What is Gamification in Marketing and How Does It Engage Customers

Gamification in marketing is a great way to engage customers and create memorable brand experiences. What are some of the best gamification techniques to use?

is*hosting team 20 Jun 2024 10 min reading
What is Gamification in Marketing and How Does It Engage Customers

We all know that an exciting book can easily captivate many people. They'll read it late into the night just to find out what happens at the end. Some people are eager to take the prize in a quiz. Some people may play a game endlessly to reach a new level. These are all everyday examples of engagement. Now imagine if your customers could experience the same excitement and engagement when interacting with your brand, or if your employees could be as efficient and motivated as possible.

Gaming has been an excellent way for many brands to grow. Some have built their value on it, some have attracted new customers, and some have incentivized employees to do new things. This article will talk about gamification in marketing and how effective it is nowadays. We'll also look at some of the most interesting examples of gamification out there!

What Is Gamification in Marketing?

Gamification in marketing is the use of game design elements and techniques in non-game contexts. These techniques are used to stimulate desired behaviors, increase user engagement, and solve specific business problems. Gamification marketing involves incorporating game features such as points, badges, leaderboards, challenges, and rewards into marketing campaigns, customer loyalty programs, employee training, and other marketing activities.

The idea behind gamification in marketing is to make interaction with a brand or product more engaging, motivating, and rewarding.

In simple terms, gamification in marketing is the use of specific game rules to achieve real-world goals. The game makes tedious tasks enjoyable, avoidable tasks more desirable, and complex tasks easier.

Gamification Marketing Types

Gamification Marketing Types

The most accurate classification of gamification types in marketing is according to the target audience that is involved in a particular process. For example, internal gamification marketing focuses on the company's employees, and external gamification marketing focuses on the company's customers.

Internal Gamification Marketing

Internal gamification can be used to increase the productivity and efficiency of tasks performed, improve internal processes, etc. Gamification can bring back the lost fun in traditional work processes and ultimately create intrinsic motivation.

Examples include the following techniques:

  • Points systems. Employees earn points for completing tasks or meeting goals, which can be redeemed for rewards such as gift cards, time off, or other items.
  • Leaderboards. Employees can compete against each other or teams to earn the most points or rank highest on a leaderboard.
  • Progress bars. Employees can track their progress toward goals or milestones with visual indicators that help motivate them to stay on track.
  • Role-playing. Employees take on different roles or personas within a gamified system, which can add an element of fun and engagement to their work.
  • Storytelling. Gamification can incorporate elements of storytelling to create a plot around employees' tasks and goals, making them the heroes of engaging stories within the company.

You can also devise your own company gamification techniques. For example, your employees might create something interesting that is specifically tailored to them.

External Gamification Marketing

External gamification focuses on the company's external side, i.e., its customers. It is geared towards increasing brand loyalty, increasing sales, attracting new customers, and retaining old ones.

External gamification can come in the form of:

  • Loyalty programs. When customers make purchases or interact with the brand, they earn points and rewards that can be redeemed for discounts, free products, or other value.
  • Contests and sweepstakes. Customers are encouraged to participate in contests or competitions to win prizes and rewards, often by completing tasks or achieving goals.
  • Social media integration. Gamification marketing elements can be integrated with social media platforms, allowing customers to share their achievements and earn rewards for social activity.
  • Referral programs. Customers can be rewarded for referring new customers or sharing their positive experiences with a brand or product.
  • Event gamification. Gamification techniques can be used at events and conferences to engage attendees, incentivize participation, and create memorable experiences.

The list of variations that external gamification in marketing can take doesn't end here. Many companies are only limited by their imagination, and there are many successful examples of implementing gaming techniques that prove it.

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Advantages of Gamification Marketing

Gamification can make tasks more fun and engaging by capturing people's attention and motivating them to actively participate. Incorporating game elements such as challenges, rewards, and competitions creates a sense of excitement and engagement.

For example, interactive activities can enhance learning for both children and adults. A game-based approach can help users understand complex concepts, reinforce knowledge through repetition, and develop problem-solving skills in a fun way.

By implementing game mechanics such as levels, points, badges, and leaderboards, gamification can tap into people's intrinsic motivation and encourage them to achieve goals. It can create a sense of accomplishment, foster healthy competition, and increase productivity in a variety of contexts, including the workplace.

Gamification has been successful in driving positive behavioral change and skill development. Setting clear goals, providing feedback, and rewarding desired actions can encourage people to adopt new habits, learn new skills, and overcome challenges.

Just as importantly, gamification platforms can collect valuable data about user behavior, performance, and preferences. Subsequent analysis of this data provides insights into improving and personalizing the user experience.

Drawbacks of Gamification Marketing

While gamification in marketing can increase initial engagement, there is a risk that it will generate superficial engagement rather than genuine interest or deep learning. If game elements overshadow the actual content or learning objectives, users may focus on getting rewards rather than understanding the underlying concepts. Also, some incentives (points, rewards) may only be effective in the short term and may not sustain intrinsic motivation.

