How Gamification of Gabe Zichermann is an Effective Tool for Engaging Audiences and Solving Problems

Posted by Anant January 7, 2023

Gabe is the author of numerous books, a public speaker, a startup mentor, and a conference organizer, and each of these roles stem from his passion for gamification. He is recognized as a pioneer in the gamification industry.


→ His a speaker, author, and conference organizer whose passion is gamification

→ What is gamification do

→ The concept of gamification and how it has evolved over time

→ How to engage and sustain people’s attention in a world where it is increasingly difficult to do so

→ How gamification is an effective tool for engaging audiences and solving problems

→ His book “Gamification Revolution” has just been released

→ The book aimed at startups looking to use gamification to engage their audience and solve problem

→ Two ways to think about gamification in this context

→ How used to develop business strategies through methods such as war gaming

→ And a whole lot more


Gamification Corp.

Founder Institute



Bronson: Welcome to another episode of Growth Hacker TV. I’m Bronson Taylor and today I have Gabe Zimmerman with us. Gabe, thanks so much for being on the program.

Gabe: Hi. Thanks for having me.

Bronson: Absolutely. Now, Gabe, you’re the author of numerous books. You’re a public speaker. They can Google you or look at you on YouTube. You’re a conference organizer. And each of these roles, these mini roles, you have the kind of stem from what seems to be your singular passion, which is gamification. Tell us, what is gamification?

Gabe: Oh, great question. So, you know, gamification is the process of using concepts from games, from loyalty programs, from behavioral economics to create engagement with users and solve problems. And I think if we think of it in a different way, it’s about taking the best ideas that people have come up with and applying those to situations where we need engagement for consumers or we need engagement for employees, you know, to get them to be the best version of themselves, to do the things that we need and so on.

Bronson: Yeah, absolutely. And I’ve heard you break it down before where you say it’s game thinking and game dynamics used to engage audiences and solve problems. Talk us through those just a little bit in a little bit more detail. What is game thinking and what is game dynamics? We’ll start with that.

Gabe: Sure. So I think taking a step back and people have been gamifying things for literally thousands of years, the military has used, you know, war games as an example of thinking and companies have been using war games. And there’s been all these different ideas for how to use gamification over the years. What’s really happened over the last few years is it’s kind of narrow. It’s sort of solidified around this common concept with the rise of video games and casual games in particular. Social technology, the incredible that the whole population seems to have or know. You know, there’s this crazy stat now I just saw from Nielsen and we talk about it in talk about this kind of stuff a lot is that 20% of the population checks their smartphone every 15 minutes of the day from the time they wake up to the time they go to bed. Which is a hundred. Yeah. Which is 100 checks a day. Just a lot of interruption, you know. And what’s what increasingly we realize is that in that context, it’s hard to sustain people’s attention, start to get and keep their attention. And if you don’t get or keep their attention, they’re just not going to do the things that they both need to do and things that you need them to do in order to have a successful startup product, business idea, workflow, whatever the case may be. So we need to find a way to kind of cut through that noise and get their attention. So in my new book, The Gamification Revolution, we talk a lot about how businesses employ employed thinking in mechanics, behavioral economics, loyalty program, design concepts to get people to be engaged. Yeah. Now, you know, because you asked about game thinking very specifically, sometimes the root of a good gamified solution comes not from the deployment of specific game mechanics as much, right? No points and leaderboards and so on. As much as it comes from the notion of thinking about things the way a games person would think about them. Okay. And one of my favorite examples of that is this thing called speed camera lottery, where basically, you know, instead of a regular speeding camera, you know, that takes your ticket, takes your picture. If you speed and sends you ticket in the mail, the way speed camera lottery works is that anyone who drives by speeding camera at or below the limit gets a lottery ticket and you split the proceeds from the tickets. The tickets are pooled as a prize. Okay. Mm hmm. And they tested this out in Sweden, and it was very successful. It lowered speeding by about 20%, which makes it the most successful speeding intervention in history. But more to the point, what’s interesting about it’s a good it’s a good example of game thinking because it’s about looking at something like a speeding camera and saying, hey, wait a minute, it doesn’t really behave in the way that we know drives engagement like in a game. It doesn’t have positive reinforcement. It doesn’t tell people that they’re doing well everyday and help them move forward. So that’s that’s an example of team thinking. It’s thinking like a games person about problems that don’t necessarily lend themselves typically to games.

