Gamification: Overhyped buzzword or next-level engagement tool?

By: Andreea Mihai, MPC2017

Gamification has become a buzzword. Andreea explores how this new approach to engagement succeeds in turning audiences into active participants and loyal users.

We loved to play games as kids because we had fun. Credit: Pexels


You finally did it. You called in and made it onto the radio show. Your palms are sweaty gripping the phone as you play to win free money. The biggest question you have to answer now is whether you should open the next box or stick with the amount you’ve already won.

What is gamification?

According to Bunchball, gamification is the process of incorporating game mechanics into something that already exists — a website, an application, a community — to encourage participation, engagement and loyalty.

Customer Engagement and Loyalty

When faced with the choice between your commercial-free curated Spotify playlist and a range of radio stations, you’ll likely need an additional incentive to choose a radio station. The possibility of winning money for answering a few trivia questions is pretty appealing.

Radio contests are just one example of how companies and organizations use gamification to turn audiences into active participants and loyal users. If you already have a loyalty card for your favourite brands (*cough* Starbucks), you’re familiar with the excitement of earning rewards.

CARROT Insights has harnessed the power of smartphones and loyalty rewards to influence users’ healthy lifestyle habits. Knowing that behaviour change can be incentivized with rewards, the company partners with a variety of rewards programs to offer points to users who answer quizzes, surveys, engage through social media and meet exercise goals using the Carrot Rewards app.


In addition to the emotional reward of winning, other game mechanics make gamification a strong educational tool. As Tanya Pobuda (MPC2017) discusses in this issue’s Alumni Spotlight, positive emotions can be used to enhance a learning curve. For example, serious games provide military and nursing students an opportunity to practice their skills in a safe, real-world simulation environment that provides interactive, authentic feedback.

Gamification Elements

Here are some key gamification elements to consider employing in your next communication strategy:

  1. Goals

Short- and long-term goals, which can be given as challenges, offer users a structured milestone to work towards and a view of a future relationship with the company.

  1. Communities

Communities give users a context for achieving. When their actions have meaning to the group they belong to, they attain social significance which can be a very strong motivator.

  1. Badges

Such indicators of accomplishment are a point of pride individually and also have meaning within a community that appreciates the value of the achievement or skill mastered.

  1. Levelling Up

Rewarding sustained behaviour over time encourages the formation of habits and routines.

  1. Onboarding

Users learn by doing. Instead of presenting users with a manual, simple tasks help new users master basic functions and become immediately engaged.

  1. Competition

Whether it’s based on the time it took to complete a task, or the results from an action, showing users how they compare to others or even to their own past results can raise the stakes for meeting a goal.

  1. Collaboration

Collaboration allows users to connect as a team to accomplish bigger tasks, engage in friendly competition and encourage knowledge sharing.

Gamification is a versatile tool for engaging people and turning audiences into participants and players. Whether it’s students in a classroom, customers or radio listeners, games engage people in powerful ways.

How do you use gamification in your role? Share your stories in the PCAA LinkedIn group!