Gini Dietrich and I get the question often, “What is the point of Foursquare? Why are you on it?”

Our answer?

So we can beat one another. That’s the reason. We just want to win.

So when David Tyler, Chris Pirillo, and Mike Schneider took the stage at BlogWorld East to talk about the marketing effect of gamification, I was in for a treat.

What Is Gamification?

Gamification is the act of applying the things that make games interesting to non-game activities. Baseball isn’t fun unless you start looking at the statistics such as ERA’s and batting averages, and then talk about it with your friends at the bar. (Full disclosure, I still don’t think baseball is fun even when you look at those stats but that’s just me.)

Games, points, and leaderboards have been around forever. Now, we can apply these game mechanics to non-game activities in the online world to drive loyalty, and influence  customers to complete a behavior or set of behaviors.

There are a lot of companies that are doing this well:

  • Buffalo Wild Wings. A bar where you can go and play games. They use SCVNGR, a game about going places, doing challenges, and earning points.
  • Socialfresh. They want agencies to list themselves so they motivate them to complete their profiles by listing based on level of completion.
  • Empire Avenue. Gamifies you and your social graph by rewarding advocates to ”touch their social graph.”
  • LinkedIn. LinkedIn wants you to provide as much data as possible so they show you a progress bar that gives you a percentage of completedness. We hate to see we’re only 70 percent complete, right?

Seth Preibatsch, chief ninja of SVNGR was not on the panel, but he did do a Ted Talk on Adding a Game Layer to the World. If you have 12 and a half minutes, I highly recommend you watch.

Seth argues that no one is doing gamification right. Yet.

He dissects the process for us.

Four Dynamics that Drive Game Play

  1. Appointment: Influence someone to be at a place at a specific time.
  2. Influence and status: Like the coveted black American Express card, create demand by making it difficult to achieve.
  3. Progression: Motivate to get through a certain number of steps.
  4. Communal discovery: Work together to achieve something.


It’s not enough to just make a game. You have to think about the behavior you are trying to drive. Decide what the story is that you want to tell. Think about the game mechanics you want to employ to accomplish both of these things.

Once you have the idea, use the tool of game mechanics to create an interactive campaign.

I’ll leave you with a few final thoughts:

1.     Gamification cannot solve a bad product. No game is going to make a person loyal to a brand if the brand is crappy. If you are looking for the answer to creating loyalty, it is in creating a great product.

2.     The last five to 10 years, the digital world has been building the social layer and now we’re building the game layer. If you’re starting a community today, you need to think about building gamification into it and unleash the ability to tap into a larger community.

Is this cool or what? How can you incorporate this into your online activities?

Thanks to Vegan Japan for the image.