Gamification in marketing: The complete playbook (+ examples)

/ 20 September 2023

There’s a goal that every marketer aims for but only a few truly master—engaging their audience and turning casual browsers into loyal customers. The strategies are laid out, the targets are set, and you’re all set to engage your customers like never before.

Too often, conventional marketing techniques fail to engage audiences the way you want. Many marketers rely on tried-and-tested methods, deploying the same email campaigns, social media posts, or advertisements. This can lead to stagnant customer relationships.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

We’re diving deep into the world of gamification in marketing. Explore how to turn your marketing campaigns into interactive games, understand the psychology behind it, learn from the brands that have aced it, and get equipped to bring your marketing strategy to the next level.

In the following sections, we’ll cover:

  • What is gamification in marketing and why does it matter?
  • The top 5 benefits of gamification in marketing
  • Gamification in marketing real-life examples
  • Gamification strategies across the customer lifecycle
  • How to implement gamification in digital marketing
  • Amplifying content marketing with gamification
  • How to choose a gamification provider 

Let’s get into it. 👇

What is gamification (and why does it matter)?

Remember those childhood days when everything was a game? From chores to studies, turning tasks into a playful challenge made everything more exciting. Now, imagine if you could recapture that magic and apply it to your marketing strategy. That’s the power of gamification in marketing. 

It’s not about creating games for marketing; it’s about applying game mechanics to your marketing efforts. Points, badges, challenges, leaderboards—these are not reserved for video games anymore. They’re tools in the marketer’s playbook designed to engage, motivate, and reward customers.

🌐The evolution of gamification in business and marketing

The seeds of gamification were sown long before smartphones. Remember those loyalty punch cards at your favourite coffee shop? That was gamification in its most primitive form. But with technology’s advancement and the rise of social media, gamification has grown from a novel idea to a mainstream marketing strategy. 

No longer confined to loyalty programs, brands are using gamification to increase engagement, improve user experience, drive sales, and build communities. It has turned marketing into a two-way interactive experience, making customers active participants rather than passive recipients.

❓Why Gamification?

We live in an era of information overload. Ads are everywhere. And attention spans are shrinking. The question then becomes how can your brand stand out in this crowded marketplace? Enter gamification.

By turning marketing into a game, you’re not just selling a product; you’re providing an experience. You’re tapping into the human desire for achievement, competition, and reward. 

You’re speaking the language of fun, and who can resist that?

Why gamification works

Let’s face it; we all love games. They challenge us, reward us, and most importantly, entertain us. It’s all about the psychology of gamification…

🧠The psychology behind gamification in marketing

Ever wondered why collecting rewards points at your favourite store feels so satisfying? Or why completing a challenge on a brand’s mobile app is fun? It’s not magic; it’s psychology.

  • Engagement: Gamification triggers engagement by turning mundane tasks into exciting challenges. Suddenly, writing a review or sharing a post becomes rewarding.
  • Motivation: By offering incentives like points, badges, or discounts, gamification fuels motivation. It drives people not only to purchase but to interact with the brand in a more engaging way.
  • Social connection: Leaderboards and community challenges help create connection and competition. It’s not just about winning; it’s about being part of a community of like-minded players.
  • Reward and recognition: Who doesn’t like being rewarded? The thrill of earning something, even if it’s a virtual badge, triggers a positive emotional response. And recognition fuels loyalty.

So, why does gamification appeal so much? It’s simple: It speaks to our inner child, the one who loves to play, explore, and win. 

But what about the benefits… 

Benefits of gamification in marketing 

There are huge benefits to using gamification in marketing. Here’s some of the key benefits our clients have found:

