Profile: Sir Charlie Mayfield

John Lewis Partnership Chairman

Businesses need to get in the game

Matt Daniels, associate at consultancy Prophet, discusses the next frontier for brands and social gaming.

Over the past decade gaming has established itself as a central part of our everyday lives. Social gaming in particular has become a widespread activity across practically all demographics. According to AllFacebook.com there are now 200 million people playing games on Facebook every month, and 24 games have more than 10 million users per month.

It’s a phenomenon that has inevitably been latched on to by marketers who have seen the potential benefits of tapping into the growing “gamification” of our lives. Airlines, hotels, and credit card companies all understand our desire to be rewarded and to achieve status and have recognised that gaming is just making it more of an adventure, and more social. The scale of the social gaming is such that, if TechCrunch is to be believed, Google has invested US$100M in the social gaming behemoth Zynga, preparing to launch Google Games sometime at the end of the calendar year 2010.

So what is the next frontier for social gaming? And what opportunities will these future developments provide for brands? A recent article from Cy Wakeman at Fast Company highlights that retaining young talented staff means adapting the working environment to match the reality of their lives. That means making gaming, and the lessons that gaming teaches young people, part of the work place.

Staff who are loyal and who are willing to voluntarily promote the business they work for has long been a marketing holy grail, one that seemingly becomes more difficult to achieve with each passing year. Yet we have a generation arriving that, through gaming, has an ingrained culture of having clearly defined goals but maximum flexibility in how they achieve them. Even more importantly, they are also used to the honesty of being rewarded for results and of failing if they’re not good enough.

Our belief is that recruiters, HR and marketing functions within large businesses will increasingly turn to social gaming to communicate with staff, increase productivity and loyalty, and ultimately drive brand value.

Social gaming in a business context will not only be an internal device. In the United States alone, Pew Internet Life has calculated that 53 per cent of adults regularly play video games of some kind, whether on a computer, on a gaming console, on a mobile phone or other handheld device, on a portable gaming device, or online.

Similar patterns are of course being replicated in the UK and across Europe presenting B2B brands with a new opportunity to engage with customers in way they enjoy while they are at work. Companies like www.wisestep.com(still in Beta) are also pushing the boundaries of traditional business networking sites like LinkedIn by adding a gaming element that encourages and rewards interaction.

It doesn’t take a genius to understand that human beings like interacting with others but are competitive. They like being rewarded for achieving goals but don’t like being bossed around. FMCG brands have taken this human behaviour, which is one of the main drivers of the success of gaming, and used it to engage with consumers.

As Jesse Schell, CEO of Schell Games argued at the DICE 2010 conference adding reward and achievement to the conversation between brand and consumer delivers higher levels of engagement and more sales.

It is now up to companies to take this lesson to the next logical level and learn from the culture of gaming to improve productivity and innovation in the workplace and to drive B2B transactions. Smart businesses will get in the game.

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