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The Global View – Gamification: An Option Or A Requirement?


Editor’s Note:  The digital world has no geographic barriers, so why should GreenBook Blog? In an effort to reach out to thought leaders in other parts of the world we’re starting a new series (soon to be section on the blog itself) called The Global View. In these posts leaders from various regions in the world will share their views and experience on the issues impacting insights professionals in their part of the world and/or globally.

First up we have Adriana Rocha, co-founder and CEO of eCGlobal Solutions, one of the leading “next generation” research firms in LATAM and headquartered in Brazil. Since Brazil is one of the most active regions of social media usage (especially via mobile devices) in the world I think Adriana’s’ views on issues related to new modes and models in research are particularly important to pay attention to.

So, join me in welcoming Adriana Rocha to the GreenBook Blog family and in ushering in a great new feature as we work to gain The Global View of market research!

By Adriana Rocha

Gamification, the concept of applying game-design thinking to non-game applications to make them more fun and engaging, recently has become one of the buzzwords not just for Market Research, but for Marketing, Human Resources, CRM, and almost all business areas and industries.

The reason is simple: its adoption is not an option, but mandatory for companies wanting to better understand and engage with the new generations, the ones who are fast becoming the main workforce and consumer power of the future. These generations mostly known as Y (those who were born between 1977 and 1994) and Z (those who were born after 1995), are incredibly sophisticated, technology wise, immune to most traditional marketing and sales pitches.

Gen Y’s are less brand loyal than its past generations, and the speed of the Internet has led them to be equally flexible and changing in its fashion, style consciousness and where and how they communicate. Gen Z’s are known for the rapid pace they are sharing thoughts, observations and experiences on a variety of media, topics and products. They are no longer limited to the home computer. The window for the world is carried in their pockets on mobile Internet devices, everywhere, at any time.

A main difference between Y and Z generations, though, is that Y’s remember life before the takeoff of mass technology, while the latter have been born completely within that realm. What they have in common is that they expect engaging experiences at their work place, or as consumers interacting with brands, products and organizations wanting to get their time and attention. In a recent study conducted last year by MTV with Gen Y’s , more than half reported that “People my age see real life as a video game” and “Winning is the slogan of my generation”. They also reported that a “game-like metaphor” applies to almost every aspect of their life.

So, my advice to market researchers: change the way you conduct question based surveys; look for new and creative ways of gathering consumer insights; treat respondents not as respondents, but as collaborators, people who need to be respected, motivated and engaged to share with you what they think, feel or behave.

Gamification is not an option: adopt it or die.

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21 responses to “The Global View – Gamification: An Option Or A Requirement?

  1. I’m in complete agreement Adriana. I work for a boutique market research agency and we just did an interesting interview with Betty Adamou, CEO of Research Through Gaming. She suggested to us that Gamification has the power to transcend generations and reach oven those who we would consider Generation X.

    Certainly food for thought!

    If you’re interested in having a read you can find part one of our interview here…

  2. Hi Jennifer, glad to know you share the same vision.

    I agree with Betty that Gamification transcend generations. When we think about Gens X and Z tough a “gamified” view of life is even stronger among them. About games, we should not just think about the fun part of it, but the challenges involved, the social interactions among groups and players, the recognition and benefits they receive, the collaboration and strategy players have to use in order to achieve goals and next levels. So, can’t we think about life as a big game? 🙂

  3. Oh I think that’s exactly where such a lot of new media is taking us… increasing integration of technology into our everyday lives with a holistic approach which breaks down boundaries between what we perceive to be real and what we identify as a false construct (like games and gamification strategy).

    It’s becoming increasingly difficult to tell if technology is mirroring life or life is mirroring technology. I suspect its a little of both and so in the minds of many gen y (myself included) and x members of society the two aspects are one and the same.

    Hope you like the article, Betty, like you, has a real passion for gamification and her enthusiasm is infectious!

  4. Playing devil’s advocate here but it’s important to remember that Gen-Y and Gen-Z aren’t the only research audiences that we survey. If we’re doing a broader survey, including gamification might have real (and possibly negative) impacts on the research validity. As an industry, have we looked at gamification impact on the research data and not just the response rates among Gen-Y or Gen-Z? I’m definitely a supporter of new methods provided we understand their impact on research data and understand where should/should not use them.