  • Personalised experience: By tracking progress, preferences, and achievements, gamification offers a personalised experience. Your customers aren’t just a part of the crowd; they’re stars in their game.
  • The data collected from gamified interactions is a goldmine: Zero-party data provides deep insights into consumer behaviours and preferences, enabling you to deliver more personalised and impactful marketing campaigns. (More on this here)
  • Not all customers are created equal: Gamification allows for varying levels and types of engagement that can be personalised to individual preferences. Whether it’s a casual shopper who appreciates an occasional discount code or a power user who seeks exclusive content, gamification can be tailored to meet different needs, elevating customer satisfaction.
  • It builds trust: Trust isn’t won in a day, but with consistent and fair game mechanics, your brand can earn customer trust over time. In a best practice gamified system, the rules are clear, the objectives are transparent, and the rewards are tangible. This clarity builds trust, as customers know exactly what to expect and how to engage with your brand. 
  • Develop long-term relationships: Gamification isn’t a one-time fling. It’s a relationship builder. By keeping the game exciting and rewards flowing, you encourage customers to stay engaged long-term.
  • Enhanced customer engagement: Engagement isn’t just about getting likes and clicks; it’s about meaningful interactions. Through gamification, you can transform passive audiences into active participants, enriching the customer’s journey with your brand.
  • Increased loyalty and customer retention: Maintaining a loyal customer base is a cornerstone for any brand. Gamification encourages ongoing engagement, building long-term relationships and turning one-time customers into repeat buyers.
  • Higher conversion rates: Gamification adds a layer of excitement to the consumer journey. By turning tasks into ‘missions’ that offer rewards, you can elevate the user experience, encouraging more conversions and ultimately boosting sales.
  • Strengthened brand awareness and social proof: Finally, gamification is naturally shareable. Achievements and rewards can be easily shared on social media, enhancing your brand’s social proof and extending its reach in the digital landscape.

As you can see, gamification is a proven, powerful tool that can elevate your marketing from ordinary to extraordinary. It’s about transforming customers into loyal fans, products into exciting quests, and your brand into a memorable experience.

📚Read more: Why use gamification in marketing the top benefits

Gamification in marketing examples and case studies

Now that we’ve looked at the benefits, let’s explore real-world examples of marketing gamification. Whether it’s a multinational corporation or a charity, these brands have turned their marketing game into a winning streak.

Successful stories: Brands that nailed gamification

HH Global –  pet care brand


The challenge was for HH Global to capture vital pet information from thousands of pet owners on behalf of a global pet care brand. So they joined forces with 3radical to develop a solution for their client to both capture the initial attention of the brand’s consumers and then provide a compelling reason for consumers to share pet information.

Gamification approach

HH Global decided to deploy a pet-themed “Advent calendar” and survey, powered by 3radical’s audience engagement platform. After clicking through from an email invite, consumers were presented with an initial survey pertaining to their pet. 

Upon completion of the survey, consumers were able to immediately access the “Advent calendar” game. In real-time, the recently captured pet data was used to present each pet owner with a different version of the calendar, with content personalised for cat owners, dog owners, or owners of both types of pets.

The brand’s consumers were then able to engage with the calendar repeatedly over the course of the next twelve days. On each occasion, consumers were able to open calendar doors to reveal rewards that they could choose to either claim or ignore.

The brand tested its audience’s responsiveness to different concepts of value by including a range of different reward types, such as prize draw entries, product discount coupons, and pet ‘hints and tips’ video content.

To add an additional element of surprise and delight, on a number of days, the campaign was also configured to randomly select a handful of consumers to win a number of special prizes, such as six months’ worth of free pet food.


  • Awareness: The campaign generated email click-through rates 3x higher than for   typical communications within the sector.
  • Engagement: Over 25% of the audience returned to the Advent calendar on at least   eight unique days during the campaign. Additionally, on average 44%   proceeded to click through to engage with further website content.
  • New insights: The brand added ‘known pet’ information to an additional 5% of its  consumer base.
  • Earned data: 63% of consumers where survey completion was not mandatory still   chose to respond, illustrating they viewed answering the survey to access rewards as a fair value exchange.
  • Sales: The campaign led to the successful distribution of thousands of promotional coupons, providing another compelling reason to choose the pet care brand products over those of their competitors.

📚Read the full case study here.

Visit Scotland


VisitScotland had an existing pool of prospective vacationer contact information, but they were keen to further increase the size of this database. The organisation also frequently lacked the necessary customer profiling information to connect the right prospects with the most appropriate travel itineraries. 

Plus, VisitScotland were looking for a way to amplify the effectiveness of their outbound marketing activities. By encouraging their contacts to share their plans or experiences with their social networks, they could enable Scotland to be promoted as a holiday destination to both a wider and younger audience.

Gamification approach

To meet these requirements, 3radical and VisitScotland created an interactive quiz experience that was deployed as responsive web content embedded into the VisitScotland website. Existing contacts and new site visitors were encouraged to provide self-reported data by answering profiling questions that were embedded into a Scottish trivia quiz. 

