Step Right Up, Folks

“Gamification.” It’s one of those “ification” words that’s confidently, and somewhat sneakily, made its way into the marketing lexicon. (Other less widely adopted “ification” words sourced via a Google search include “meme-ification” and, bizarrely, “Google+-ification.” Seriously.)

Back in our January issue, Direct Marketing News provided a somewhat snarky definition of the word “gamification” in our Word to the Wise column: “Currently overused term that means using game mechanics to encourage customers to take desired actions…Recent shiny object for marketers due to its many possible uses engaging customers via social channels.”

But say what you will about gamification (agency Big Spaceship, for example, once accused gamification back in a 2011 blog post as being “too much ‘ification,’ not enough ‘game’”), if you do it right, it really is a great way to engage your target audience.

The problem comes when a brand looks to gamification as a kind of hybrid secret sauce/panacea for end-user engagement. Instituting a gamified structure on a website is about rewarding your already loyal visitors and users, and making the experience of what they already like to do on your site that much more enjoyable. According to a recent report from MarketsandMarkets, “Successful gamification applications based on the customer culture or end-user requirements can ensure the success of gamification applications in the long run and can drive real business goals and revenues thereby enhancing the brand name.”

Which is a somewhat longwinded way of saying: Make it fun, and they will come.

That’s why we decided to launch our own online social rewards system on It’s called Marketing Mavens, and it’s got a circus-theme. (In the months leading up to launch, I spent many goofy hours with coworkers coming up with circus-related sayings and idioms along the lines of “You don’t have to run away to join the circus!” and “Don’t be a sad clown. Join the Mavens!”)

Anyone who registers on is automatically enrolled. Players earn points and badges and move through a series of levels (from unicyclist all the way to Ringmaster) by engaging with content on our site; by sharing a story, on Facebook, for example; or by reading a blog post. Activity is tracked on a leader board in the right-hand column, and users see unobtrusive notifications at the bottom of their screen, known in Badgeville parlance as “toasts,” when they earn points or jump levels.

It’s simple, it’s easy, it’s fun, and it taps into that primal human desire to get more points than the other guy.

As our Spotlight columnist Denis Pombriant, founder of Beagle Research Group, wrote in a recent piece for “Gamification—if it’s good—should be concealed, unnoticed by the user and simply integral to a pleasant part of the user experience.”

Marketing Mavens is that. If you’re into it—and top hats off to you if you are—you’ll have a good time; if you’re not, you can keep on engaging with the site as you’ve always done without interruption.

But either way, why not take a sec to register and see what Marketing Mavens is all about? I’ll see you there.

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