Bronson: Yeah, it’s being creative and taking it beyond just, you know, a leaderboard like you mentioned. Do you think there’s really anything that’s as effective as gamification to engage audiences and solve problems? It seems almost like it’s magically effective when it’s done well. Right.

Gabe: Yeah. Well, you said the important thing when it’s done well, you know, like, you know, there’s a lot of enthusiasm, excitement and hype about gamification because partially because people are always looking for the next thing, but but also because actually really works. You know, there’s this sort of average example of gamification done well, raises engagement for companies by about 30%, which is a stunning number already makes it, you know, probably the most successful tool kit that’s ever been designed for this. But on top of that, you know, there’s examples of case studies in companies where, you know, they’ve raised engagement by 300%, you know, or. Or by bringing gamification into the equation. You know, one of my one of my favorite examples to my favorite examples, we talk about them in the gamification revolution. Tabasco Nation, the brand Tabasco built a online gamified portal on Facebook, where basically every drop of Tabasco sauce that you use is like a point that you drink. And then you can do these challenges, like put Tabasco sauce on cake. And, you know, we’re eating in a weird place with your friends and then you can redeem those points for various experiences. They actually doubled their total social media footprint across all metrics by using it. Doubled. Wow. And the other kind of fun example was the Israeli Defense Force, the Israeli army that implemented a thing called IDF ranks and using IDF ranks as people who follow the Israeli army’s blog and stuff. They’ve increased their Facebook mentions by, I think, 300%. They’ve increased over 200% the number of people who’ve tweeted about them and interacted with them online. So, so the so yeah, the stats are basically insane. Like they’re insanely good. And the key is things have to be designed well in order to be able to accomplish that.

Bronson: Yeah. And it seems like all the books you’ve written have been to really help people do it well because, you know, it’s easy to throw something together. And when I was thinking about how to structure this interview, I thought it’d be great to kind of look at each of the books you’ve written because they’re going to be so relevant to our audience. Our audience is startups looking to use gamification to engage their audience, solve problems. All the things you talk about. Sure. So let’s start with the book that’s coming out, I believe, next month. Is that right? Gamification, revolution.

Gabe: It actually just came out.

Bronson: It just came out for the time.

Gabe: Yeah. So April 2013.

Bronson: There you go. Perfect. So tell us, you titled it Gamification Revolution. What does that title mean? Why did you call it that?

Gabe: Well, you know, I actually I talked about it a little bit today on my blog. I gamification about SEO. You know, many years ago when when the gamification concept wasn’t even out yet, I was writing my first book, game based marketing the book. I actually wanted to pitch the book. We, we were talking to the publishers about was this kind of idea of an omnibus strategy guide. So gamification revolution looks at, you know, how companies are using engagement science to transform their corporate strategy, transform their enterprise strategy, and transform their marketing strategy, and basically crush the competition with with better engagement and how they do those things in these three kind of categories. When we first set out doing the gamification thing in 2008, I wanted to write a book like this. And my first publisher, game for game based marketing, wanted a more narrowly focused book because it was an unproven discussion and global financial crisis and all this kind of stuff. And to be fair, they were probably right about the timing of that. You know, we wouldn’t have had as many examples in 2008, in 2009 as we do now. But now this book, Information Revolution, is full of case study after case study of companies using gamification in many different ways. And we actually gamified the book itself and have built the world’s first gamified social reading application. It goes along with gamification revolution, and you can share content with other people, unlock special bonus content and ideas, and gain access to all these resources that support the book are really a lot of fun, really kind of interesting and a model that sort of readers of the book or viewers of your program can look at to kind of reverse engineer an approach to thinking about gamification. So it’s learning and supports the ideas of what we talk about.

Bronson: Yeah, if you can gamify a book, I mean, you can gamify anything. If you can gamify speeding tickets, you can gamify anything. It seems like. Yeah, you mentioned the three kind of things that this book focused on. Let’s talk about each of them briefly in a little bit more detail. You said gamification as a winning strategy. What do you mean by that?

