As a specialist for customer relationship and social media management, I help companies from diverse industries become more customer centric.

Although gamification is not my focus, I have noticed that companies are increasingly using game elements in their marketing efforts to establish a relationship with current and future customers. As such, I was motivated to explore more about this topic and would like to share my findings with you.


Gamification ( Gamification is the use of game thinking and game mechanics] in non-game contexts to engage users in solving problems. Gamification has been studied and applied in several domains, with some of the main purposes being to engage (improve user engagement, physical exercise, return on investment, flow, data quality, timeliness), teach (in classrooms, the public or at work), entertain (enjoyment, fan loyalty), measure (for recruiting and employee evaluation), and to improve the perceived ease of use of information systems.

In learning more about gamification, I have noticed distinct pattern:

  • Smaller companies or start-ups usually want product gamification. This process has to do with creating a winning product that provides a rather addictive experience, where players naturally want to keep playing.
  • Mid-sized companies develop marketing gamificationThe objective is toattract new customers within a target market segment and get them actively engaged with their brand and products.
  • Fortune 500s and large companies typically apply both product and marketing gamification, but also focus on workplace gamificationThe objective here is to train employees (in a way that feels effortless) and to cultivate a greater sense of solidarity within the internal team.

In this post, I would like to specifically focus on how marketing gamification impacts customer relationship management.

Marketing Gamification: Going Beyond Basic Loyalty Programs

At first glance, marketing gamification appears as a type of loyalty program. However, simply adding game elements to marketing efforts is not the ’silver bullet’ solution that will impact customer loyalty in a positive way. Even with loyalty programs, there are a few ways to do it right, and thousands of ways to fail. Here, I have gathered several examples of companies that have applied gamification in their marketing efforts with a positive impact on customer loyalty and engagement.

Marketing Gamification Case #1: Nike+ Fuelband

Nike launched the application in January 2012, and since then it has developed into a popular ‘gamified’ sport. The company moved from a well-known product brand to one that actively fosters lifestyle changes by helping their customer keep themselves fit.

The most popular accessory so far is the Nike+ Fuelband, which is bracelet with a special technology that can monitor user movements. Participants must download the Nike+ App. From this point, they can track their workouts. Statistics (like the number of calories burned) are displayed to provide feedback.

The smart game designers of this product also included a ‘social dimension to this game, which has undoubtedly helped to expand awareness and demand for the Nikes Fuelband. Users are also able to challenge friends, creating a clever way to interact with user communities and forge an association between a fit, slender body to Nike’s brand.

Today NikeFuel users earn more than 1 billion points each day. Converted to electricity, all that energy would be enough to power 6,772 houses daily, Nike says.


Marketing Gamification Case #2: My Starbucks Reward

Starbuck‘s philosophy has always been focused on personal service in favour of consumers. Much of their business model is based on ambiance – an inviting environment that is hip and upbeat characterizes the inside of each store. Customers are enticed to stay longer so that they can sit and enjoy their coffee or espresso.

The brand used gamification tactics to enhance the Starbuck’s experience and to boost sales as well. Players register for My Reward through an application. Every time they purchase a Starbucks product, they accumulate stars (which actually look like cups that are graphically filled in). But the game does not stop here. There are three “levels” depending on the degree of user loyalty – more frequent visits to a Starbucks store is awarded with an upgrade to the level.

Examples of benefits include: an extra cup of coffee, a birthday gift or even offers designed especially for the customer. In 2012, the users of My Reward totalled about 4.5 million. The cards alone accounted for $3 billion in sales per year.

Marketing Gamification Case #3: Coca-Cola’s Shake It

Coca-Cola is known to be at the forefront for developing creative and innovative product promotions.

This is evident in their commercials that elevate simple acts of drinking carbonized sugar water into an ‘epic’ experience with magical kingdoms, happiness and even polar bears! The Shake It campaign is a good example that integrates traditional and real-time media, smartphones, and gamification.

In Hong Kong, teenagers were offered a free branded mobile phone app. As television adverts ran, fans were asked to launch the app and shake their phones to win discounts and prizes from partners like McDonald’s.

In the evening, a spot was broadcast on television during which time it was possible to run the application and … begin to shake the smartphone in front of the TV!

Why Coca-Cola’s Shake It Is Incredibly Fun and Irresistible

Coca Cola aligns this campaign with its mission. The company succeeds in bringing happiness and optimism in the world, by creating advertisement that allows young people to interact enthusiastically with the brand.