In return for completing the quiz, users were able to earn entries into a prize draw to win a dream trip to Scotland. Then, after engaging each prospect, they were shown a ‘pop profile’ that described the segment they belonged to, such as ‘Scottish Nature Lovers’ or ‘City Breakers’, based on their responses.

This preference information was then used to send follow-up email communications with suggested travel itineraries appropriate to each segment and designed to convert more prospects into vacationers.

In order to maximise the impact of the campaign, users were able to earn additional prize draw entries by sharing details of the quiz experience with friends and family members via a range of channels, including Facebook, Twitter and email.


  • Tens of thousands consented points captured: The quiz was a resounding hit with both previous visitors and new prospects with thousands of people engaging and tens of thousands of consensually earned data points being captured by the campaign.
  • Valuable insights: Based on the data provided, VisitScotland was able to determine that the most popular visitor category was ‘City Breakers’, insight the organisation was able to leverage accordingly in follow up communications. Over 90% of respondents reported they were either ‘very likely’ or ‘likely’ to take a trip to Scotland in the near future, with ‘Outdoor Adventure’ and ‘History and Culture’ being the two main reasons they cited for planning a visit – valuable insight that again could also be incorporated into subsequent outbound marketing activities to help drive visitors to Scotland.
  • Valuable data for future marketing: As VisitScotland have already collected this valuable visitor and prospect data, they can now use this to more effectively engage vacationers with targeted messages after the pandemic has subsided.

📚Read the full case study here.

Michaels, the largest arts & crafts retailer in North America


Email subscribers that have not opened an email from a brand in 9-12 months have a high likelihood of becoming inactive users, and having their emails removed from lists to prevent deliverability issues of marketing communications. Re-engaging with these customers is key, and an email reactivation campaign is an ideal way to retain these users. But how do you manage this so it’s not just another email?

This was the dilemma Michaels faced, affecting 4.8 million email addresses at risk of becoming inactive due to not opening an email from the brand in 9-12 months. This group very likely had brand fatigue due to an excessive communication cadence and would need an enticing reason to re-engage. 

There was also a desire by the retailer to learn more about this group of customers, including their hobbies, why they shopped with the brand, and how they preferred to be communicated with in case email was not their primary choice of communication.

Gamification approach

Powered by 3radical’s audience engagement platform, Michaels deployed a holiday-themed “Advent calendar” promoted within a reactivation email. The calendar included a combination of unique events, including incentives to purchase, as well as a progressive data capture mechanism.

Customers received two emails a day for seven days promoting the Advent calendar and inviting customers to take a survey and subsequently receive rewards.

Customers were presented with an initial five-question survey related to their shopping habits, hobbies, and communication preferences with the retailer. Once completed, they were able to access the 7-day holiday “Advent calendar”. 

They could engage with the calendar repeatedly over the course of the next seven days, opening doors to reveal rewards and additional survey question, both of which could be claimed or ignored.


  • Reactivated emails: 80,000+ unique emails were reactivated with an estimated $400K value to the brand.
  • Engagement: 41% of those that clicked the email engaged with the experience.
  • Repeat engagement: 53% of those who engaged with the intro survey continued to engage with more than one day of the advent calendar.
  • Mutual value exchange: Customers that visited on 11/13 provided 33% more data than those that visited on 11/7 demonstrating how customers were more receptive to providing data when more doors of the advent calendar were presented.
  • Valuable data: 2,500 previously uncapturable unique data points were provided by the respondents to the intro survey and the consequent single question surveys, including who they are, what they’re looking for from the major arts and crafts retailer, and their communication preferences.

📚Read the full case study here.

Breaking down the game: Why these campaigns worked

So, what’s the secret sauce behind these successful gamification examples? Is it magic? Is it luck? Nope, it’s strategy.

  • Understanding the audience: Each of these brands knew their audience and what makes them tick. They didn’t just create games; they created experiences that resonated.
  • Clear rules and rewards: No one likes a confusing game. These campaigns succeeded because they had clear rules and tangible rewards.
  • Consistent engagement: It’s not just about launching a game; it’s about keeping it alive. Regular updates, new challenges, and consistent engagement were key.
  • Integration with brand identity: These weren’t random games; they were extensions of the brand’s identity. The game felt like a natural part of the brand’s world.
  • Leveraging the right tech: By leaning on the right experts, these brands were able to create gamification experiences that were high quality, easy to implement, and compliant. 