Gabe: Well, you know, one of the main sort of things that’s happening in the world, we talked a little bit about this kind of attention deficit problem, focused problem with people. But also there’s this notion of the kind of millennial generation coming online. And they need sort of different things and they have different expectations about how the world should behave, how rewarding it should be, how quick feedback should be given to them, all this kind of stuff. And so there’s two different ways to think about gamification in that context. So one of them is gamification is a tactical solution that we deploy when we need more engagement. So we’ve got a product or service. We’re going to teach our process whatever we need to make it better. We can deploy gamification that way. The other way to think about is to say no engagement is actually a strategic function of the organization. It is something that a company needs to be able to do at a high level and needs to do it all throughout the organization. Everyone needs to be thinking about engagement in order to be able to advance whatever it is that we’re trying to do as a business. Yeah, so there’s a small but growing group of companies for whom that’s true. Gamification being thought of as a strategy. And also you can build strategies using gamification, so war gaming and so on, where you use game concepts to actually develop the strategy for your business and both sides of that element.

Bronson: So at the highest level, it becomes a strategy kind of deeply woven into the organization, not just a singular tactic like we’re going to do this today. It’s really a high level way of thinking.

Gabe: Well, and I will say this and we talk about this a lot, you know, by 2016, you know, Gartner Group says 70% of all the world’s biggest companies will be gamifying. AI M2 research says that that will equate to nearly $3 billion worth of spending in the US alone on gamification products and services, not including labor. And and we believe that that amounts to about 5000 new jobs in related to gamification. And the main job is every organization needs a chief engagement officer. It’s somebody who is the expert on how to build and develop engagement with people. They are a social scientist, they are a builder, they are a systems thinker. That’s what characterizes them. So they’re all about absorbing all the latest information and helping propagate that throughout a company that’s going to be the leading edge idea behind the strategic side of the gamification revolution.

Bronson: Yeah, the what you just defined is that person and organization. It sounds a lot like a growth hacker. It seems like a growth hacker should have gamification in their toolset of things they can pull from to really use to to build engagement. So I think it’s great. The second part of your new book is about engaging your team in driving results. And when it comes to engage in your team, I haven’t really heard you talk or write a lot about engaging your team through gamification. I hear about how to get users. I hear about, you know, the strategy, but how do you actually use it within your team? How does gamification work in that way?

Gabe: Well, I mean, it’s funny that you say that because, you know, we spend about half of all of our energy in the gamification industry talking about the enterprise uses of gamification. So team oriented. And I will say that at the beginning of this this crazy ride building, this industry, I, I probably wouldn’t have predicted that that would be such a big deal. You know, I assumed that it was going to be a marketing thing, probably. Like you feel like it’s mostly.

Bronson: Just because of what’s what I’m watching from you. Yeah.

Gabe: Yeah. And I think that that’s a little bit of like kind of the bias of how you look at the problem. Because if you are one of the enterprise companies who participates in our Conference G summit, which is coming up in just a couple of weeks in San Francisco, you know, fully half of that content is devoted to an enterprise discussion. All of these big enterprise organizations come in talking about it, all the different things that they’re doing. And and part of the reason for that, the reason why it’s so important, why we cover it to the extent that we do, is that the things that make consumers hard to reach and hard to get and sustain attention from, they’re the same things that apply to employees. It’s not like people suddenly when they walk through the door, magically, they walk through the door of their job. Suddenly they’re no longer like checking their smartphone and they’re not like distracted by other stuff. Yeah, I mean, you know, what’s happened in most people’s work is, you know, nothing short of a catastrophe in terms of engagement and and the organization. And so companies, you know, smart companies are looking at this and saying, wait a minute, you know what? Instead of like hating on millennials, what is it about the millennial generation? That’s amazing. What can we get out of them that’s really meaningful instead of looking at employees as being, you know, these are like motivated by money, motivated by fear, you know, what is it? The underlying concepts that can be used to help drive their drive their performance, drive their throughput, help, recruit, train, engage, recruit other people. So smart companies that have been leveraging gamification and doing all of those things, they’ve been cutting the cost of and raising the quality of their employee interaction dramatically. And there’s so many great examples both in the book at Energy Summit.