While competition can motivate some people, it can also alienate others or create an unhealthy atmosphere. Gamification that relies heavily on leaderboards and rankings can create a hyper-competitive environment in which individuals are focused on their desire to outperform others rather than on personal growth and learning.

In general, developing effective gamified systems requires careful planning, using design tools, and implementation with sufficient budget and additional hosting resources for storing all the data. Creating engaging game mechanics and aligning them with learning or business goals can be time-consuming. Poorly designed gamification marketing can fail to engage users, fail to deliver the desired results, and simply become a waste of resources.

How Can Gamification Enhance Marketing?

Implementing gamification in an organization can bring a number of benefits and solve various problems, but it is worth considering the risks and costs of such implementation.

  • Increase engagement. Gamification marketing can help get and keep users engaged with your brand or product by creating a sense of fun and competition.
  • Improve user experience. Gamification elements can make interactions with your brand more enjoyable and memorable, resulting in an improved user experience.
  • Motivate behavior. Gamification techniques can offer rewards and recognition to encourage users to take desired actions, such as making purchases, completing tasks, or sharing content.
  • Loyalty and retention. Gamification can increase customer loyalty and retention by creating a sense of community and encouraging repeat participation.
  • Data Collection. Gamification marketing can provide valuable data about user behavior and preferences that can be used to improve marketing strategies and product development.
  • Competitive advantage. By incorporating gamification into your marketing strategies, you can differentiate your brand from the competition and create a unique experience for your customers.
  • Adaptability. Gamification marketing can be applied to many aspects of your business, including marketing campaigns, loyalty programs, employee training, and product development.

It's important to remember that before you start gamifying anything, you need to properly analyze what you need, what you want to achieve, and the context in which your company operates.

Effective Marketing Gamification Strategies

Effective Marketing Gamification Strategies

Gamification in marketing can take many forms and is only limited by your imagination and what's feasible. A few strategies are used universally and attract users.

It's worth noting that frequently repeated promotions can bore users and not engage them in the game. So, we recommend carefully evaluating your chosen gamification strategy, user loyalty, and the possibility of using game elements.

Web Games

No matter what kind of web game we're talking about, simplicity and unobtrusiveness are the main things that set web games apart. Make it easy for users to play, let them win something, and let them close the game if they're not interested.

You can add a discounted wheel "Spin to Win" game to your site. This gamified element makes shopping fun by letting customers spin the wheel for special offers, free gifts, and other bonuses.

The wheel should have lots of different rewards, like discounts and free shipping, as well as exclusive products and offers that are only available for a limited time. Limit the number of spins per day to make the game more exciting. Such a game should be placed on the site in a way that doesn't get in the way of viewing but is still visible. You should also make sure that the rules and terms of the game are accurate to keep it transparent.

A great example of gamification marketing is a web game for an online fashion retailer. Players act as stylists, collecting images and participating in virtual fashion contests. They can mix and match clothing items from the retailer's collection to create stylish outfits and get more involved in choosing the right products. The game promotes the retailer's products, provides fashion inspiration, and offers exclusive discounts to players who complete certain tasks or share their outfits on social media.

Loyalty Programs

Games can be used to reward loyal customers who might be interested in trying to win exclusive rewards and benefits. For instance, you could set up a points system. It's important to clearly define what actions or purchases are awarded points and how many points are due for each action. For example, you could give one point for each dollar spent and 25 points for each referral. Then, you can convert points into discounts, free shipping, early access to products, and so on.

Another way to organize such a system is to use a progress line. This will show the number of points needed to move to the next level and the reward for doing so. You can also integrate the points system as a loyalty program into your mobile app, making it easier for customers to access the game and the program.

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Digital Rewards

Digital rewards are a way to motivate customers by offering them virtual or digital incentives. These rewards are usually earned for specific actions or achievements and can take many forms.

  • Badges and achievements are a way for customers to show off what they've done as a result of interacting with the brand. They give customers a sense of recognition and accomplishment, which encourages them to keep moving forward and achieve more. Badges can be shown on user profiles or shared on social media, which encourages customers to show off their achievements and compete with others.
  • Another great way to gamify your marketing is by offering exclusive digital content as a reward. This could be access to premium articles, e-books, video content, or behind-the-scenes content. Brands can create a sense of exclusivity by offering valuable and exclusive digital content to customers.
  • You can tailor digital rewards to customers based on their preferences, behaviors, or purchase history. When brands personalize rewards, they create a more meaningful and emotionally empowering experience for customers. This personalization can include offering discounts on products customers have shown interest in or providing tailored recommendations based on their past actions.

In general, offering personalized rewards can be an excellent way to get people to stick with a brand over time. It also lets companies track what their users like and don't like.

Online Quizzes

Interactive quizzes are a great way to engage your audience and show them the value your brand offers. They're also a great way to get to know your customers better and meet their requests in the best way possible every time.