    1. Hi Chris, Bernie Malinoff of element54 and Jon Puleston of GMI have done several studies on the impact of game elements in research and have actually found that it benefits about every metric you can think of. Similarly Peter Harrison of BrainJuicer and Betty Adamou of have also worked together on several “research on research” studies with similar results. Gamification gets a lot of attention because of the engagement angle, but there is a lot of literature out there that suggests that game based models are actually more natural and in line with how humans think and behave than traditional models. The trade off is that when compared to traditional design models the results are different and that is bad news for migrating existing studies to a gamified model and certainly begs the question of whether the current paradigm is inherently flawed (a can of worms few will want to open I think).

  5. Adopt it or die? Gamification is not an option? I’ve never been faced with more choices as a client side researcher, many of which are exciting. However: Not everything that was done before eg 2009 is bad/dated/non-engaging. Not everything that comes with a buzz tag is validated sufficiently to ensure widespread uptake. It also suggests that some of the drivers of change in our industry have been neglected – eg online (not mobile) took off because it was faster and cheaper, not necessarily better (as i believe Ray Poynter) has said before. I’ve also read one research-on-research paper mentioned, and I seem to recall that there were differences in response pattern acc. to degree of gamificaiton. So where norms are important, or comparison with backdata, this is an issue. However, my main issue is the language used which I find counterproductive and slightly panicky.

    1. Thanks Edward, I always value your input and I think you’re right that we cannot ignore issues around validation and testing, although I am not sure the pace of business allows for much of that. I also agree that applying elements of gamification to existing studies, especially trackers, is problematic due to changes in the data. That said, when new opportunities, new approaches, and new business realities converge as I think they are due to gaming culture, social media, and mobile (and the concomitant cultural changes that they are both symptoms and causes of) then we may not have the luxury of taking a slow and thoughtful approach. We might just have to bite the bullet and do it. MR doesn’t experiment well because our business is built on risk aversion as a basic principle, but I think we’re being called on to be more than that now and that is going to require a very different mindset in many verticals on why, when, and how we deploy new innovations.

      As to the language used, well it did get your attention, right? Sometimes being provocative works as an engagement tool and I think that is what Adriana was doing here. 🙂

  6. Lenny, thanks for your views. Using language provocatively needs to engage positively and not induce negative mental push back, which would be an unnecessary bias. Who is biting the bullet at the end of the day? Clients. What are large companies looking for? Return on investment, managing risk – not simply engaging in it. Everyone is in the game, whichever market that may be, from a play to win perspective. Seriously, if you ask for commitment on something that is new and shiny, you need to back it up with impact data. How does it help me make a better decision faster and cheaper? Game changing innovations need to tick all the boxes, not just one or two of them.

  7. ON another note – yes, the younger generations are key to get brand awareness/ trial/popularity for many brands to ensure ongoing brand health.. However, for many European countries it’s the 50 – 70 year old that actually have highest wealth levels – a problematic targetting and communication issue as age per se isn’t often a motivating segmentation model. However, being more aware of the intergenerational possibilities of communication and branding is to me of value – rather than propagating the youth-fixation of many in the advertising selling business

  8. Agreed on all fronts Edward, but we need to look at this in context outside of MR. Marketing organizations, HR, etc.. invest billions of dollars annually in developing new gamified strategies to address many different business issues. MR needs to come out of it’s silo and be rolled into initiatives here. Lots and lots of brands are working with non-mr agencies to implement games that collect data and deliver impactful insight while also enhancing the brand relationship. In this way gamification is similar to MROCs and no one is challenging that model.

    The point is that we can debate minutiae on this (and we should), but the business context needs to rule the decision making and that means that we need to stop thinking just as researchers and instead begin looking at the bigger picture of how something like gamification fits within the overall goals of an organization. Collecting data is easy, but bu8ilding engagement with consumers is tough. We should be doing both at the same time whenever we can.

  9. While I agree with the general sentiments in Adriana’s article I think we need to step back from the adopt it or die conclusion.
    At Stream Research we are adopters of new techniques and innovate in terms of research methodologies but I still feel we need more down to earth methodologies as well. Not everyone is online for example (strange to think), not everyone has the same social class background (not just from a UK perspective) and not everyone relates to social media, technology or gaming – even in the generations you talk about, I agree it has a role but it is only part of how we build a picture of consumers for our clients

  10. Thanks for sharing those – sanitised, no doubt – case studies of the brands you refer to, in whatever forum appropriate, Lenny. I remain methodologically agnostic but forward leaning. Big picture stuff is OK, but often decided on by General Management and not Consumer Insights. It may well be the case, depending on what case studies you can share with, that the push for gamification adoption is relevant to segments and industries with high consumer involvement – and possibly the younger audiences within that segment. What % of industries don’t fit that mode? I would suggest plenty. Which means that what you’re talking about here – and we haven’t heard the phase game-changing yet, but I sense it coming….. -may have less application to many of those areas.