One thing all these case studies had in common is crystal clear results. Let’s dig into this further in the next section, where we look at how to use gamification to drive online sales across the customer lifecycle…  

How to use gamification across the customer lifecycle 

Gamification and online sales feed off each other’s strengths to create a cycle of engagement that leads to increased revenue. Let’s break down how you can leverage gamification effectively to boost your online sales across the customer lifecycle.

Gamification marketing: 4 winning strategies across the customer lifecycle

Gamification supercharges marketing by driving greater engagement. Here are 4 key ways to leverage it across the customer journey:

✅1. Acquisition

  • Use contests and giveaways to motivate signups for opt-ins, newsletters etc. 
  • Plus you can try interactive experiences like virtual try-ons to reduce returns and build engagement.
  • Case example: Kayser-Roth saw 100%+ increase in opt-ins with a gamified voucher giveaway. (Read the full case study here.)

🔁2. Conversion optimisation 

  • Here you can use points, badges, and rewards to motivate purchases and account signups.
  • The thrill of “winning” drives higher conversion rates.
  • Case example: eBay’s bidding system taps into accomplishment and competition.

🤝3. Retention & loyalty

  • For retention, badges, status tiers, and tailored rewards encourage loyalty program activity. 
  • Plus, challenges and missions provide a sense of progress and achievement.
  • Case example: Matalan gained 4x higher click-throughs with a gamified wheel spin. (Read the full case study here.)

🗝️4. Reactivation

  • For reactivation, you could use interactive experiences to re-engage lapsed users.
  • And create personalised offers based on past behaviour to grab attention. 
  • Case example: Michaels drove 41% engagement with a gamified advent calendar.

In summary, gamification boosts acquisition, conversion, retention and reactivation by motivating users with engaging experiences and rewards. The result is higher marketing ROI across the customer lifecycle.

By incorporating these elements into your online sales strategy, gamification becomes more than just a novelty; it becomes a potent tool for driving revenue. From multi-level reward systems to real-time data analytics, the gamified approach offers many ways to not just engage your customers but to guide them down the path to purchase.

📚Read more: Gamification marketing strategies: How to increase engagement and drive sales

With this in mind, let’s take a closer look at how to implement gamification in digital marketing… 

Implementing gamification in digital marketing

When it comes to digital marketing, capturing and maintaining attention is the name of the game. This is where the right game mechanics and successful implementation can really help.

Implementing gamification in your digital marketing strategy isn’t about simply adding game elements to your existing tactics. It’s about strategically integrating these elements to enhance user engagement, drive desired behaviours, and ultimately achieve your marketing objectives. 

Let’s take a quick look at some implementation best practices.

Best practices for successful implementation:

  • User-centric design: Always design your gamification strategy with your users in mind. The game mechanics should resonate with your audience and provide them with a meaningful and engaging experience.
  • Balance challenge and reward: The key to a successful gamified experience is to balance challenge and reward. The tasks or challenges should be achievable but not too easy, and the rewards should be valuable enough to motivate users.
  • Align with your brand: Ensure that your gamification strategy aligns with your brand image and values. The gamified elements should enhance your brand narrative and not detract from it.
  • Keep it simple: While it’s important to create an engaging experience, it’s equally important to keep it simple. Overly complicated game mechanics can confuse users and deter them from participating.

With a thoughtful and strategic approach, gamification can significantly enhance your digital marketing efforts, creating more engaging, rewarding, and memorable experiences for your users.

📚Read more: Implementing gamification in digital marketing: The future of engagement

While gamification is most often applied to digital marketing, one less-known marketing strategy is to use it to amplify content marketing. Let’s take a closer look… 

Amplify content marketing with gamification

Content marketing can sometimes feel like a one-way conversation, especially when you’re aiming for meaningful customer interaction and long-term engagement. But gamification can be a powerful technique to improve engagement and return on investment (ROI) in your content marketing strategy. 

Here are 7 tips to help ensure it delivers results:

1. Keep it simple. It may be tempting to create complex, intricate games but simple rules and mechanics work best. People are more likely to participate if it’s easy to understand how to play. Start small – for example, offer a reward for social media shares instead of a big competition. 

2. Know your target audience. Consider what types of games, incentives and rewards would motivate them specifically. Research the channels and platforms they are most active on. The difficulty should balance motivation and effort. If the game doesn’t provide value for your audience, you won’t get the engagements.

3. Align with marketing goals. If your aim is increasing newsletter sign-ups, the game should direct people to a landing page. If it’s just for entertainment, you may miss conversions.

