In its simplest form, gamification is the application of typical game design elements to non-gaming contexts and activities. The objective of gamification is to recreate the same levels of brain attention and engagement that would occur when participating in gaming. 

The simplest form of gamification is commonplace, and we’ve all been gamified one way or another. Whether that’s through signing up to a rewards-based loyalty programme or through being incentivised to post on social media by receiving likes and follows on social media in return. 

The use of gamification has grown exponentially over the last few years, with Mordor Intelligence valuing the global gamification market at USD 5.5 billion (£4.3 billion) in 2018.

Where is gamification used?

Gamification is used in a wide variety of contexts to improve how people engage with a task, message or activity. Some examples include:

  • Marketing - to encourage brand awareness, collect GDPR compliant data and encourage customer engagement. e.g. McDonalds Monopoly Game.
  • Retail - to drive higher levels of engagement and sales. e.g. eBay’s Bidding System
  • Education - to motivate learning by adopting game elements in learning environments. e.g. Code Academy.
  • Politics - to encourage actions such as encouraging civic engagement and voting. e.g. The Portuguese town, Ovar, used gamification for its budget discussions.
  • Human Resources - used in many areas such as training, recruitment, recognition and feedback. e.g. the onboarding process at Deloitte.
  • Healthcare - to motivate healthier lifestyle choices. e.g. Fitbit.
  • Project Management - to improve productivity. e.g. Lawley Insurance used gamification techniques to counter “messy” pipelines.

We have all been “gamified” one way or another.

Tinder, for example, is a classic example of gamification with every user seeking the reward of a cheeky match with another Tinder user. The real winner, in this case, may well be the lucky user whose bagged themselves a hot date - but also Tinder in managing to keep you engrossed on their app.

Game mechanics have also snuck into social media websites such as Instagram, where there are interactive features polls, questions and countdowns. Part of the success of fitness apps such as Fitbit and Strava is the ability to build a community, compare achievements and motivate users to compete. Gamification is all around us.

How does gamification work?

Gamification works by harnessing the innate behaviour of humans to want to take on a challenge, compete and be rewarded. This triggers a sense of achievement which encourages people to engage further.

Game design elements in gamification include:

  • Point Scoring - earning cumulative points to incentivise further actions. This is key in loyalty programmes such as earning Tesco Clubcard points, for example.
  • Friendly Competition (hopefully!) - Humans are naturally competitive, whether it be with ourselves or with others, which can trigger our desire to participate.
  • Rewards - whether it be a freebie, badges at certain milestones, or a chance to win a holiday to Bora Bora, we are all naturally drawn towards rewards.
  • Levels - act as a significant motivator in by triggering our naturally curious minds and desire to achieve greatness.
  • Leaderboards - Ties into the key ideas of competition. What is better than the feeling of seeing your name at the top of a leaderboard?

We can all relate to many of these aspects in gaming contexts such as collecting coins in Super Mario, levelling up, earning rewards, and seeing your hard work be rewarded with your name on the leaderboard. Gamification is slightly different, though, in that it uses those same techniques and applies them to non-gaming contexts.

Why does gamification work? 

The success of gamification is down to a range of factors, and our blog about the Psychology of Gamification provides a more in-depth analysis of the different design elements of gamification and how they can be matched to your audience. At the root of gamification is the dopamine rush that comes from being rewarded for completing an action.

Generally, people don’t like to be forced into a particular action especially if it requires providing their data or spending money. The success lies in the ability to give users complete control of their own destiny.

Using the mechanics of gaming such as rewards and badges helps build a sense of achievement, which is influential in driving behaviour. The Fitbit App, for example, provides a positive feedback and reward system by congratulating you for completing 10,000 steps or for doing exercise 5 days a week. Adding competition to the mix, whether its self-set goals or competition with others, triggers our natural instinct to compete.

These different elements of gamification can be used in numerous ways, whether it be to encourage users to complete their LinkedIn profile, engage in a competition or complete a purchase online. 

Gamification examples


For those who are unaware, Duolingo is a language learning platform with over 300 million users worldwide covering languages from Spanish to Hebrew to the fiction language of High Valyrian (for all the Game of Thrones fans out there). Zan Gilanu, the associate product manager at Duolingo, recently noted how Gamification Is The Key To The Success Of Duolingo.