Bronson: Yeah, absolutely. That’s one thing I love about all the stuff that you’ve done is you really champion the millennials. You see the positive and you learn from them to kind of fold that back into the organization and move forward as a society. And I think that’s rare. There’s a lot of people hating on the millennials right now. You know, they don’t work hard enough. They’re too distracted, whatever. Fill in the blank. But there’s something about them we need to learn from. So I like that a lot. And the last section of the book is about connecting and engaging and leveraging your customer base. What do you mean by that?

Gabe: Well, this is, I think, the gamification of the consumer elements that you probably are most focused on and your audience probably thinks about a lot. You know, so here we look at a lot of the examples of how companies can use gamification successfully to raise their consumer engagement, to raise a consumer behavior. And, you know, one of the things that I think every growth hacker probably understands intuitively, if not process wise, but that is core to the gamification ethos, is that there’s a sort of funnel of behavior. And, you know, people consumers start at a at a level of of disengagement. So either zero or a very light level of engagement. And over time, if the stars align and design the system. Right, you raise their engagement level over time. Yeah. The critical piece. And I think I hope I’m not speaking out of turn. I feel like a lot of, you know, what makes growth hacking so interesting is is embodied in the kind of social gaming approach to consumer acquisition, customer acquisition and retention as sort of the Zynga School of of of customer management, which of course, overlaps a lot with gamification. So this this idea that you can that you need to cut through the noise, that you need to build a funnel that raises people’s engagement, gives them the right level of reward, incentive and reward. All of those things are important. But I think the critical difference between the of fighting growth hacker view and what came before it is this idea that is the idea that people are after something more than just cash and free stuff and discounts and giveaways, that the best deal isn’t always the thing that actually drives good long standing behavior, that there’s actually many smaller elements of behavior that are actually way more important to the consumer than getting the best deal. And it’s not to say that people don’t care about that. But one of the things that I’ve talked about a lot we talk about in the book is this SAPS model of rewards stands for status, access, power and stuff. And it refers to the kind of reward structure of what people want and what consumers want in return for loyalty, in return for engagement. And one of things that you notice is it’s mostly about non-cash things. It’s mostly about giving people something that engages them emotionally in a good way. And so we talk a lot about how companies have successfully hacked that and brought to the table, you know, winning strategies for for sustaining engagement.

Bronson: Yeah, that’s great. I mean, you think about the four things you mentioned status, access, power and stuff. Only one of them is stuff. The other three are very intrinsic values. But if you think about how we’re all motivated, it makes sense. I mean, we’re not always motivated by the best deal if we just watch and reflect on our own behavior. We’re motivated by things that really fill us internally in ways that we didn’t even realize we need to be filled. So I think it makes total sense. Before Gamification Revolution, you wrote a book called Gamification by Design. Yeah. It’s about really implementing game mechanics in web and mobile apps. And this is going to be really targeted to our audience because they’re building web and mobile apps all day, every day. So give us some great examples of gamification in web or mobile apps. Some of them are obvious. Maybe, you know, some that aren’t so obvious.

Gabe: Yeah. I mean, this is a lot of what we talk about, you know, what we talk about in all the books. But I think, you know, I think obviously most people think of Foursquare right away when they think of a mobile app with gamification. There are many more examples that are particularly interesting that we talk about in different elements of the different books. And, you know, as it continues to evolve, a Nike Plus is one that we talk about a lot. We talk about more than once. Leverage is gamification a combination of hardware and software to create long standing engagement. But gamification by design, that book that you’re talking about was the first and still continues to be really the only sort of practical guide for implementing gamification in a product or service. And it’s a sort of methodology that’s evolved over time. You know, the book is still quite current, though, now. It’s already, you know, two years old in a little over two years old. We’ve evolved. We’ve taken some of those premises and evolved them also in kind of video training and in-person training that we’ve done. But the basic premise is that you can gamify using a methodology. There’s a process that you follow. You produce a gamification architecture, which is a kind of agile process flow document for how to gamify something. And then you can kind of fall and execute on that, you know, iterating along the way. The basic thing, though, that’s important about it is the solution. Like what you actually will do to gamify is not obvious because it’s going to be different in every single situation. But the process that you follow, the methodology use to arrive at what to do to gamified is consistent from one experience to another. So that’s the important thing. It’s how to think like a gamification designer. I got, you know, what some of those tools are, but not necessarily spoon feed you like, oh, you know what? I know what you need to do. You need you need XP system and then you need to redeem points. You need some karma because it’s every system is the same. It’s always got these things in it. That’s not true.

