Today’s guest post is written by Joey Strawn.

What if I told you that you were approaching gamification all wrong?

More than likely I’d be greeted with one of two answers:

1. What’s gamification?
2. Nuh-uh, we have badges and stuff!

For those unfamiliar with the term, Lisa Gerber wrote a great post called “Game Mechanics and Its Effect on Marketing” that you should definitely read (or re-read).

I could spend days citing stats about the explosion of gaming:

  • Stats such as Nielsen research that shows games are the second most frequent internet activity for Americans after social networks (more popular than email or porn).
  • Gartner postulates that by 2015, more than 50 percent of organizations that manage innovation processes will gamify those processes and that by 2014, 70 percent of the Global 2000 organizations will have at least one gamified application.
  • Research done by M2 Research says that the market for gamification will grow to $1.6 billion by 2015.

I could go on, but I won’t. By now you’ve probably already heard about gamification. If you haven’t tried it already, hopefully you’re at least thinking about thinking about it.

First, stop.

Let’s start from the beginning.

Gamification B.C.

Gamification is not new. When chaos ruled the land, humans naturally banded together to prosper in communities. Commerce and business became established within these communities and those that prospered created and introduced the concept of competition, or gaming. Just ask the Babylonians, Romans, Chinese, and Americans if you don’t believe me.

Fast forward to modern times. When Al Gore first invented the Internet, there was chaos. Individuals littered the web waves hacking, coding, creating, and revolutionizing the Internet before any of us had any idea what was going on. Next came widespread public adoption and again, chaos ensued. Eventually, we naturally started banding together around social networks and from there, social commerce began to emerge. Next, just as in the Middle Ages, groups began introducing gaming to prosper, and to win.

So let’s stop approaching this whole idea like it’s new. The reason people suck at online marketing and public relations is not because they don’t know how to do it. It’s because when the barrier of entry is so low, they go crazy and start throwing out any thoughtless crap they can think of.

Implementing gaming concepts like a blind mute in a NASCAR is not going to accomplish anything. Adding badges to your website does not make you any more of a gamified business than adding a picture of a giraffe makes you a zoo.

Gamification at it’s heart is about understanding what motivates people in positive ways towards predictable behaviors. When game mechanics are tacked on at the end of a marketing campaign just to say that you are “gamified,” you’re doing it wrong.

Like any new endeavor, gamification should be researched, tested, and integrated into your strategy. Most importantly, it needs to be overseen by an expert; someone who understands the process and the base mechanics. Points and badges are a good start, but they are just a start. It’s where we go from here that really matters.

Game on.

(+10 “Reading” Awarded To You)

Joey Strawn is a blogger, husband, and animal lover. He is President of Empty Jar Marketing and has been called “smart,” “engaging,” and “adorable” by people you know and trust.