So what’s gamification? It’s exactly what it sounds like – as simple as making something into a game. Its applications run the gamut from educational games (such as Jump Start, which makes computer games) to a promotional campaign for a product to just a cool feature on a website.

One notable early example of gamification is Nesquik’s use of games to promote their chocolate milk line around 2006. Nesquik produced a small, charming game called Nesquik Quest, as well as a longer, adventure-style, quest-based game. The goal, of course, was to attain the most perfect glass of Nesquik chocolate milk by traversing through various landscapes to find the necessary ingredients. It made the rounds among elementary and middle school students who found the game entertaining without being bothered by the fact that it was essentially an elaborate advertisement.

Nesquik gamification as a growth strategy in marketing

These children, of course, are one of Nesquik’s target audiences. If these young children come to associate Nesquik with fun, games, and tastiness, they’ll ask their parents to buy it. Thus, Nesquik’s goal is fulfilled.

Gamification is genius as a growth strategy in marketing because it presents a delightful head-fake. People are being marketed to without them necessarily realizing it – and if they do, more likely without them caring. They spend more time on the website because they feel that the game is being provided for their own entertainment (assuming an attention-capturing game!), and are more likely to check out other sections of a website.

Games also easily create brand advocates who might share the content on their social media networks. This is almost a double whammy: as we’ve previously discussed, this sort of word of mouth from friends is often considered to be the most reliable and, for the brand, best at generating the desired action.

Finally, it’s important to note that through gamification, the impression the brand has on the user becomes much deeper than it might otherwise have been. Think about how back in high school, how memorizing the lyrics to that one pop song the radio overplayed was so much easier than memorizing chemical formulas. The game serves as the song in this context, helping the user remember who you are and what you do.

Buzzfeed gamification growth strategy in marketing

Of course, gamification doesn’t work for every brand as a growth strategy in marketing – or at least, not at first glance. It’s easy to see why a TV channel such as PBS Kids would have a games section, or a toy manufacturer. The tactic is obvious for them. What’s less obvious is how a different type of brand like an Internet media and news site Buzzfeed can use gamification. Buzzfeed recently released Buzzfeed Flight Mode that allows the user to explore the site’s stories from an “aerial” perspective, even allowing the user to “land” on the article they want to read. It’s a game without a winner, but still presents a novel take on the traditional newsfeed format.

What are you waiting for? Let’s play some games!