I just signed up for a class on Coursera.org called Gamification. Let me talk about the class briefly before I talk about how companies are using gamification for marketing. You may have heard about massive open online courses (aka MOOC). These are free college-level courses that allow for unlimited registration (think tens of thousands of students). I’ve been wanting to take one for a little while both to learn the content from the class but also to see how they put them together so I can get better at my own web-based workshops for students. This particular one was developed by a Wharton (my alma mater) professor and is about a topic that I’ve been interested in for a while. It starts on April 1st if you want to join in.

Now, what is gamification? It is the use of game thinking and game mechanics (rewards typically) in non-game contexts. For marketers, it can be a way to increase engagement or usage of your products and services with your prospects or clients. The example given in the course intro was about the Nike Plus app which gives awards and badges to runners as they meet their goals (along with other fun stuff). Fun for their customers and not coincidentally, people who run more will need to replace their shoes more often. On a less high tech level, a loyalty card is an example of gamification that marketers have been using for quite some time!

There can be a lot of challenges though with using this approach effectively and without detracting from your brand. If all of the game outcomes are discounts or coupons, you’ll simply be training your clients to play for the deal and your long-term profits will likely go down. I’ll keep you posted as I learn about the ins-and-outs in the online course this Spring!