Making the most of game dynamics

Making the most of game dynamics

In a helpful article in Fast Company, Seth Priebatsch provides his insights on how brands can use game dynamics to forge new levels of engagement with customers. He cites three robust principles:

The power of we

Marketers talk a lot about individualising these days, but Priebatsch reminds us that people also find huge reassurance in being part of groups and that creating and motivating such groups can be a game-changer. The dynamics of a customer base change, he suggests, when people see themselves within a group setting rather than just the context of one-to-one. There’s more than group-think at play here. The reason this works, I think, is because communities themselves combine bonding with form and mass which in turn adds the all-important elements of momentum and endorsement. So perhaps a more accurate way of describing this is Seth Godin’s concept of tribalism.

Visible progress

Everyone loves to think they’re getting ahead, and as Priebatsch reminds us, the many progression metrics that brands use – points, status, benchmarks, levels, progress bars – “all help users visuali[s]e and keep track of successes in small increments”. In my mind, progression strategies parallel the ‘upgrade culture’ because they’re all about short-term incremental gains. They’re immediate and they give people small but valued things to work towards. Priebatsch’s advice: “Businesses should constantly strive to devise new and creative ways to allow their customers to visuali[s]e and track their success. Hitting goals and making progress is fun.”

There is a downside of course – and that is that consumers who don’t make the progress they feel they deserve (or would simply like) can feel let down or even abandoned. I remember when I was downgraded on my airline loyalty programme that the drop seemed an awfully long way down. In fact, in some ways, not having them, turned me off flying even more.

Tell me when

I don’t necessarily agree with the examples that Priebatsch gives for his third dynamic, but I absolutely agree with the principle. Priebatsch suggests that having happy hour every Thursday at 5 p.m. is a great example of the appointment dynamic because it “provides reason and immediacy, two ingredients that the customer needs in order to change their behavior.” To me that’s an example of a limited place-and-time offer at work. But the other opportunity here is to establish a habit that people link inextricably with your brand and that may, or may not, be tied to an offer. Starbucks’ third place is a classic example of this type of appointment dynamic because it provides people with a regular thing they can do at a regular time of their day. Coke, too, makes great use of the appointment dynamic, implying that the brand should be included any time that people get together and want to have fun.

Three learnings

1: Give people something to belong to that enhances their sense of identity. (Association)

2: Provide carrots. (Incentives)

3: Look for simple ways to get into and stay in your customers’ diaries. (Priority)