Dopamine-aided marketingDopamine-driven marketing sounds scary, but it’s more common than one might expect. Dopamine is a key element in the brain’s reward system, and when marketers trigger that system they can reinforce behavior and create positive associations. Ads that make consumers solve a simple puzzle can have this effect (see Puzzling Billboards, Schick Commercial’s Aha! Moment, and Puzzles Boost Brand Recognition, for example.) The dopamine kicker can also be generated using one of the hotter trends in marketing (and other forms of behavior modification): gamification.

One company focused on this opportunity is Digitaria, a San Diego-based marketing firm. Business News Daily reports:

The… company has increased its video gaming capabilities in the belief that elements of gamification, such as reward systems, motivational frameworks, positive reinforcement, feedback loops and emotional and biochemical responses, are all potentially as resonant as any other element the marketing process.

The article quotes Digitaria VP Jim McArthur: “It is more of a subliminal connection, as opposed to an overt one… There is a level of achievement that makes people feel good about themselves.” This is what we’ve been saying for years, but the rise of mobile devices has created a new set of opportunities for marketers. In the past, interactive games required the use of a computer, limiting their reach in terms of venues and audience size. Now, with pervasive smart phones and acceptance of mobile gaming, consumers can be reached anywhere. The emergence of casual gaming also makes the idea of downloading a free entertainment app acceptable and familiar.

Not Just for Marketers

The principles of gamification can be used to reinforce all kinds of behaviors. McArthur, speaking to MediaPost, describes how the feedback system in his hybrid Lexus encourages driving behaviors that save gas. He’s become so tuned into his success in saving fuel that he “cringes” when someone else drives his car and lowers his numbers.

The possibilities are endless. FastCoDesign describes a “smart inhaler” that teaches users how to properly employ the device with a video-game like approach. The gamification approach results in faster learning and better compliance with proper procedure.

Simple Gamification

While big brands can invest in sophisticated game designs, smaller scale marketers and even non-profits can still employ dopamine-generating strategies. Badges or similar virtual awards can activate the brain’s reward center, as can solving a simple puzzle or discovering new information. If your marketing involves any kind of process involving several steps, try to reward customers as they make progress. This doesn’t have to be electronic – for years, loyalty programs have used gamification principles to encourage use and increase engagement.

There’s a lot of info available on gamification strategies – for starters, check out the blogs MyGamification and The Gamification Blog.

Have you seen any great examples of gamification marketing, particularly those that could be employed with a limited budget? Share them with Neuromarketing readers in a comment!

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