by R.A. Rowell; Lover of Well Crafted Gamification
If you want to learn some branding hacks, just watch what cereal companies and toy companies do when they market to kids. One of the ways that they can get kids hooked on products is through online games. Gamification is a very strong method of brand building. While branded games have been around for decades, online games are so easy to access nowadays that they’ve become invaluable in marketing products to kids.
The idea of fan clubs has been around for centuries. But, with online gaming, brands have taken them to a brand new level. It used to be the work of television commercials to make kids feel like they can’t live without a certain cereal, candy, or toy. But now, commercials can instead get kids to ask their parents to visit a brand’s web site and sign up to play some free games. Then, kids invite their friends to play, too.
Many of these online gaming fan clubs also allow kids to chat with their friends and even make new friends through their gaming platform. In fact, some of these brand fan clubs are so successful that paid memberships are sometimes even available. This is cheap advertising for brands and it gets a lot of exposure to young, pliable minds who can become loyal brand customers and advocates for life. Brands can even make a little extra money through this loyalty.
But, this sort of gamification isn’t just for marketing to kids. Really, any brands can create fun destinations for people of all ages. Making your brand synonymous with recreation can make it come alive in ways you may not have ever imagined. It’s possible to make just about any brand website be colorful and animated without being too cartoonish or overwhelming. Then, create content that people from anywhere will flock to and enjoy.
The same sort of “herd mentality” that cereal, candy, and toy brands have used to build brand loyalty in kids can work with just about anything. It’s actually a bit surprising that more brands, especially those that deal with ecommerce, haven’t gotten more creative in making their own online gaming experiences. However, many brands have created “members-only” areas like fan clubs with exclusive content. Amazon did this with Prime, offering a vast array of entertainment in addition to many other benefits such as two day shipping, all for a low monthly fee. But, it’s possible to go much further.
Basically, you don’t want your site to just be where someone goes to learn more about a product or buy something. You want your brand to have loyal fans that come back often to consume new content, play games, or both. Your brand should become a destination that people get excited about. Obviously, you want to tie the experience to your brands and services, too, but in a fun and creative way that doesn’t feel like you’re hard-selling to people.
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