Image: Suat Eman /

Tesco do it, QR codes are perfect for it, FourSquare added another dimension to it, and it’s currently the buzzword amongst marketing and IT geeks worldwide.

Gamification is all-about taking the concept of game playing and putting it to use in non-game applications. “Making a chore fun” is one definition we have heard and seems to fit well. As Mary Poppins once said: “In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun. You find the job and snap the job’s a game”. It is all about encouraging engagement from the customer to get them doing things they might not otherwise be motivated to do, but are moved to take part in because it is fun and exciting.

In an obvious way the location-based systems like Foursquare, Gowalla and Facebook Places have their success in gamification. Collecting badges, appearing on leaderboards, doing battle with other users, are all aspects of gamification.

As these applications took off, more and more marketeers began introducing the ‘game’ element as a way of increasing customer engagement. The end of 2010 saw gamification make real in-roads into the way marketeers thought and 2011 is set to see that further increase. Some say it is just a new name for an old trick – the tradition of happy hour in pubs is often cited, getting people to join in at a certain time at a certain location – but certainly gamification appears to be a hit with the younger generation looking for constantly evolving methods of entertainment. Indeed it is such a buzz-word that the first Gamification Summit held in California in Janaury this year was a sell out.

With brand-leaders like Tesco plugging its own gamification – their iphone app encourages you to scan items from your cupboard to put in your next online order – the concept is only set to grow. With reward point and loyalty cards already fully embraced by consumer culture, gamification would keep us entertained for a while yet, while helping under pressure marketeers increase customer engagement.

The phone app is likely to be the driving force begin this too. The level and diversity of information now available continues to grow and more and more developers are finding new ways to incorporate these into apps that make the information fun but informative. For example, Chromaroma is a game that allows London commuters to track their journeys and score points, while creating a colourful visualisation based on their use of their Pay as you Go Oyster card. Their travel habits are plotted in a Chromatic pattern, with points earned for making the trip quicker or varying their route.

Are you hooked by gamification? Does it really change spending habits?

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