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The stages of brand engagement
I have been thinking about the stages that a person goes through when becoming “involved” with brands or any system that is being gamified. I may be wrong, there may be more too it. However, as I see it there are three distinct phases. Introduction to the brand (or whatever). Engagement with the brand. Finally retention / loyalty to the brand.
Within gamification, many people talk about the introduction phase, as I see it. Rewards, badges, points and the like. These all help introduce people to the gamified system. For a short period of time, rewards can entertain people and introduce them to certain concepts to do with the brand. We know that this works, but has a short shelf-life if used in solitude. However when trying to nurture brand loyalty, you are not interested in short periods of time.
This is where the real engagement is needed. Once a person is interested in the brand, you need to keep them engaged with it. Ladders and badges can only do this for so long. They need something a little more meaningful to become actively engaged with a brand.
Finally, you want to keep these people. You want their loyalty. When you finish a video game, what happens? Normally there is a hint of a sequel. The company does not want to lose your loyalty to the game, so they start to spread information about the next game. Whilst they do that, they release little extras to keep you playing the old game. However, what is even more important is that after a game has finished, people tend to talk about it. Forums spring up to discuss it. Events occur in social media, and people link together to discuss it. Multiplayer keeps people playing it for longer, not just because of the game, but also because of the community. Community breeds a lot of loyalty and interest. The number of times I have bought a game, not because of the adverts or information that has come out, but because my community are playing it, has my wife in fits of rage at times!
The first part is easy, introduction. There are dozens of ways to badgify your system or your brand. There are dozens of companies that will do that for you. The next two phases are a little harder. Here I want to talk about a company that I mentioned in GSummit,Bubbles, Badges and the Future. Pug Pharm.
I recently had a demo of their system, Picnic™ Customer Engagement Engine, with company founder Steve Bocska and I have to admit it had me intrigued for a number of reasons. The first was Steve himself. Unlike many people in the gamification world, he is not a marketing person. He is actually a games designer. He has credits on games such as EA’s Simpsons Hit and Run, Ubisoft’s CSI games, Disney Interactive’s Buzz Lightyear and more. The next thing was the approach to gamification and brand engagement. Whilst Picnic does the standard badges and leaderboards, it is the other bits that caught my attention. The way they handle engagement and retention is pretty unique (if it isn’t please let me know as I would love to see how others are doing this).
The demonstration that Steve used, he said was a pretty basic use of the Picnic system (I won’t mention the brand). It had leaderboards and points, but the engaging bit and the fun bit was the use of a system they call i-Cardz. These are a bit like Pokémon or Top Trump cards in digital form. Doing various games, actions and activities, you can collect these i-Cardz. Each one is related to the brand in some way, be it cast members, vehicles or locations. Some are rare, some can only be found at specific times and some may even be unique. These cards are then used to create collections using game boards. The brand can set competitions and activities where you have to say, put your favourite cast members on a cast board or put your favourite vehicles from the series on a board.
It is the next bit that I really liked though. Once you have created these game boards, the system matches you with people who have similar boards. You are given a little leaderboard that shows you how close a match you are to others and gives you the opportunity to connect with them. This is the really clever bit for me, as it starts giving you ready made communities. As I have said, communities control much of brand loyalty.
It all looked fun and Steve had a few facts and figures that gave weight to the fact that people really enjoyed playing the game and getting involved with the communities that were created as a result of it. The website for the show found that they had a marked increase in people staying on the site and getting involved. As a system it was also incredibly flexible in its approach to gamification. I was shown how the creation tools worked and I think even I could use them!
Who wants to be a Chamillionaire
Another example of how important the community aspect is for all of this comes from a very unlikely place. Rapper, Chamillionaire. He has used Bigdoor to gamify his website. People can earn badges and points by sharing stuff from his site. He has cited that there has been a 25x lift in fan engagement since he started to gamify their experience. Each badge that is awarded from the site has some kind of special meaning to the fans. The leaderboards tell other fans who the biggest fan actually is (a point he has used when people have actually approached him proclaiming to be his biggest fan). However, I am not convinced this is the reason he has such a massive following. The thing with Chamillionaire is that he manages his social presence himself. He runs his own brands community and directly engages with fans as much as possible. He has combined the rewardification with proper community to cover both engagement and retention. When the fans have collected everything they can, they will still be loyal because they now that he is loyal to them through his constant, direct involvement with them.
So is there a take away from this? For me it is to never forget the importance of community when you are looking at brands and gamification. That is where a lot of the longevity will come from. The other is to be inventive and fun with the brand. Don’t rely on ladders and badges alone, use more. Give people something that has meaning to them.