You can create a quiz that gives a result based on the user's choices. Keep it short and fun so people have time to complete it before losing interest. The ideal number would be somewhere between 5 to 10 questions in order to strike the right balance. Make sure the questions are clear, concise, and engaging to answer. Also, use visually appealing images, graphics, and interactive game elements to increase engagement.

For instance, an online jewelry store might say, "Answer five questions, and we'll find the right earrings for you." A fast-food restaurant could use a quiz like "Find your perfect taco in six questions." Once the customer fills out the survey, you should display instant results, with a short, personalized description based on their answers.

Social Media Gamification

Gamification in social media is all about using gaming features, challenges, and interactive experiences to engage users and raise brand awareness.

Social media is a great place to run contests and challenges as part of your gamification strategy. Brands can organize contests where users are encouraged to participate by sharing content, solving puzzles, or completing specific tasks. Winners or participants often receive rewards and incentives, which motivate users to engage and share their experiences with others.

Social media gamification often involves encouraging users to create and share brand-related content. For example, brands can run contests that ask users to create content, such as photos, videos, or reviews, and share them using specific hashtags or tagging the brand account. This helps build a sense of community, encourages participation, and communicates the brand's message through user-generated content.

Social media platforms allow users to easily share content, making them an excellent medium for some gamification marketing strategies. Content sharing by platform users can help a brand spread quickly across a platform, reaching more people and attracting new customers.

Successful Gamification Marketing Examples

Successful Gamification Marketing Examples

It's one thing to know the basics, but it's another thing entirely to implement gamification that will directly benefit your business. Here are some examples of gamification use cases based on real companies.


Duolingo, a language learning platform, is perhaps the most successful example of gamification marketing. It engages users in the educational process by motivating them to complete lessons, earn points, and maintain levels, which helps them learn new languages while having fun.

Duolingo learners earn experience points after completing lessons or practice sessions. The platform has a level system that unlocks levels after a certain amount of experience has been gained or words have been learned. Also of interest are Lingots, an in-game currency that players earn for accomplishing various goals and can be spent on new lessons, bonuses, and even new virtual clothes for Duo the Owl, the app's main mascot and learning assistant.


An interesting example of gamification marketing is NikeFuel, a fitness metric created by Nike. NikeFuel is a unit of measurement for tracking fitness activity, the exact formula for which depends on the device or service that is tracking it. The general idea is to translate activity and movement into a universal physical activity point system.

Users can even passively compete with other users for the best performance on this unique metric.

The points system is one of the key differentiators of the Nike+ branded line of devices and services, as all products under the brand allow the user to earn NikeFuel.

Foursquare City Guide

Foursquare City Guide is a location-based guide app that uses gamification elements to encourage users to explore their cities and interact with local businesses. The app gives users personalized recommendations of places to visit near their current location based on their previous visit history and check-ins.

Foursquare City Guide also offers challenges that encourage users to visit certain places or complete specific tasks. They get rewarded with points and badges for doing so.

Users can check in to places they visit and earn points and virtual badges. This means that users can become "mayors" of places by checking in more often than others, which gives them special privileges and recognition. Users can compete with friends and other users on leaderboards based on points, marks, and other metrics.


eBay isn't usually thought of as a gamified platform, but they've done a great job of using emotional investment to engage users and facilitate transactions.

The auction format creates a sense of anticipation, excitement, and competition for users. The bidding process can evoke emotions like anticipation, joy, or frustration as users try to outbid others and win the desired item. These emotions encourage users to stay on the site and return to the platform frequently.


McDonald's "Monopoly" promotion is a great example of gamification marketing in fast food. Customers received game elements with their purchases that they could collect and combine to complete sets of real estate on the "Monopoly" board. Customers could win a grand prize by collecting certain combinations of game pieces.

By encouraging customers to collect and win prizes, McDonald's created an atmosphere of excitement, increased customer engagement, and drove sales during the promotion period.


The Starbucks Rewards app has a gamification method in the form of a loyalty program. The app uses a points-based system where customers earn stars with every purchase. As stars are earned, customers progress through different levels of membership, with each level offering different benefits and rewards, including free drinks, personalized offers, and early access to new products.

Progress and rewards create a sense of achievement and motivate customers to keep shopping to earn more stars and unlock higher levels of program membership. The progress bar acts as a motivator, encouraging customers to make additional purchases to reach the next level and earn more rewards.


When used thoughtfully, gamification can be a powerful tool for engagement, learning, and motivation. However, it is essential to strike a balance, align game elements with objectives, and consider the potential drawbacks of superficial engagement and an overemphasis on rewards or competition.

Many brands, including McDonald's, Duolingo, Starbucks, Nike, and eBay, have shown how successful gamification can be in marketing. It can be a successful solution for you, too.

It's also worth remembering that extra load on your app or website means additional resources are needed. For example, if you use a VPS for business, you can quickly scale your server. Improving your server configuration and applying some best practices will significantly enhance performance.

If you want to start small or need to improve team morale, try internal gamification. Some techniques can have a positive impact not only on your employees but also on the success of your business.

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