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Gamification: Useful or a gimmick?

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It’s easy to see how gamification has been used successfully to motivate employees. A company’s sales team, for example, is inherently competitive and is therefore the perfect arena in which gamification can be used for motivational purposes, for example introducing a Fantasy Sales Team that has similar principles to online fantasy football.

Some organisations have also used loosely veiled gaming environments to drive up productivity. One supermarket enables cashiers to compete on how quickly items are scanned through the check-out – with a leader board displayed in the staff room for all to see. 

Others have introduced a points system with monthly prizes rewarding accuracy and frequency of data entry. However there are issues here – can employee performance actually be judged by the skills displayed through gamification?

From an equal opportunities perspective this doesn’t seem entirely fair and is almost certainly not something that staff would have expected to be measured on when accepting a role. The notion of competition and reward may need to be examined more closely by HR departments in the future.

What’s the endgame?

Although the early adopters were large, global corporates, gamification is no longer just the domain of big organisations. There are opportunities for companies of all sizes to devise new ways to get their message across to their employees, customers and prospects. 

Gamification is a prize tool for word of mouth marketing – Google uses this brilliantly when integrating gaming into its Doodles – but even a relatively small budget mixed with the right creative idea can enable companies to reach a much wider audience than via traditional direct marketing, as well as giving them a tool to motivate staff.

The more budget you have the more functionality you can include, but even simple games such as Sudoku or retro graphic games have an appeal. The key is to get the design right and to target it at the right people.

Forbes has predicted a significant number of gamification applications will fail to meet business objectives due to poor design. 

But for poor design, you could also read poor targeting which puts marketers right back to basics when it comes to delivering successful campaigns, i.e. target the right message, to the right people, at the right time, in the right way.

In that respect, gamification is no different to any other tool in the marketing armoury. But it might be a bit more fun.

Andrew McCallum is the head of digital at APS Group.

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