4. Track ROI metrics. Look at engagement rates, conversion rates, and revenue metrics. Compare to previous campaigns without gamification to see the impact. 

5. Test and optimise. Start small for easier testing. Review which game types, platforms, incentives etc resonate best. The beauty of gamification is that it provides real-time data to tweak campaigns based on performance.

6. Research successful examples. Look at brands with effective gamified content marketing. How did they structure it? What worked well? Adapt ideas to your audience.

7. Promote the campaign. Leverage social media, email marketing, paid ads etc to maximise visibility. A great game needs awareness to succeed.

In summary, gamification can improve marketing ROI by providing fun experiences in exchange for engagement. Keep it targeted, track data, refine over time, and promote for the best results. Start small and build on what resonates most.

Incorporating gamification into your content marketing doesn’t just add a layer of ‘fun’; it adds a layer of effectiveness.

📚Read more: Gamification in content marketing: How to improve ROI

If you’re sold on the benefits of gamification in marketing, it might be time to choose a provider. But how do you know what to look out for? Let’s take a look… 

How to choose a gamification provider (quick checklist)

Choosing the right gamification provider is not just about ticking off boxes; it’s about aligning with a partner that understands your objectives and has the capabilities to help you achieve them. 

So how do you cut through the noise and select the one that’s right for you? Let’s dive in.

Choosing the right marketing gamification platform: 5 key factors to consider

Gamification platforms allow you to quickly create and manage campaigns, but choosing the right partner is crucial. Here are 5 factors to evaluate:

1. Assess the software platform

☑️How robust is it? Can it scale campaigns globally? 

☑️Do they specialise in your industry and audience? 

☑️How is data privacy handled? 

☑️Is there a library of pre-loaded experiences? Relevant to your audience?

☑️Can it adapt based on data and optimise over time?

☑️Does it enable social sharing, surveys, etc to capture data?

☑️Look for a provider that understands the importance of UI/UX. Clunky interfaces or overly complex systems can deter users, negating the whole point of gamification. 

2. Evaluate the feature set

☑️Different providers offer various feature sets designed for different types of gamification strategies. 

☑️Do you need leaderboards, badges, point systems, or complex missions and quests? 

☑️Make sure the provider’s feature set aligns with your objectives and can adapt to your specific needs.

☑️Ensure your provider can deliver a seamless and engaging mobile experience.

3. Understand the costs

☑️What are onboarding and setup fees? 

☑️How much ROI is typical for clients? 

☑️Does it integrate smoothly without draining IT resources?

4. Define data and reporting

☑️What metrics, dashboards, and insights are available?

☑️How does it track and optimise campaign performance?

☑️Your chosen provider should offer comprehensive analytics and reporting tools that help you track key performance indicators (KPIs), user engagement levels, and ROI.

5. Evaluate integrations 

☑️How sophisticated is the platform? 

☑️Does it integrate via API with your existing systems?

☑️Can it provide data extracts?

In summary, the right gamification platform will provide scalability, data-driven insights, and engaging experiences. This drives ROI while improving customer satisfaction. Prioritise capabilities that align to your goals and integrate with current systems.

Choosing a gamification provider is not a task to be taken lightly; it’s an investment in your brand’s future engagement and growth. By considering these critical factors, you can select a provider that not only meets your current needs but also scales with your ambitions.

📚Read more: Marketing gamification software: How to choose a provider

Elevate your marketing strategy with gamification

As we’ve seen, gamification is not just a buzzword; it’s a proven methodology to infuse excitement, drive engagement, and ultimately, deliver business results. From driving online sales and amplifying your content marketing to choosing the right provider that aligns with your objectives, gamification can be the catalyst you need to take your marketing strategy to the next level.

The advantages of implementing gamification are huge—boosting customer interaction, enriching user experience, and generating valuable data, among others. But like any strategic initiative, the effectiveness of gamification hinges on its implementation. 

That’s why it’s crucial to partner with a provider who offers a holistic, customisable, and data-driven approach to gamification.

So, are you ready to turn your marketing campaigns into interactive experiences that your audience won’t just scroll past? Then it’s time to choose a gamification provider that can help you unlock these benefits and more.

Contact us today to find out how we can tailor a gamification strategy that aligns with your brand objectives and delivers measurable results. It’s time to play, engage, and win. Take a look at our quick start package
Ready to level up? Let’s talk.

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