From marketing VPs to moms and far too many others, "gaming" has a bad rap. It's a multi-billion dollar industry capable of influencing business strategies, education and society itself. But could simply giving it a clever new name be all that 's needed to win game theory the business cred it deserves?
Gaming already has developed its own language. The controversial verb: gamification. Then there's game design, game theory, game mechanics and Jane McGonigal's Gameful. And it already exists in every walk of life from sales incentives to loyalty clubs and corporate recognition programs to the way our kids learn in school. Buy more, do more, do better and you will be rewarded.
Gaming creates a visual resume in an unbiased system. It is ingrained in our society and history. Take military uniforms, for example. Follow the rules, progress, move forward and your uniform is going to change. More badges, stripes, colors and stars – all collectibles, tokens and totems that denote status, achievement and success.
And what about high school? The biggest and most terrifying game of all, for some? It's all about peer group dynamics and politics on the one hand and levels, grades, letter jackets and class rankings on the other. These are all game systems that push us to achieve the next level by adopting the best behaviors to get there.
The most important thing is that these symbols mean something. They're a point of pride. It's about cred. They're marks of achievement.
Marketers are slowly starting to use game theory as the heart of their campaigns, as drivers not nice-to-haves. This Mini campaign is one of my favorite examples:
The health and wellness space is also doing innovative work.
Not surprisingly, social media has lead gaming's integration into modern marketing. It's easy to imagine CEOs competing over whose brand has more Facebook fans.
So given this context, what about that new name? How can we dress up gaming to go to work in the boardroom where business cynics can accept it's many benefits more easily? What about motivational marketing? Or cred-based marketing? Maybe Incentive focused marketing?
Close but no joystick. They miss the point that the mass consumer attraction of gaming is the experience: sometimes immersive, sometimes simply engaging enough to drive us forward to do more and learn along the path to the ultimate reward.
Behavior marketing could be a contender. Ultimately, marketing tries to impact behavior. Behavior also suggests a starting point, a change we're trying to make and a progression that we can measure.
When gaming theory gets a stronger toehold, we'll see products designed differently, services created that are more like experiences in which we're encouraged, helped and rewarded at the end.
As a consumer, frankly, that 's a lot more fun. And, in turn, I'll reward marketers back with more of my time, money and endorsements.
Let gaming theory become pervasive and it will help us problem solve too. There's an expression that says you learn more from defeat than from winning. That's just like gaming where we learn from every misstep. Imagine a marketing landscape that encourages widespread consumer trial and feedback.
As marketers at the start of a new year, always searching for a new way to play things, let's try something different this year. Let's take gaming out of the box and to the office. And call it what you will, it's going to help our businesses big time.