Consumer Behavior: Tapping into the competitive element ~ Brand Mix

Monday, May 4, 2009

Consumer Behavior: Tapping into the competitive element

Photo: Jeff Kubina (Flickr)

Unseasonal rain fell in California this weekend requiring us to put into effect the Emergency Indoors Plan to keep the kids occupied. Board games too optimistically stacked away on top shelves had to be brought back down. Wii Go Kart and computer games fired up.

Soon, my daughter (6) and I were locked in battle over Balloon Lagoon while my son (8) was off on a JumpStart adventure. Calm reigned briefly.

The power of games to motivate and shape consumer behavior is well known. Video game designers are, in fact, so good at doing this that it's easy for people to spend hours and hours lost in game play. But the consumer instincts that game designers tap into are not leveraged very often by consumer marketers. Why not? Can't some of these game mechanics be used to motivate consumer behavior in other contexts? Aren't there opportunities beyond the world of the promotional contest?

Rajat Paharia thinks so. He is the founder of Bunchball, a company that is beginning to tap into our competitive nature to reward and build loyalty. Bunchball has taken a look at some of the essential elements of games (points, levels, challenges, leaderboards etc) and started applying them to the non-gaming world. Its first application of these principles can be seen on NBC's DundlerMifflinInfinity site where Office fans can join the company and work their way up through the organization, earning Shrutebucks as they go.

As this Forbes article (written by Bunchball's CEO) describes, these applications are successful in their own right, driving big increases in desired behaviors such as time on site and ad pages consumed as well as in more traditional metrics like purchase intent and brand favorability. But I think there's potential for applications that move even further away from these gaming roots. One example used by Rajat: Couldn't Yoplait dump its old-fashioned mail-in lids promotion in favor of revamped program that would track total points in real time, use a leaderboard and build community engagement? (See pp 32 to 34 of this deck.)

Once you start looking, you can see elements of game mechanics being used successfully. Look at Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. They all use the points/leaderboard motivator. That's why it's tough not to get sucked into playing the followers/friends/contacts game. It's powerful stuff and I expect that, as marketers look for new ways to engage with consumers, this will be a field that will start to receive a lot more attention.

Meanwhile, back in our house, as the Battle of Balloon Lagoon neared its conclusion, my daughter demonstrated her own mastery of gaming psychology. I had well-deserved victory in sight when she fired off: "Well if you win, we have to play again. If I win, we're done." After a couple of botched frog-jumps on my part, she was soon able to declare:

"I'M THE WINNER!" and give a little dance too. I'm going to win next time around.


Donna Brewington White said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Donna Brewington White said...

Excellent read, Martin. Brilliant insights to ponder...once again. The reference to video games in itself holds a lot to unpack. It's a booming industry even in a poor economy and I think the reason is not only multifaceted but points to phenomena well beyond "gaming" in itself. My guess is that there's a lot to tap into that can benefit other industries.

By the way, the frog-jump was always my demise in Balloon Lagoon.

Rajat Paharia said...

Thanks for the great overview Martin.
You hit the nail on the head. At Bunchball we're very excited about the potential of "game thinking" as a new way for marketers to drive customer engagement and ultimately revenue.

I'll be sharing this post! :)

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