Why We Decided Gamification Isn't in Our Game Plan

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The circus is leaving town. After a year of experimentation, we're going to remove Marketing Mavens from dmnews.com.



Direct Marketing News
writes about marketing (well, duh). More specifically, in addition to industry news, we share advice, tips, strategies, and analysis on how to engage your customers and keep them smiling in a world of ever-increasing digital noise.

But we're also a brand ourselves, with many of the same challenges and needs as any other brand out there. We have to engage our audience and keep them loyally visiting dmnews.com for the content we produce every day.

That's one reason we launched Marketing Mavens, our circus-themed online social rewards system, on dmnews.com just about a year ago. All registrants on the site were automatically enrolled, and players earned points and badges for engaging in a variety of activities—everything from reading a blog post to sharing an article—as they moved through a series of predetermined levels. Every time players earned points, little notifications would appear on the right-hand side of their screen. Activity was tracked on a public leader board, although users could opt-out of being visible on the board.

But starting tomorrow, we'll be removing Marketing Mavens from dmnews.com after research showed that it was, well, less than compelling. We're always trying to find new ways to appeal to our audience—but if what we're doing doesn't appeal, we take it as an object lesson learned and move on.

We polled readers of dmnews.com to see how users were enjoying the experience. There were a few fans, but most of our audience, it seems, just wasn't feeling it. Others had strong words for us:

“Is it really necessary to ‘incent' adult professionals to read a publication that is well-edited and consistently delivers useful information and ideas? Or should they (as I do) already appreciate the value of the content you produce? The bottom line: ‘Engaging' customers is good…unless such engagement engenders negative attitudes about the product.”

“I do not associate game-style awards and achievements with a professional source of business news. I'm a gamer; I play video games. I have since I was young. I'm also a professional. I play to relax and de-stress from work. I don't play at work; I take it seriously and work at work. So mixing the two is a really strange juxtaposition that simply doesn't work for me.”

Some will aver that gamification can work for anyone, regardless of their business—it's just has to be done correctly. Last month I chatted with Aaron Price, cofounder and CEO of livecube, a company that uses interactive game mechanics to motivate social sharing and engagement, mostly at events.

When I asked him if any brand or company could gamify their experience, he basically said, "Yes," noting that, “It's about coming up with the right game mechanics for your particular needs, whether you're a publication, a Fortune 500 company, or a brand sponsoring an event, so that you're driving the desired behaviors.”

So, perhaps we just didn't come up with the right game mechanics—we're more than willing to admit that and we're still glad we tried something new. This is a case study in learning from your experiences.

We want to make dmnews.com as useful—and enjoyable—to our audience as possible, and we're open to suggestions. Please feel free to leave us a comment below.

To all of our active Mavens users who might be sad to see it go, thanks for playing!

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