Archives for posts with tag: sxsw2011


Try it out: Next time you talk about the future of marketing, add the words “Gamification” and “Game Mechanics.” Suddenly you morph from marketing expert to marketing genius. You might be promoted on the spot. The world will be your oyster.

Even better: Gamification will transform education and finally fix that darn Global Warming thing.

Seriously, wouldn’t you study that much harder if a class valedictorian was called “White Knight Paladin Level 20”? Of course you would. At least that’s what Seth Priebatch, the founder and Chief Ninja (You can’t make that stuff up.) of SCVNGR told the world at his South by Southwest keynote in Austin. He referred to the education system as “one of the most perfect game ecosystems that’s out there, “full of challenges, rewards, rules, allies, enemies, countdowns, and incentives, “all sorts of things that basically make school the best real-world implementation of a game that’s out there. Priebatsch called education “a poorly designed game; it’s kind of broken.”

What is gamification?

Gamification is the use of game place mechanics in order to encourage people to adopt applications and, ultimately, change behavior. Think about Foursquare: People are encouraged to check-in at physical locations in order to earn badges, mayorships and rewards (coupons, freebies, etc.). Gamification or Game Mechanics work because it makes technology more engaging/entertaining by encouraging desired behavior and taps into the human desire to play a game. It can help to perform tasks that are normally considered boring or arduous.

Gamification will gain in importance

There’s a good case to be made that ‘Pleasure’ should be added to the 5 P’s of marketing. Why shouldn’t pleasure be an extension of a great customer experience? Right now, customer experiences are mostly limited to well-working and easy to use. In the near future, a great customer experience has to add the fun factor. When you’re being rewarded to do your timesheets, you’ll do them more timely. And it might be even a task you’ll be looking forward to. You can create ‘player journeys’ to reward people with status, access and power – you create meaning inside of the mechanics. Loyalty programs can be expanded through leaderboards, each customer interaction can become an enjoyable experience.

But, please, don’t overhype the hype

Gamification is an important tactic to help change human behavior. It can make life more entertaining and more pleasurable. It will make arduous tasks more enjoyable. It can be used to change bad habits and transform into more positive actions. But, let’s stop the hype before it gets really started. Let’s deliver on small promises before we promise the world.


Josh Williams, founder and CEO of Gowalla, surprised the audience during his keynote with quotes like “Badges are bullshit.” and “Gamification isn’t cool.”


For three days we heard that gamification will solve every problem known to mankind: Education, Global Climate Change, ingrown toenails. And, suddenly gamification isn’t cool? Maybe it’s just not cool because Gowalla is losing the battle of location-based services to Foursquare and Facebook Places? Why was it cool when Gowalla signed a deal with Chipotle? And maybe badges are bullshit because Foursquare continues to bank highly on them and thrive?

We could ask these questions but there’s more behind the repositioning

When you’re losing to your competitor, you re-evaluate your mission and your vision. You have done everything in your power to beat them but, for some reason, they are leading in each and every category. And you start to realize that the initial reason for starting your company might have been forgotten while trying to catch-up with your competitors. You never meant to be like Foursquare (just like Yahoo never wanted to be like Google and the comparisons were always weak and meaningless) and you always tried to differentiate yourself by offering passports, connecting people with experiential places. But the public didn’t see this subtleties, they saw you as the LBS loser.

You have two options: Either dig in and continue the war until the bitter end. Or change the game.

Gowalla decided to change the game, transforming the service into a storytelling platform where people can document their memories by associating them with the places where they happened. No specific plans were revealed but it’s likely that Gowalla will add tools that will help people to add more content around specific places. The gamification part of the platform seems to be destined for the pile of buzzwords. And the pro-active part of check-in might change to a more passive activity.

A good move by Gowalla. The execution of their revised vision will determine if user will follow them on their new path.

– Just met a brilliant user experience designer from Iowa. Very insightful and forward-thinking.

– Shared a cab with an entrepreneur developing an VRM application. I didn’t even have to sign an NDA.

– Stood in a coffee line with someone who’s working feverishly to help the Earthquake/Tsunami victims on Japan through Social Media.

And, I’ve been here for only 2 hours.