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The How, Why & Why Not to Profitable Gamified Marketing

Profitibal Gamified Marketing for Casinos - Game Pieces Strategy

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According to Gartner, 70% of the top 2,000 corporations in the world have already implemented gamification. A recent report by Markets and Markets forecasts that the global gamification industry will be valued at $11.1 billion by 2020.

In its short life span (it only became a word in the Merriam-Webster dictionary in 2010), gamified marketing has seen tremendous success, as well as some very notable failures. The successes range from Starbucks and Southwest Airlines to McDonald’s and Marriott, and hundreds of other companies. So then why doesn’t it always produce meaningful results? Independent experts, such as Forrester Research, cited lack of a cohesive strategy, proper planning and implementation and customization using a full complement of gamified marketing tools that create a desirable and effective return.

Established in 2008, we are generally viewed – and honored – as one of the true pioneers and foremost experts in casino gamification. In this article we will review the how, why and why not of casino gamified marketing and the best way to create a successful outcome.

One Size Does NOT Fit All

Scientific studies, such as the one published in ScienceDirect’s Computers in Human Behavior, show that many providers and users treated gamification as a generic construct, neglecting the fact that there are many different game design elements. It went on to say that different single and/or more complex custom configurations of game design components – such as continuous engagement, badges, leaderboards, performance graphs/leveling up – are some of the keys for a successful outcome.

Other factors include designing a program geared towards the demographics and psychographics of your target audience, the determination of which game elements would be most effective to modify behavior and achieve your desired goals (e.g., new guest acquisition, reactivation or driving incremental revenue from existing guests) and, very importantly, our client’s industry and its guest economic approach.

Specifically, a restaurant chain, movie theatre, clothing store or the like, could simply fire off a gamified email with a “25% OFF” coupon attached good at any location in order to be successful. On the other hand, casinos must consider other critical elements unique to this industry. Reinvestment strategy and budget, database segmentation, synchronicity with on-floor promotions, tie-ins to the players club, kiosk integration … and the list goes on.

Success is optimal when you utilize gamified marketing in a similar way that you design your other marketing efforts – from direct mail, monthly promotions, hotel and F&B offers (if applicable), and social marketing to your players club. That approach will determine the best customized configuration that will best produce a profitable return.

Other consideration includes your specific property’s marketing and operational philosophy. No two casinos are the same. Even if you are in close proximity, share players and battle for market share with other casinos, or if your competition centers around other local entertainment options, every property can benefit from a well-designed gamified campaign.

Keep It Fresh

A successful gamified program is not a “set it and forget it.” Effective gamified marketing needs to be nurtured and kept fresh, just as you do with your marketing programs, direct mail, entertainment choices, gaming options and menu offerings, to name a few. A big mistake made by properties is doing the same gamified execution repeatedly.

Have It Embody Your Property’s Personality

To be truly effective, you must offer your guests a fully immersive experience that is in alignment with your property and its promotional programs. When customized in this fashion, it should result in ongoing engagement that drives increased brand loyalty, spend, property visits and revenue over an extended and targeted period of time. In part, “edutaining” (educating players in an entertaining way) can be a very valuable tool to bring additional awareness and interest to your well-conceived programs and differentiate you in the marketplace.

Customize for Profitability

With very few exceptions, your end goal is to drive a profitable visit with marketing. That should also be your ultimate goal with gamification. Here is a revelation: The key driver does not necessarily need to be Free Play. Most marketers utilize Free Play as the sole incentive for successful gamified marketing. That might be necessary with a one-off email activity, but we have proven that drawing entries or redeemable “participatory” virtual currency are great engagement tools that can drive both ongoing participation and property visits.

Drawing entries can be an effective incentive. Specifically, if it’s additional entries to an already existing promotion. Here’s the key – entries, which can be segmented by player worth, must be activated at the property. This approach doesn’t cost your casino a single dime and the perception to your guests is worth its weight.

Additionally, because of the ability to customize content and offers by both segment and database subsets (active vs. decliners, inactive, etc.), a properly configured campaign avoids over-reinvestment and produces a profitable outcome in virtually all cases.

Make It Rewarding

Leveling up, leaderboards and trophies are also proven components that drive a player’s natural competitive instinct. This “earn and reward” philosophy is fundamental to building the real and perceived value of the rewards earned for their time and efforts.

DON’T Wait or Give Up

If you haven’t tried it yet, now is the ideal time to test it. So much has been learned by us trailblazers in the past year to increase effectiveness and a quantifiable return. And if you had a bad experience, don’t dump the entire concept – look at the different options that can produce incremental property visits and revenue – from customized campaigns around sports, major insured promotions, reactivation campaigns, new guest acquisition, and more. There is much more that we can help educate you on. If you have interest, please let us know. It will cost you nothing but a bit of time, and the return on that investment could be a significant uplift in incremental revenue.

Jerry Epstein

Jerry Epstein