Bronson: Yeah, now makes a lot of sense. You mentioned it’s a methodology. It’s a process. I know you don’t have time to go through that whole process because that’s what the book is for. What are some of the highlights of it, though? Like, give us some of the tidbits. Some of the highlights of the process kind of looks like this. Is it just throwing everything on the wall and seeing what works or is it more methodical than that?

Gabe: Well, it’s definitely more than that. But there are some there are some times when, you know, you definitely want to do it. In fact, we actually use games and gamification to design gamification, which sounds a little bit meta super. But we use we use some tools and techniques that are in the book and also in some of my online videos which you can find more information about SEO certification classes and. And in person workshops, we actually use game concepts to develop the gamification elements. Things are sometimes called game storming. It’s a sort of a games and brainstorming put together where we use that to actually come, ideate and come up with new ideas. We play games with groups and individuals to 88 and solve certain process problems, but basically we move through the different kind of elements of gamified design, mastery points, systems, achievement systems and rewards and so on. We move to these different elements and in each element we play a series of games. We reverse engineer some stuff. We make an assertion about what systems, what gamified systems will probably work with some kind of guidelines or framework patterns that we know work, and then we implement that and test that in an agile fashion.

Bronson: Yeah, now makes a lot of sense.

Gabe: That’s more or less the process.

Bronson: Yeah, that’s what I was looking for is kind of a high level, you know, what is it we’re attacking here?

Gabe: But I will I will tell you this. A gamification architecture is a sort of standard document. And when you take a workshop with me, when you take a course, when you do a video, even when you do the book, the net output of that is to produce this document. And you can’t you know, and it’s going to look really different. I mean, if you’re doing an app for, you know, health and wellness, you know, are you doing or you’re working on a website for, you know, financial services? They’re going to have some similarities, but they’re also going to be quite different. So the key is to allow the flexibility for people to come up with ideas that are original and thoughtful, but in a way that’s scalable.

Bronson: Yeah. Is that really where your genius has come from? Is that kind of codifying that process? Is that the the main thing you’ve done for the world, do you think?

Gabe: Well, thank you for that. But I think I think yeah. You know, yeah. You know, look, in practice, I think one of my main contributions to this discussion has been this, you know, making order out of chaos, you know, packaging clarity. You know, it’s this is such a fast moving discipline, the science and research where we’re pulling science and research in from three main disciplines game design, behavioral economics, loyalty, program design. Each one of them, you know, has its own set of experiences, knowledge. And as I like to say to people. Each one of them makes fatal mistakes about understanding human behavior that are so obvious to someone sitting across the table in the other industry that they’re kind of shocking. And gamification is really the first time that we put those things together. One of my favorite examples is of the use of points. Mm hmm. So if you ask a game designer what’s the purpose of points in a system, they will say, well, points track progress. But that’s all they do. They’re not really motivational. If you ask a loyalty program person, what is the value of points? They’ll say Points are everything, points drive everything because people love to collect points and it matters a lot. And if you ask a behavioral economist about the value of points, they’ll say, well, it depends on what kind of points you’re talking about and what the situation is and what they’re doing with them and what they can get for them. Yeah. And the truth is, all three of them are right.

Bronson: Yeah.

Gabe: They’re all correct context. However, if you if you were designing an experience for engagement or behavior change, you’d only from the perspective of any one of those people, you would make a fatal mistake at some point. At some point you would miss something that was very obvious to the other group, because they’re each focused on different kinds of things. So in gamification, we’re trying to, as much as possible, put our arms around an immense, immense amount of data, an immense amount of research, a very wide set of design patterns, and boil those down and make them process in a way that ideally doesn’t produce cookie cutter results but does produce a scalable methodology. Yeah. So I will take credit for helping to create some order out of this chaos because there’s a lot going on. But it’s really the work of thousands of people all across the world in such a wide range of industries and organizations that are on the street, that are doing this, that are building the patterns. And, you know, and as much as possible, I try to be a voice for making those things real.

