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Gamification Lessons from Academia

Posted @ 10:08 pm by Tim Ross | Category: Community & Social Media, Digital Marketing | 0 Comments

Gamification—the broad trend of employing game mechanics to non-game environments such as innovation, marketing, training, employee performance, health, and social change—has been the buzz word in consumer engagement for at least a couple of years now and continues to be a major trend as brands try new ways to turn everything from basic retail to internal HR paperwork into a game. These days gamification is augmented by social media, with games not only encouraging consumers and employees to play, but also to broadcast their actions to other members of their community. The combination has proven so successful that market research firm Gartner predicts that by 2015, “more than 50 percent of organizations that manage innovation processes will gamify those processes.”

Universities aren’t always known for being ahead of the curve on marketing and branding trends, but in this case Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business provides an early and successful example of gamification done right. Looking for ways to better connect with alumni, to make sure certain marketing messages were being received, and to incentivize tasks like donating to the school or updating job profiles, Duke and SolutionSet came up with a digital version of the school’s popular annual Campout. In the “real” Campout, students and alums literally camp out in a parking lot for some 72 hours, showing up at check-in stations at all times of the day and night in the hopes of winning the right to purchase tickets to Duke basketball games. That’s how small the Duke University stadium is, and how rabid the team’s fans are.

In Virtual Campout, student’s “check in” by completing various tasks, which qualify them for a prize lottery that includes everything from basketball tickets to an amazing trip. It’s a perfect example of gamification done right: by taking a common, unifying shared experience of a community and tapping into it, the university was almost assured success.

And succeed they did. In a recent case study of Fuqua’s Virtual Campout published in PR News, the team reported the following key results at the end of the first iteration of the digital game:

In 2012 the game was timed with March Madness. Virtual Campout closed on April 2nd and it was another successful year, with players taking even more actions than last year and the business school meeting up with its students and alums on more social media platforms than ever before. Perhaps the greatest testament to the game’s success? It has won accolades not only in the Financial Times and the PR industry news, but also from other departments at Duke, many of which are now looking for their own ways to use school traditions to tap into the gamification trend.

The Fuqua approach isn’t just applicable within the realm of universities, either. The general tenets of the game—translating a popular real-world activity to a virtual game, incentivizing ongoing play with special daily prizes, tapping into a real-world community online, encouraging communication and amplification of the game via various social media channels—could be applied to virtually any case in which a company is looking to drive loyalty, incentivize a particular type of behavior, or encourage customer engagement.

Author: Tim Ross is the President of SolutionSet, leading the digital consultancy’s efforts to help clients leverage digital technologies to engage customers, partners, and employees.


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