Throughout the semester, we talked a lot about brand activation in class. This concept is one that stood out to me the most, because it really goes hand in hand with the whole concept of building a brand with the “why” in focus. What is brand activation? HubSpot provided a nice, succinct definition of it: “Brand activations are in-person events, experiences, and interactions that forge lasting emotional connections between a brand and their target audience.”1
With the current pandemic ongoing, I started to wonder if there are other strategies that could be considered brand activation – strategies that don’t require in-person interaction. This got me thinking about gamification strategies, and how brands can use games or contests to engage with customers. I find gamification strategies in marketing can be really engaging on a wide scale, from small promotional contests to larger, extensive games, and while they may not have a very deep emotional connection for most consumers, I would argue that they could fall under the brand activation umbrella, engaging customers and making a lasting impact.
Here are three examples of how to integrate gamification into a marketing campaign and achieve brand activation with consumers.
Have you ever visited a website and seen a pop-up of a spinning game wheel offering you a special discount to that store? That’s one example of gamified discounts. Others can show up as a scratch-off or mystery coupon. This gamification style acts to entice users to participate in the mini-game and shop at the store, and data shows that it’s effective – not only to make sales, but to generate leads. 41% of consumers say that receiving a deal or discount will make them more likely to allow brands to use their information.2 Sure, the company gives away discounts in a prize wheel, but they also get new leads that could be returning customers long-term.
Gamified rewards systems
Any Starbucks lover is familiar with Starbucks Rewards, but for those who prefer other coffee shops, Starbucks Rewards is Starbucks’ Loyalty Program that incentivizes and rewards frequent Starbucks customers with free refills and free drinks. It operates on a point system – each purchase counts for a certain amount of “stars”, and stars can be redeemed for rewards.3
McDonald’s has been teamed up with the makers of Monopoly since 1987.5 Together, they created a promotion that has kept McDonald’s customers engaged and excited for over 30 years. This promotion allows customers to win prizes by buying food from McDonald’s. Each food item comes with stickers attached to them that customers can collect and exchange for prizes, ranging from free food items to cash prizes, (similar to the ACME Monopoly game that we see in stores).4 McDonald’s and their partnership with Monopoly created an engaging, exciting promotion in the style of a popular board game that gets users excited to purchase products from the fast food chain.
While it’s not lost on us as marketers that these, at their core, are marketing strategies and ways to make money, gamification strategies do have a way of incentivizing consumers, getting them engaged (and in McDonald’s case, keeping them engaged year after year), and even converting them into long-time customers. It may seem like it’s just a marketing strategy, but I do think that people enjoy being given incentives and fun ways to participate with brands, and I think that has a lasting effect on how that brand is perceived.