Bronson: Yeah, that’s great. Do you think every company should use gamification? Is there any commun? I know it seems like we’ve talked about. They all should be. Is there any company where you say, you know what, that vertical they get a free pass to ignore this whole conversation for some reason. Is anyone in that category?

Gabe: No. I mean, now people people ask me, you know, variants of this question all the time. And I will tell you, I think the most amazing thing to me is and you can just do this, just do this for your own edification. If you have a minute, spend an hour of your day and ideally some time when you’re out and about walking around or doing something and look at how much fun you’re having interacting with the world around you. Just a realistic assessment. All right. What you’ll find is that the vast majority of our day is very transactional. It’s us doing little things in a kind of gray bubble. You know, we’ve come to accept that those things are not fun. We’ve come to accept that some things are utility and some things are structural. And. We don’t need to feel engaged with them. And we’re we’re settling, though, is the thing we’ve settled and in practice. Any organization when organizations grasp that idea so when they say, hey, wait a minute, I think there’s an opportunity here. And they certainly put you know, it’s like when the color changed and Wizard of Oz from black and white to color and they put that color into the activity, suddenly we’re like, Wait a minute, this is so much fun. I’m having a really good time getting money and CTO all of a sudden, right, instead of just being a transaction. And that gives that company a major advantage. And that’s the kind of thing we’re talking about in gamification revolution is those businesses that act on this and act well and act strategically stand to gain a tremendous amount in this upcoming cultural and economic shift.

Bronson: Yeah, yeah. Now, a lot of companies watching this, a lot of entrepreneurs, they have very small budgets. They’re starting out, they’re bootstrapping. Maybe they got their series. Who knows? Does it take a massive budget to really pull off gamification when it’s done well, or is it really more about creativity? Do you need a R&D department? Do you need a bunch of people, you know, full time game storming or can you do it on a budget?

Gabe: Oh, I mean, listen, gamification is doesn’t require complicated technology. It actually it can be done very cheaply. And, you know, many people do it with pen and paper. There’s a great example of a guy named John Guerrero. It’s worth checking out his story on some account. I used speaker recommendations. I mean, he did he gave a find his life using pen and paper, helped him write a book, get his dream job. I’ll lose a ton of weight. He did all that with Post-it notes and pencil. And so, you know, especially, you know, one of the things for entrepreneurs, we often think about entrepreneurship and their need for gamification, for their product or service, but actually they can use gamification on themselves because in many businesses you are as an entrepreneur, the most important resource in the company. And you need to be efficient. You need to have you need to scale, you need to have energy. You need to feel like you’re accomplishing something in order to get through the tough times. Right? So one thing is to look at how gamification can be used cheaply on yourself to get you where you need to be. And there’s lots of cheap, free apps, pencil and paper, all different kinds of ways that you can do that.

Bronson: And if you do it yourself, you can obviously do with a startup.

Gabe: Yeah, well, exactly. And I think those things, when you’re an entrepreneur, I think those things are the same. I think there’s. Yeah, how the entrepreneur fares is how the startup founders. Right. So, so that’s one thing to think about, one thing to consider. And I talked to a lot of the entrepreneurs that I work with like that. The second piece of it is when you’re doing it for your actual free actual startup, whether that’s a mobile or web app, I highly recommend taking a super agile approach. Everything that we teach in gamified design is about agility, and so you want to actually do a fairly cheap first assay. And you know, I’ve come around on basically what those elements probably should be for a startup. And, you know, I think you I think you definitely want to I talk about this at length in one of my startup videos, but basically you want to probably do 1 to 3 things in your first version, in your MVP game of five and those including an XP point system. Whether or not that showed to the consumer or not doesn’t matter. Just for your own edification, you need to string one up. I need to have some kind of notification or viral loop, social loop built into your product. Those are probably the MVP versions of that. And then, you know, I talk a lot more about how to get in greater depth, but it doesn’t have to be particularly expensive now.