    1. Hmm. I think we’re skating around the issue here. I see gamification (and communities and social media as well) as opportunities to bring down the insights silo and create a multi-purpose engagement conduit between brands and their target populations. Does it work in all contexts? No, certainly not. Medical device manufacturers may have a hard time figuring out a gamification model for procurement specialists in hospitals. But the bigger question in my mind is that just because there may be barriers to relevant adoption within certain verticals is an issue of creativity and culture within that vertical, NOT a reflection of the relevancy of game models as a means to more deeply engage with and understand humans.

      In terms of case studies, there is a ton out there although not within the MR industry; the vast majority is in social sciences and marketing. Here is a Google link based on a search I just did for “successful applications of gamification” I’ve also highlighted a few examples here on the blog of companies using gamification for MR and Marketing at the same time.

      Just to be clear, I agree with all of the concerns you are bringing up, I just don’t agree that these are issues that don’t have a resolution or in many cases have not already been resolved. Gamification is just one tool in the toolbox for MR, but if our training as researchers is only as mechanics of vintage automobiles it may be that we need to update our toolbox and skillset to be able to understand how to use all of our tools effectively.

  11. Great point Edward, but generational aspect of gamification may be a mistaken assumption. If humans are inherently game playing creatures and that model is intrinsic to how we think, behave, and interact with one another then all the focus of Gens Y & Z does is highlight the first gen where this has been an overt influence rather than a passive behavior. I think data from facebook and Zynga indicate that biggest growth areas for both are in Boomers and above, and based upon the emphasis of game play in retirement communities, etc.. I suspect that emphasizing applications for younger segments is missing the boat in a big way. I think gamification is a human opportunity, not a generational one.

  12. Lenny. I’ve pretty much come to the end of what I wish to post in public. And by the by, it’s hardly surprising that Marketing folk should wish to engage in what is loosely described as “gamification”. Ask yourself a question on uptake of new technologies/new anything: if it’s slow, there are barriers. What are the barriers you see? Have you identified them and responded to them? Just to be clear: I am agnostic. The rules of behavioural change are multi-facetted, but need, as I mentioned above, to hit some key change drivers. Just saying “better engaged consumers” isn’t enough – I would argue there are any number of ways to do that in Research, not restricted to gamification. I would disagree with your assertion that many of the issues raised have been resolved adequately. Finally, the use of emotive automotive imagery is to me, as a client side researcher neither particularly appropriate nor helpful.

    1. Thanks for a great discussion Edward; I always value your views and experience very much and am very glad that you take the time from your busy day to chime in on these type of dialogues! Great points on the dynamics of uptake and I’ll do some more thinking on that, although overall my sense is that the barriers re: gamification have more to do with cultural issues and context than actual technology or validation. If that is the case those are significant barriers indeed and probably only real push back from the market will provoke a change. I could be wrong though!

      Sorry if my analogy didn’t work for you! I think of myself as more of a technician in many ways so it may be my own bias seeping through! That said, I think my point of much of MR needing to adapt more readily to change holds. That doesn’t mean throwing the baby out with the bathwater, but it does mean perhaps being open to finding new ways to meet the needs of clients that may be a bit different than what we’re used to. I hope that clarifies and is easier to swallow! 🙂

  13. Hi all,

    Glad to see so great discussion rising around this post. So let me clarify something: when I use the expression “gamification”, I’m not talking about a specific technology, tool or a buzz word. I’m not talking about designing games, badges or fun surveys neither.

    Gamification is not something new at all. More recently tough with the increasing integration of technologies into our daily lives, and the explosion of social networks and social games, the term “gamification” has been extensively used in different business areas, from education to human resources, referring to the usage of mechanisms broadly used by games to engage participants since its early stages.

