Building a game layer on top of the world

The decade of connectivity is over.  We are entering the decade of influence.

And if you believe Seth Priebatsch, the bright, young, really fast talking Princeton dropout CEO of the new mobile gaming platform SCVNGR, nothing influences like gaming dynamics.

Think about it. Game dynamics make us show up at designated times (Farmville); they encourage us to enhance our personal influence and status (fans, followers, comments); they inspire us to complete tasks (unlock rewards, earn badges); and they unite us to solve problems (Wired Magazine and the DARPA challenge.)

Why does this matter to marketers? For the simple reason that consumers don’t sit around waiting for messages to arrive on their screens. They’re too busy posting, updating, liking and gathering relevant content from friends and communities to pay much attention to anything resembling a traditional marketing or advertising execution.

Yet as marketers we still have to capture people’s attention, induce them to engage with us and drive them to take action. If messages no longer work, what does? Seth thinks the answer lies in games.

And there’s plenty of evidence that he’s right.

There are the original examples like Mint.com, which got you to complete the task of saving for a trip with a gauge showing you how close you were.  Nike +, which rewards you for reaching fitness milestones.  And, of course, the proverbial credit card points.

More recently we have Rue la la and Daily Grommet, which get you to show up daily to see what’s new and sometimes making products available for a limited time. (None other than Gary Vaynerchuk once told me he was buying as many “daily” URLs as he could get his hands on for that very reason.)

As Foursquare and Gowalla make game dynamics even more accessible, smart social marketers like AJ Bombers are learning to leverage our desire to win points and earn badges.

You’ll even notice that on this blog the Livefyre comment system that I’m testing out as a beta user hopes that the “game” of personal influence and reputation helps it catch on.

One of my all time favorite examples of the power of game dynamics was Evan Ratliff’s attempt to disappear. The Wired Magazine reporter attempted to erase all evidence, digital and otherwise, of his whereabouts. Wired’s offer of $5000 to whoever could find and out Evan inspired thousands of users across the country to band together in small groups, working as teams to track him down.  Clearly their participation and commitment was as much about the challenge and competition as the money.

It strikes me that Seth’s argument makes total sense.  If we can’t get people to pay attention to messages, if people get their content and information from each other, and if we need incentives and rewards, both intrinsic and extrinsic, to engage with a brand, we should all be figuring out how to put more game into our marketing programs.

Want to play?  Leave a comment, tweet about it and see if you get more “likes” on your comment than the person above you and below you.  Whoever gets the most likes on their comment wins a _____________.   Hey, we could even make filling in that blank a game, too.

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