Bronson: That’s great. Now let’s talk a little bit about the other book you’ve written, the game based marketing. Just briefly, what is game based marketing? I think we’re probably know by now, but give us a quick definition of it.

Gabe: Yeah. I mean, this was, you know, this this was the first kind of gamification book in the contemporary sense. You know, I wrote it. It came out in 2010. Writers Zynga and Foursquare were kind of, you know, popping up. And basically it looked at the sort of original idea of the intersection of loyalty programs and game design and a little bit of behavioral economics. What does that look like from a marketing standpoint, how companies have used that? Well, I think one of the most telling things that’s really interesting about how quickly all of this moves, you know, same thing with startups and growth hacking is that, you know, I just had a conversation with Loyalty Programs Company, a really big one. And they said to me they were like, well, this whole thing with Game Kitchen first started in 2010. It seemed like loyalty and gamification were very much in alignment. We were talking about the same stuff, we were on the same page, and you guys have just gone, you know, through the roof with what you understand and what you know. And we just, you know, we’ve been left behind. And so one of the most interesting things to me is, I think truer words have never been spoken about. Like, you know, like most loyalty programs, even brand new contemporary loyalty programs fall into the same ridiculous trap over and over and over again. They think that what people want is they want to earn some points and burn those on free stuff. And people do want that. Let’s be clear. People do want that and they will do that. Right. And if it’s interesting to them, they will do it for some period of time. But there’s a big difference between. Giving away free stuff to someone who would have given you money anyway. And radically reshaping and changing the behavior of people to get and sustain their engagement. Yeah. So when when you see something like Walgreens launching Balance Rewards in 2012, their new kind of loyalty program for the big, you know, pharmacy chain, I actually like cried. I’m exaggerating, cry. But I kind of, you know, I kind of laugh, cried a little bit because it’s just so ridiculous. So in 2012, your best idea is you’re going to give everyone a card and they’re going to swipe it when they go to Walgreens and they’re going to get one point for every dollar they spend and you’re gonna have some bonuses and then they’re going to redeem them for free stuff. At Walgreens, they were already saying. Yeah, how exciting. Yeah, this is amazing. I’m sure people are really going to care about your program. So once those kind of companies, once those sorts of experiences in the marketing state, start waking up and realizing that they don’t have the kind of engagement they need with consumers. The companies that, like the ones that are not on top of the gamification revolution are going to suffer for that significantly. The first movers at this moment have a very serious advantage in terms of consumer attention.

Bronson: Absolutely. Because gamification is such a big deal, it’s such a huge turning point in engagement, so real. And whoever is doing it, it’s a it’s a big leg up. It’s not just a small step in the right direction. Yeah. If you would rattle off some of just some examples, some categories of game based marketing, I mean, I’m sure we all can name a couple, but what are some of the the possibilities for game based marketing?

Gabe: Well, I mean, you know, I’ve talked about a few of the ones that I think are you know, that I think are most significant that have been, you know, most successful for organizations. But there’s so many really fun ones that have been really, really, really successful. You know, another one is we talked about tobacco, right? We talked a little bit about Nike. Plus one point I want to make about Nike plus it’s so important is that it’s not just a system that’s kind of cool and gets a lot of PR. It’s actually changed the companies business in part. Absolutely. You know, when Nike Plus was first conceived, Nike wasn’t the top shoe brand for hardcore athletes. Nike was a fashion brand. Okay. And if you were a runner, you were running in New Balance and you didn’t run in Nike in 2005 because why would you they. They made you know, they made fashion shoes. And so Nike pluses really had a tremendous effect today. They get about 5 million people using Nike plus every single day. Yeah. To run with. And it’s it’s really kind of changed the whole meaning of what it is to be a sportswear an apparel business. Yeah. And that’s one of the kind of promises, I think one of the big promises. Another side, which we haven’t talked about a great deal is B2B marketing.

Bronson: How does that work? Because that is. Well, it would.

