Three times upbraid: Serious play – the play instinct as marketing instrument

The gaming market is booming: According to GfK 2018, the gaming industry generated revenue of around 4.37 billion euros in Germany. E-Sports tournaments fill stadiums around the world, the Candy Crush Saga tops the ranking of the highest selling apps in the Google Play store, and the augmented reality game Pokémon Go tempts millions of users to hunt down virtual Pokémons.

Playing creates emotions that marketers can exploit: fun, ambition, and happiness.

There is a plaything in each of us

The play instinct lies in the nature of man. Especially with children, playing is important for their mental and physical development. But those who now believe that the play instincts are only limited to children or adolescents have been missing far and wide. According to a study by the Association of the German Games Industry, 28 percent of computer and video gamers in Germany are 50 or older. With a total of 9.5 million players, they represent the largest age group in Germany.


The average age of gamers has been rising for years: in 2013 it was still 32 years, but in 2018 it rose to 36 years. These figures show that my grandmother is a target group that should not be underestimated, especially against the background of our aging society. Through the social interaction character, games may even counteract social problems such as loneliness in old age.

Also interesting: when seniors gamble

In addition to the classic target group of so-called heavy gamers, the players who spend more than average time with video games, there are those people who only occasionally want to play computer or video games, but the relatively high cost of a gaming PC or a game console frighten they often off.

However, this could change this year with the planned launch of Google’s new game streaming platform “Stadia”. According to Google, the games can be retrieved from the cloud and played on any device using a dedicated controller. Although nothing is known about the pricing model of the service, it is likely that this will create an untapped potential audience.

New technologies offer a broad playground for stationary dealers

According to the German trade association, the stationary retail trade continues to struggle with declining customer numbers. One way to attract more customers to the inner cities and businesses is to make the shopping experience more exciting and interactive through gamification. Gamification is the integration of playful elements into a non-playful context.

These playful elements address human needs such as the desire for interaction, ambition, competition or reward. The goal is to motivate the game participants to desired behaviors, such as increased purchase intent and loyalty or just increased customer activity in the business.

Some companies have already successfully implemented the gamification approach in their businesses. In the spring of 2018, the bookseller Hugendubel motivated customers to visit the stores with the “Bookbuster” campaign. A mobile game was developed in which users could test their knowledge of current books in three levels.

Level 1 consisted of a virtual book cover puzzle, and at level 2, users had to guess book titles represented by pictures. On the third level augmented reality was used. The participants were able to collect virtual birds and thereby win books. According to Hugendubel’s marketing director Sarah Orlandi, the campaign has led to increased visitor numbers and increased sales.

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“Bookbuster” campaign Hugendubel

In addition to augmented reality, Virtual Reality is also ideal for making the shopping experience more exciting and playful. For the opening of a new IKEA store in Dallas, the furniture manufacturer has developed a Virtual Reality Experience that allows visitors to immerse themselves in the IKEA world. A virtual pillow throwing game enabled the playful interaction with the products. In another VR experience, the participants learned in a playful way about the sustainable design process of an IKEA bamboo lamp.

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Virtual Reality Experience IKEA

Another successful gamification example comes from NIKE. To promote the new “Epic React” shoe, trying on the shoes in the store was combined with a three-minute motion game. In doing so, the customers created an avatar before they got on the treadmill. This avatar was controlled by the running of the customers and a hand-held button to jump. Overall, there were four different worlds that participants could explore while playfully trying out the new Nike shoe.

As you can see in the implementation, there are no limits to the imagination and creativity of gamification. However, merchants should make sure that the game elements support the shopping experience and are not just a gimmick and distract from the buying process.

Gamification supports the agency’s everyday life

Gamification will play an increasingly important role in e-learning in the future. As the online advertising industry continues to evolve, new disciplines are added, and new tools often emerge whose features employees need to learn.

Anyone who has ever attended such a training knows how dry it can be and how quickly you forget what you have learned. If future onboarding events and tool training were gamified, knowledge could be conveyed in an entertaining way. Companies can, for example, set incentives that motivate employees to obtain further education and thus earn points or reach a next level.

Salesforce, an international provider of enterprise cloud computing solutions, is a prime example of this. For a playful introduction to their software, a dedicated learning platform called “Trailhead” was developed, where learners receive points and badges as a reward for solving tasks. The competitive nature promotes the learning and later use of tools in everyday working life.

Gamification approaches are also conceivable for recruiting and innovation workshops. So, colleagues, be creative and let your gameplay run wild!

Also interesting: As popular as YouTube: Hyper Casual Games for mobile

About the author: Anna Seidel is always up-to-date with the latest digital trends. After studying economics, she moved into the digital industry, where she advises clients and colleagues on new technologies and consumer trends as Senior Consultant Digital Trends & Insights at Plan.Net. Curiosity and thirst for knowledge are their greatest allies.

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