June 25, 2014, 5:32 PM

"Gamification": a strategy for building engagement and communities

Consumer brands are creating games that people can play on their mobile devices, inserting the brand into the shopper’s leisure time. Here are two examples.

Gaming is an American obsession, and although many of us have conflicting views about it, we can't deny its power to attract and engage. As mobile usage increases, so will the use of games, which naturally lend themselves to mobile environments.

 Therefore, an opportunity exists for marketers to use games, or game-like elements, to enter the consumer's recreational world to help build their brands — a process more commonly called "gamification." Brands as diverse as Kellogg's and Frontier Communications are executing best in class promotional programs using elements of gaming to build awareness, engagement, and social communities.

 Kellogg's becomes a hero when they bring Spiderman to breakfast

Cereal and those precious shared moments over breakfast were losing relevance with today's time-starved families. Kellogg's needed to drive excitement back into the cereal category, and to bring kids and their families back together. Spiderman, in the form of an augmented reality app accessed through Kellogg's cereal boxes, came to the rescue. 

Kids downloaded the AR app from the cereal box to mom's smart phone. They scanned the Spiderman art to launch content that included exclusive movie clips. The exclusive content then drove instant viral chatter on YouTube.

The AR app was just one piece of a well-executed program that leveraged online and offline merchandising and exceeded all metrics for sales lift, display, and ROI.    Nevertheless, the robust consumer response to the AR app (more than 250,000 participants) and spike in content gone viral indicates just how important the gaming element was in driving engagement and building community.

Frontier Communications makes it to Santa's 'nice list' with Frank the Buffalo

Frontier Communications launched a holiday sweepstakes supported by a game featuring their mascot, Frank the Buffalo. "Frank's Chimney Dash," a flash-based video game accessed through Facebook, encouraged consumers to support Frank's dream of pulling Santa's sleigh and help him train for his big day.

Frontier launched the sweepstakes and immediately saw a nearly 75 percent increase in Facebook followers. Frank the Buffalo's Instagram account achieved a similarly high level of interest. The response from Facebook fans also was overwhelmingly positive. The promotion formed a community united in a common goal of getting Frank to the North Pole.

One size doesn't have to fit all

What the Kellogg's and Frontier Communications examples demonstrate is that games provide an incredibly flexible and customizable way to create awareness, engagement, and community among consumers. Gaming elements can be a part of a large national multichannel effort like the Kellogg's Spiderman promotion or of a smaller regional program like the Frontier sweepstakes and Frank's Chimney Dash. Both were hugely successful and exceeded goals, but at very different levels of scale. 

Who are gamers, and why should marketers care?

There is a stereotype that portrays gamers as young males in hoodies who never leave home. According to a 2013 report issued by the Entertainment Software Association, however, 45 percent of all game players, and 46 percent of the most frequent purchasers of games are female. And we all know that women are the main purchasers of CPG products. Women have been especially enthusiastic about games that require strategy (rather than violence) and offer an educational element for kids.

Gamification represents a new way for marketers to drive awareness, engagement, and community while providing fun and educational consumer experiences. Clearly, the game is on. It will be interesting to see which marketers seize the day. 

Catapult eCommerce is a marketing agency serving consumer goods manufacturers.

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