Gamification: Do we need more stories?

Gamification has become somewhat of a buzz word for many mobile marketers. Basically, gamification means enhancing non-game environments by using game-like elements. For example, rather than just letting a person collect loyalty points, offering elements such as competition, social benefit and “a story” enhances the normal points collecting. But not all gamification is effective. Is the answer to incorporate more storytelling?

What does the article examine?
The article examines how gamification can be applied to enhance the effectiveness of mobile marketing. Importantly, at the moment, though many mobile marketers claim “gamification”, many don’t offer a full games experience – but assume that gamification is basically about collecting points and “gaining” levels.

Gamification for marketers is often not much more than gaining points and levels Click To Tweet

Which concepts are discussed in the article?
The article takes the Elemental Tetrat Model (Shell, 2008)  for games design and discusses how the four elements of the model can (potentially) enhance the gamified experience (and lead to marketing effectiveness).

Where is the data from and what methodology is being used?
The article is a conceptual article and doesn’t offer empirical data for the main argument(s). However, it ties together, and is based on a variety of well established theoretical frameworks, and draws the conclusions based on these.

What are the main outcomes?
The main argument of the article is that current marketing “games” are frequently not really “gamified” – or, to put it more politely, are restricted in the use of game elements. The problem with this is, according to the authors, that essential elements and potential positives which can only be achieved by using other/more game elements are missed – leading to mixed results when evaluating gamified marketing campaigns. In particular, the authors note the importance of storytelling as a means to shift consumer perception… yet also an element of gamification that is not often present.

Many 'gamified' apps don't contain storylines - yet stories are the most 'convincing' elements of games Click To Tweet

What are the implications and why should you read it?
The article offers an overview of gamification, and in particular focuses on the very loose application in marketing contexts. While there is no data presented, the arguments are based on widely accepted theories – and the authors identify a variety of interesting potential research questions arising from their view that gamification essentially needs more storytelling.

The article is therefore particularly good for researchers who are looking for guidance on research directions. It could also be used as in-class reading for advanced marketing courses, and an interesting starting point for the discussion of gamification.
Full Reference: Hofacker, C. F., de Ruyter, K., Lurie, N. H., Manchanda, P., & Donaldson, J. (2016). Gamification and Mobile Marketing Effectiveness. Journal of Interactive Marketing, 34, 25–36.

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