The combination of strong user experience, a well-designed app and gamification techniques makes Duolingo very addictive. Learning a new language is clearly a challenge so breaking it down into sizable chucks is key.

Duolingo uses a quiz style, multiple-choice format with mapped out stages to maintain engagement. By moving through the lessons you earn EX (experience points), badges and rewards. If you reach your daily goals for a few days in a row you get a streak, which you need to work to maintain.

The app also uses other gamification features such as gentle reminders and progress indicators, which provide constant incentives to keep on progressing. Social leaderboards are also a great feature to see how you compare to your friends adding an element of competition to language learning. Overall, the success of Duolingo lies in its ability to use gamification to provide feedback and rewards, combined with great content and user experience.


LinkedIn has cleverly integrated gamification to its platform which has helped gather more information about its users, boosted engagement between connections and encouraged people to complete their profiles.

In order to encourage people to provide more information on their profile, there is a LinkedIn profile completeness bar. Nobody wants to be sitting on a profile that is 76% complete. Instinct eventually kicks in and we will all add the profile picture, bio and education, and whatever else necessary to achieve the golden 100%.

Endorsements are a key feature of the platform and they play a significant role in boosting engagement between connections. If you receive an endorsement from a colleague, you are bound to return the favour. The game mechanics behind endorsements are similar to rewards and badges in a gaming context.

It goes to show that gamification techniques can be applied to a range of different contexts and purposes. Appealing to the instinctual human need to be rewarded, compete and feel that sense of achievement is the basis to gamification which is going to become increasingly popular across a range of industries. 

Gamification and Marketing

The use of gamification in marketing is growing rapidly. This is partly due to consumers being turned off by more traditional forms of online marketing. For our own gamification study, we spoke to 2000 UK consumers about the current state of online marketing and found:

  • 58% of survey respondents saying that online ads and marketing have little or no influence on their buying behaviour.
  • Only 16% of people aged over 45 were influenced by online advertising.
  • Only 0.5% of respondents said they were extremely influenced by online advertising.

When it came to gamification, however, we found:

  • 60% of survey respondents said they would be more likely to buy from a brand if they enjoyed playing a game with it, rising to 86% for those who had previously experienced gamification.
  • 91% of people aged 16-24 would be open to playing games with brands.
  • 84% said they would buy from a brand they enjoyed playing a game with 61% said they would keep buying from that brand.

Marketers are looking now, more than ever, at fun and innovative ways of reaching potential customers. Gamification has proven to be an effective way of driving brand engagement, fostering loyalty and enhancing broader digital marketing disciplines such as SEO, link building and PR.

At Reflect Digital, we have loved creating games such as the Find 50 Football Clubs. This example really highlights the capability of gamification to reach a wide audience, build inbound links and earn positive PR. The game reached football fans from all over the world, from the USA to Serbia, and drove high-quality links from a range of publications including Sport Bible, Planet Football, Bored Panda and Buzzfeed. The game managed to reach over 86,000 visits in just five weeks. Not bad reach at all.

How Does Gamification Help Marketers?

Marketers have started to incorporate gamification into their digital strategy using activities such as quizzes, activations and onboarding exercises. Gamification helps marketers in: 

  • Allowing brands to engage with consumers, build relationships and create a positive overall brand impression.
  • Reaching people not engaging with traditional online adverting or those apathetic to online tactics.
  • Building an emotional connection to the brand and to foster customer loyalty. The Nando’s loyalty cards are a prime example of this.
  • Collecting GDPR compliant data about their target audience. This data can be really useful for marketers to understand more about their behaviours, interests and demographics which can be used to inform future digital strategies.
  • Influencing behaviour. The use of game mechanics can help move a consumer from point A to point B, but also influence their next steps whether it be a conversion, signing up to a newsletter or viewing more content.

Here, at Reflect Digital, we are an award-winning digital marketing agency with a passion for gamification and delivering tangible results for our clients. If you are interested in learning more about how our team can help you create and implement gamification as part of your digital strategy then feel free to get in touch.


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