Gabe: Of course it would. Yeah. You know, it absolutely has another category with a tremendous, tremendous amount of success and really great case study. So in gamification revolution, for example, we talk about Siemens, the German engineering company, which has this game called Plant Platteville, that they made a gamified experience in which you play a plant, a factory manager, where you’re running a factory. And what’s really interesting is that the majority of the people who play it are people who actually run factories for a living. So they do their job during the day and then they go home and play a video game in which they play their job like overnight, which is really interesting. But it’s been very successful for IBM, which built a business process management software toolkit called Innovate and put that out on the web, decided to put it out on the Web and see what would happen. I built a couple of games out of it called like City Manager, which is a SIM city, but for people who actually run cities for real and now it’s the single biggest lead generator and IBM for the for the global organization. So it’s a revenue stream. Yeah. For the company in addition to being a kind of demonstration of that. So you absolutely can market it both in B2B and B2C using gamification and be very successful with it.

Bronson: That’s great. And you know, the examples you gave, you know, without knowing it, they’re very personal to me. I’m a Nike plus user myself, and using that app completely changes my running behavior. It changes the amount I run. It changes how I think about my runs. I mean, I am literally going outside to play a video game when I go for a run because of the way the graphs look in the way, you know, feels to me. Sure. And then you mentioned a Siemens plant managers that my father actually retired as a Siemens, you know, worker in a plant. So it’s hard to ask him if he’s ever interested in playing that game. Yeah, you should ask examples. All right. Lastly, this has been a great interview. One more question here. Sure. You’re the co-director of a startup accelerator, the Founder Institute, and actually didn’t know you were involved with that, because I follow the Founder Institute on Twitter. I look at what they’re doing. I just didn’t know your involvement there. So tell us, you get to work with startups in that accelerator, I’m sure often. And of course, they’re coming to you for gamification advice. I mean, you are the guru for that one thing. What’s some of the gamification advice that you find yourself given to these startups just over and over? What’s the thing you can tell startups listening to this right now that they really need to hear from you?

Gabe: Yeah. So yeah, I can tell you that very, very clearly. I’m the co-director for Fender Institute in New York City, and I have been a mentor for years and been doing that for four years and get to travel all around the world and work with startups all over because FI is the most global of the accelerators kind of all over the world. And one thing that’s fairly consistent, I tell the startups this kind of inconsistent way. So first thing is, you know, gamification, if you want to include that in your pitches, if you want to pitch with it as a startup, which is today, it’s very common. It’s really hard to actually find a startup that’s not using gamification. You need to see more about it than that. So if it’s if it’s part of your vision for how you get and get traction in the market and how you achieve that traction, I used to say way more about it than just, Oh, we’re going to gamify our consumer interactions. It’s a little bit like saying we’re going to monetize with advertising. You need to be able to say a little bit more about that. So people want to understand what you’re tapping into and how you accomplish it. The second part of it, and you know what should be you, which is usually my second note for startups. So that’s an XP point system facing inward if necessary, if you don’t want to do it to consumers. And you know, I am an agile approach for, you know, for how you’re going to do everything and make sure that the social viral notifications are built into the app. And then the third piece of it, which I think is is really super important and probably the most important thing for startups, you don’t just get consumer traction because you’ve built a great thing and you don’t get consumer traction just because TechCrunch writes about you. This is a very common misconception because in a lot of startups that’s the popular media impression of what happened, right? Like Foursquare went to South by Southwest four years ago and, you know, three years ago and all of a sudden everyone just picked up on it, right? That is not the case at all. Denison Levine even had a startup before called Dodgeball. Yeah. Which was which didn’t really work. Yeah. And when they figured out that it was the judicious application of gamification to dodgeball that would create that engagement, and they got the timing right. They launched a thing that changed the world. Yeah, but it’s you have to do this by design. I think that’s something the growth hacking people really understand intimately. You’ve got to design. You’ve got to have gamification as part of your core design ethos. It’s got to be part of your vision for how it’s done big, deeply into the product. It’s not an adjunct. It’s about everything that you do.

Bronson: Yeah, well, this has been a great interview. Gabe, again, thank you so much for coming on the program. I can’t thank you enough.

Gabe: Thanks so much, Frantz, and great to be here.

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