A Gamification Primer: Playing Games with Your Customer

Gamification Art Concepts

So I’ll explain briefly the core motivations used to drive behavior and give examples of how to apply gamification techniques in retail, personal care and online businesses.

Still reading? Or has your mind drifted off to a social platform, interactive game or phone app?

Don’t chastise yourself because you grabbed your phone to play a “meaningless” game to kill some time or unplug for a bit from your day. Know this: It’s not meaningless.

It’s actually intentionally designed with you, the player in mind. The creators of such products including apps like Asana or FitBit, games like Candy Crush or social platforms like Facebook and its partners have developed the user experience based on human motivation.

This is what Yukai Chou defines as the industry of gamification. It’s called “gamification” because it was the gaming industry that first mastered creating an experience designed solely around a human focus.

Yukai’s 8 Core Drives of Gamification

After a decade in research, Yukai Chou created a great guide on gamification and a system called Octalysis; eight core drives that can be infused in to the design strategy of gaming.

Gamification Framework

By Yu-kai Chou – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=45487148


1. Epic Meaning & Calling

Player does something greater than themselves or feels was “chosen” to do something.

2. Development & Accomplishment

The internal drive of making progress, developing skills, and eventually overcoming challenges.

3. Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback

Being engaged a creative process where players have to repeatedly figure things out and try different combinations.

4. Ownership & Possession

Players are motivated because they feel like they own something.

5. Social Influence & Relatedness

This drive incorporates all the social elements that drive people, including: mentorship, acceptance, social responses, companionship, as well as competition and envy.

6. Scarcity & Impatience

This is the drive of wanting something because you can’t have it.

7. Unpredictability & Curiosity

Being driven by wanting to find out what will happen next.

8. Loss & Avoidance

This core drive is based upon the avoidance of something negative happening

The key approach is to use one or more of the core drive variables, while keeping the power of storytelling top-of-mind in your marketing efforts and business strategies.

You can apply the theories of gamification to countless benefits and suituations. From New Year’s resolutions, hobbies, retail, non-profit cause and beyond–gamification can change the way we motivate people as well as the way we communicate our messages.

Business Gamification Examples

Here are a few great examples of how gamification has altered the consumer experience:

  • Quiz: An interactive quiz called QuizUp partnered with Google Maps to increase the number of people using Google Maps. Their video case study showed how their “Earth From Above” QuizUp greatly impacted Google Map’s awareness, brand engagement and installs.  They used a mix of gamifying the quiz with time-constraints, levels, interactivity with other quiz takers, leaderboards and titles.
  • Game:  Popeye’s Chicken game incorporated several core drives for the launch of their limited-time chicken offering. This game also uses advanced facial recognition to detect when a player blinks or is “chicken.”
  • Business model: Gamification isn’t just in the digital space. One of my favorite online and off-line examples of gamification is Nerd Fitness. In 2009, Nerd Fitness was born from Steve Kamb’s thoughts, “I’m a nerd, I like fitness…so why not combine the two and turn life into one giant video game?” He now helps hundreds across the digital space and through in-person gatherings tolevel up your life, every single day” in their health and mindsets. How awesome is that?!

Applicability to Your Business

Now it’s time to apply these principles and examples to you, your brand and/or business. Grab a pencil and paper and answer these questions:

  1. How can you apply gamification to your business model?
  2. What would be the business goal of your app or customer experience?
  3. What does success look like?

Before proceeding with integrating gamification into your strategy make sure you know who your audience is and what game elements would be right for them.

Did any ideas spark on how you can get more engagement with your brand through gamification?

If you are already using gamification in your business model, how is it working?

Do you have a favorite game or gamified app? Why does it capture your attention?

Caz Gaddis

Caz Gaddis is a social media strategist + video producer who loves personal branding and self-development. Founder of SelfCrafted Media | Podcaster | MA Communications, graduating Fall 2016.

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Author: Caz Gaddis