Thursday, May 13, 2010

Give me more rewards - I'll feel better about myself

I hadn't realized how close marketing and games had come. A little piece of the computer gaming industry and marketing influenced one another (or maybe aligned, just because the target is human beings with cash). That little piece or gaming and marketing is around 'rewards'. People love to be rewarded for their actions, making them feel better about what they do, as well as keeping them coming back for more. Since the first days of computer games, players have received points for every fried alien they sent to its maker, with bonus attainments for reaching the end of a level (reinforced with the chance for a feel good breather and reduction in adrenaline). Marketing and rewards programs (frequent flier miles, free S'bucks coffees, grocery store rewards points) all carry the same concept: get points for buying (frying the aliens) and get a bonus or a flight for buying stuff you don't really need over a long period of time (reaching the end of a bonus level).

So now it is obvious to me, especially after watching a lively presentation from a games expert and professor at Carnegie Mellon University, Jesse Schell: the DICE 2010 "Design Outside the Box" presentation is fun to watch, even if you take some of what is said with a pinch of salt. Schell is quite a character in the gaming and 'imagination' industry, and watching him speak, you realize if you didn't know already that there is a huge amount of psychology behind computer games that lead to their success or their failure. Schell mentions some of the surprises as well, that many of us would never have seen coming, like the Facebook games (Farmville, Mafia Wars, etc) or even the Wii. This psychology is the same in clever marketing, not the 'leverage, symbiotic, synergistic' marketing language bingo we see from tech CMOs, but marketing and advertising to regular human-beings at the level of 'buy another S'bucks coffee 'cos it will give you a buzz and its more impressive to your peer group than going again to Dunkin Donuts.

I have no real background in the gaming space, although I was hooked on software shoot-em-ups when I was a kid. The presentation at Finovate this week by Bobber Interactive (excuse the terrible writing in the linked blog post - if you understand the challenges of trying to write stream of consciousness about a seven minute demo, when the demo is the thirtieth you've seen that day, you'll forgive me), took game theory and applied it to a full on game environment for teenagers starting out in personal finance. I recognize that I know little about what motivates teenagers. One area I've come to recognize is the need for constant reinforcement required by a teen for how great they are, and as much as I don't see the need for being told what an amazing achievement doing something I should have done anyway is, I can see the potential for marketing to it.

So thanks to the Bobber guys (CEO Eric Eastman and ..., crap, no rewards for losing the COO's business card!) for introducing me to this concept of game theory in marketing, and good luck with Bobber!

A post from the Improving It blog

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