Code Worldwide

Four ways to win at global gamification

Matt McNeany

Matt McNeany

Founder and Chief Executive Officer

As millennials and Generation Z become dominant in the global workforce, gamification will become a go-to tool for business transformation

Our world is becoming smaller and more intimate.

Social media, mobile communication and advanced networks have brought us closer together, in real-time, through the touch of a thumb. 

For brands, this phenomenon presents both opportunity and peril. On the one hand, technology provides greater reach and connection with customers, but to do so involves creating an always-on marketing machine.

Today’s global marketing leaders need their international teams and partners to all row in one direction. They are asking people to move faster, work more efficiently and make smarter decisions, often within a rigid corporate framework.

A tall task, especially given the speed at which our culture moves.

Gamification: the promise and the peril

Gamification, when applied globally, can solve many of the progressive challenges holding back marketers and their organisations. Smartly-designed game platforms are built around principles such as consistency, collaboration, innovation and competition. Who wouldn’t want to excel at those?

Gartner has predicted that in 2015, 40% of the “Global 1,000” organisations will use gamification as a way to transform their business.

Gamification has already shown up in surprising places. Investment banks are using game mechanics to teach retail investors to trade options and boost consumers’ financial health. And B2B marketers are using game mechanics to supplement sales training and drive behaviour change across distributed teams.

Take what global media agency PHD (an Omnicom company) did to unite its workforce around the world through media planning platform, Source. Designed to empower and motivate 1,500 employees in 75 markets, Source has become one of the largest gamified business platforms in the world. It’s built as a global multi-player game, where players win by beating the media performance of colleagues around the world. It works because everyone wins: clients get better results, employees are more engaged and the agency has secured major clients that have been drawn to this type of operation.

Or look at Cisco, which organised its massive social media training programme into categories with various certification levels for employees. This turned the overwhelming and complex into something digestible and actionable.

My favourite example is Google, whichincreased the efficiency of its travel-expense process by gaming how employees could reallocate funds saved. The result was 100% compliance within six months.

But there is a downside. Gartner estimates that up to 80% of gamified applications will fail to meet business objectives, primarily due to poor design: a big risk given the costs of rolling out global platforms such as those mentioned above.

Four gamification rules for marketers

So what can marketers do to ensure that investments in gamification pay off? Here are four simple rules that all successful gamified platforms share:

1. Know your users

This seems simple enough, but consider the subtle differences between millennials and Gen Z. Both are highly likely to engage in a gamified platform, but where millennials communicate primarily with words and text, Gen Zers communicates with images. Where millennials think multi-cultural, Gen Z thinks blended. This can have huge implications on the design of your user experience and rewards structure.

2. Make it fun

Games that work are those with mechanics that amuse and stimulate people’s attention. Simply stated, if an organisation can make its employees’ tasks entertaining, people tend to produce more and distractions that plague the workforce are minimised. Multiplied at scale, a single organisation can increase effectiveness, and save costs, just by having some fun.

3. Be authentic

A company’s culture is critical to its success, and employee behaviours and attitudes play a large role in shaping a company’s DNA. As a result, internal cultures are social entities and align perfectly with the social aspects inherent to game mechanics. By introducing game principles, leaders can fuel the growth and strengthening of enterprise-wide cultures than transcend typical geocentric boundaries. But beware: gamification is an inherently social activity, so trying to be something you’re not is one of the fastest ways to kill a programme.

4. Measure and improve

Rules are central to any game initiative. When installed across an entire organisation, leaders have a framework to compare and track individual and group performances against one another through data. With mechanisms such as recognition and rewarding performance in place, it becomes easier for decision-makers to identify top contributors. Establishing benchmarks for performance is essential, of course, but while consistency is important, don’t be afraid to change the rules.

Gamification will only grow in importance as a go-to tool for business transformation and engagement, especially as millennials and Generation Z become the dominant populations in our global workforce. These are generations that are wired to interact and respond to a highly-social, competitive and reward-based environment.

Brands and their leaders who choose to continue to rely on antiquated ways of driving performance – particularly across complex, diverse organisations – simply won’t be able to compete.

Matt McNeany is CEO of CODE Worldwide, which is part of the RAPP network