to meet the demands of the modern day consumer.

What the app does very well is keep the user engaged by including a levels element: the more points you collect, the more levels (‘Beginner’ to ‘Enlightened’) you unlock. Points – referred to as karma – are rewarded by completing tasks you’ve set. Negative karma is given when a deadline is not met and a task is not complete.

You can also let the world know how much good karma you’ve stacked up by sharing on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. This is all delivered in an intuitive, beautifully designed way that’s reminiscent of the design of most email platforms.

This is a gamification example that highlights how adding just a bit of gaming mechanics can transform the ordinary into the awesome.


« Back to Company news