Marketing Gamification Case #4: SeatPG Connection Game

Here is a campaign set in Italy. Seat PG is a telephone directories company and publisher of street maps. They used gamification to promote their newly developed mobile app, which can be used to find information such as the best places to eat and job opportunities posted by companies. The brand developed a treasure hunt set in Italy. Players are grouped into teams of three to five to contend for the prize of 1,000 Euros raffled by the company. Users solve quizzes based on the brand throughout the game. Each player is initially given a trial to decide whether they are interested in participating and want to keep playing.

Shortly after launch, Seat PG’s site received 15,000 visits. The game itself elicited more 400 teams, all actively engaged in the brand.

Marketing Gamification Case #5: All eyes on S4 – Swisscom Zürich HB

“Pranksvertising” is a promotional method that is growing as a marketing trend for major enterprises. One example is “All eyes on S4.” As illustrated in the video, players are challenged to win a new generation mobile phone simply by keeping their eyes on it for a certain period of time. They are challenged to avoid all types of outrageous distractions, including barking dogs, bickering couples and motorcycles as a crowd gathers around the contestant.

Samsung tests the resilience of players as they overcome each level of the game and keep them guessing what’s next.

Samsung created an experience that increases its brand awareness on more than one level. Not only does this involve the contestants themselves, but also the secondary audience of spectators at the scene and online as well. This is a great example of where gamification is used to create an extremely entertaining and immersive social experience.

Marketing Gamification case #6: Helsi by Helsana AG (Swiss Health Insurance)

Helsi is the official mascot of Helsana, a Swiss health insurance company. The main focus of the creation of Helsi’s world is connecting with children and parents (current and future customers).

Helsana offers a complete environment that focuses on health related topics, such as sports and nutrition. The objective is to make children and parents aware of actions that may have a positive impact on their health.

Helsana not only created a game but an entire community, which is actively managed. Users exchange health insights, post recipes and share tips on keeping active.

This is a great example of combining gamification with community management. By creating en entire world around Helsi, Helsana is able increasing – especially for children and parents – awareness around nutrition and health topics. An impression about the success rate can be found by viewing the download numbers on youtube.

Marketing Gamification case #7: Quiz and Fly by UBS AG (Financial Services)

UBS is a well-known global bank headquartered in Switzerland. On its digital journey, the bank is currently exploring the potential impact of utilising gamification to create brand awareness and engagement with target audiences. In October 2014, UBS launched the Quiz & Fly free game app that consists of two parts – a flight simulation game where users fly to various destinations while collecting coins, and a general knowledge quiz based on the flight destination.

Users are able to unlock badges that indicate they have successfully completed certain milestones, for example if all questions are answered correctly. After successfully answering questions, additional destinations are unlocked. Users collect coins as they fly to their destinations and earns miles with each correct answer provided in the quiz section. A leaderboard is available for users to compare scores with other players. After successfully answering questions, additional destinations are unlocked.

UBS also launched a contest, offering prices for the best pilots. All registered players, who have collected at least 5,000 air miles, have the chance to win the first prize of travel credits worth CHF4,000.

The bank aimed to explore innovative formats to interact and engage with users that utilises mobile and game elements. Over app has been downloaded over 10’000 times within the first 10 days after the launch, and over 2’500 players have registered to compete. The app also won the ‘BRONZE’ prize in the Game category of the coveted Best of Swiss Apps Awards (

The app has currently the following rankings:

  • #1 for education games iOS and Android
  • In the top 10 for free games iOS
  • In the top 50 for free games Android
  • Overall positive feedback (iOS 4/5, Android 3,8/5)

Marketing Gamification Conclusion

From the perspective of customer relationship management, I have derived several conclusions on how gamification can bring a positive impact:

  • Gamification offers a new way to actively interact and engage with existing and future customers;
  • The #TheSocialCustomer, who are tech-savvy and more engaged online, welcome such initiatives and actively share their experiences across their network, promoting the company’s brand;
  • Gamification creates the opportunity for companies to push the boundaries of creativity and enhance the customer’s experience;
  • Care must be taken in applying gamification to one’s own brand. Companies need to be aware that gamification is not a panacea. The overall design and user experience must all be carefully planned by specialized experts;
  • Finally, from a customer relationship management perspective, applying marketing gamification needs to demonstrate a clear connection to the brand.


Upcoming blog post – Gamification and hospitality industry

In a next blog post I will focus on a specific industry, the hospitality. The hospitality industry is facing several challenges. Booking platforms are expensive and charge around 20% for each room booking. Climate and demographic changes make it more difficult to attract customers to given destinations. That’s why the hospitality industry is searching for new ways increasing guest loyalty.

Special thanks to Kamales Lardi for contributing to the idea of this blog post and her support.