    Such game mechanisms include systems of achievement, rewarding detail-oriented tasks, rules, recognition, rewards, challenges, etc. So I believe we should direct this discussion to questions such as “What MR can learn from other industries that are already benefiting from the usage of game mechanisms?” , “What game mechanisms, tools and techniques can be applied to MR and which are the implications?” , “What are the best practices for developing more engaging surveys, increasing respondent experience and decreasing drop-out rates?”, etc. There are so many things to be discussed, tested and validated, so why not focus on the benefits and new opportunities instead of resisting to the new?

    As for my last sentence “adopt it or die”, it can sound a little bit radical at this moment, but from my daily personal experience dealing with Gens X and Z, both at home and work, I don’t think it will be possible to attract and motivate those Gens to participate in surveys as they’ve been designed during the past 20 years.

  14. Hmmm. There is some evidence that gamification in some business contexts could be Adopt AND die, not Adopt OR die. Nearly all examples of gamification (that are not actual games somehow mischaracterized as gamification) are based entirely on operant conditioning, using “externally-regulated extrinsic motivators” to incent behavior. This works exceptionally well when used in slot machines, animal training, and airline mileage cards. Actual games, on the other hand, are based in the absolute opposite end of the motivation continuum — designed entirely around INTRINSIC motivation. Unfortunately, as it turns out, most video games happen to *also* include extrinsic motivators which gamification vendors and consultants have naively mistaken for “the elements that make games compelling and engaging.”

    Which is why virtually every serious game designer and game scholar LOVES the notion of applying “things that make games compelling” to non-game areas but also HATES because it focuses on not just the wrong things, but the dead-last things that are the core of why well-designed games are compelling. On the other hand, operant conditioning DOES generate a flurry of behavior, just not the behavior that may be in a company’s long-term best interest (let alone the iser’s, but these discussions are rarely what is in the User’s best interest since the whole idea is to drive behavior the user did not truly want to do).

    I actually do think that one of areas where gamification *could* be artfully and correctly and even ethically applied might be market research (surveys, etc.), but not based on nearly every discussion I have seen because it is a very complex and subtle process to do it “right” and quite easy to get wrong, with potentially serious consequences.

    But the real question I would keep asking is — if the desire for gamification is based on a desire for more engagement — why is “more engagement” so crucial? Or more importantly, does the quality of the engagement matter? If the research is disconnected from a brand — so that the user has no idea who is behind the research, then if gamification drives a short-term behavior to complete a survey, then there is little harm. But the instant you add gamification to increase consumer/user engagement *with the brand itself*, the risks are both counter-intuitive and potentially severe.

    For a tiny look at what can go wrong, watch the Dan Pink “Drive” Ted talk. But If you are serious about understanding this, read the underlying research on which it is based: namely, Self-Determination Theory. (cannot just understand it from a wikipedia entry — you need to read at least one overview book). And to begin to understand why gamification is different from games, start with the one book that was required reading for all game developers I have worked with (including my time at Virgin), “flow”. Real games are about creating a pleasurable experience. Gamification is about creating tiny hits of pleasure through extrinsic motivators. These might sound similar, but the consequences, side-effects, and long-term effects are drastically different.

    But like I sad, good video games often include both, so it is easy for people to misunderstand the relationship between them. And since applying game mechanics and incentives is relatively easy and repeatable (compared with actual game design, which is quite difficult and subtle), the mechanics is what marketers and vendors have focused on. The potential downsides of incentives in areas where *quality* of engagement (as opposed to just quantity) matters are well-known, but little discussed in gamification hype today. Sadly.

  15. Katie, I know that several game designers and professionals HATE how the word “gamification” has been used by non-game industries and sometimes it can create a misunderstanding on what are real games and the complexity involved in their development.
    Also, totally agree how dangerous can be for any business to adopt something new and doesn’t know how to do it right.

    That’s why bringing to discussion best practices, what works and doesn’t work, how, when, in which conditions it should be adopted , effects, benefits and concerns around “gamification” applied to market research or any industry is so important. As already commented by others here, many research on research have been done on that sense, and will continue being done for sure.

    Applying “gamification” to Market Research is not about generating engagement with any brand. It’s about a combination of different goals such as engaging online panel and community members, creating “research games”, that means design games for collecting consumer insights, measure user behavior or other research objective, create more interactive surveys with a better user experience, increasing quality of responses, and minimizing drop-out rates, among others.

    Well, no one here is telling that “gamification” is synonym of games, and there is no need to read a book in order to understand that. I’m sorry if you don’t like how the “gamification” word has become popular and used among non game professionals, but it is how it is.

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