Can You Inspire or Motivate with Gamification?

by Wayne Sharer

International speaker, author, and entrepreneur. Retired navy officer, former commanding officer. Over 35 years of leading, coaching, mentoring, and speaking.

May 13, 2013

gamificationGamification is a term that was recently invented.  When your automated spell check runs, it lists it as an error unless you add it to your personal dictionary.  Gamification is not fully defined, even by those selling its services.  So what then is gamification and does it really motivate and/or inspire customers into action with your product?

Does Gamifying Work on Everyone?

I will start with a hard hit for the “gamifiers”:  If a consumer or lead does not actually have interest in your specific product or service, gamifying it will not change that.  People will not use your product if they don’t have an interest it, with or without games.

On the other hand, if you use gamification to remind people why the do have an interest in your product.  Adding a game aspect can make something your customers actually want, more fun and encourage continued and elevated participation or use.

Source of Consumer Motivation

As stated in a December 2012 blog post by Zappos, motivation comes from something bigger than self.  Simply adding a game will not maintain the motivation or even create the motivation or inspiration if it does not exist:

“When we feel that we need to motivate our team members, is it for the same purpose of getting them to do something they don’t want to do, or that they don’t believe in? Team members should not be motivated to perform for the fact that if they don’t something bad will happen. Team members should be motivated to perform because they believe that what they are doing has a purpose. On the flip side, when team members are inspired, they will waste no time finding out what they need to accomplish the goal. Motivation is very short-lived, which is why people constantly seek it. Inspiration is timeless.”

Limits of Motivation

Motivation almost always has a time limit, while inspiration reflects real wants which are much more timeless.  Thus, gamifying your products and offers has to be for the people who first actually want them, and then inspire them to move ahead.  The motivation must come from the inspiration.

You will find in the developing gamification market a trend of telling people the reason a lead or potential consumer doesn’t use your product is because it is boring.  This is a great sales lead for the gamification providers, and you should question it.

Gamifying in History

Here’s why you should question the above: Remember the age old method of gamifying used in the military.  It is awarding medals. Now this isn’t really a game for many of the medals.  They are earned, and generate motivation through the inspiration of the stories of why and how the service member earned the medal.

When a military member receives many of these medals, they feel real pride and inspiration because they know it was earned as a result of achieving or performing some act of great importance, that most of their peers likely will not do or achieve.

The bottom line is, the medal reminds the military member and their peers that the recipient achieved something important to success.  It wasn’t just fun.  The job didn’t get easier  It did not provide the sole motivation for performing.

Does Gamifying Have a Chance for Me?

So how do you know your gamification has a chance?  First, you must know what inspires your target consumers.  Simply offering points for tasks is not enough.  You must be rewarding them for what actually inspires them.

Build your “game” around core inspirations.  Remind your users why the game is important. Refer to fears they have regarding the reasons they purchased your product or service initially.  Relate them to how the fears are removed, and the goals are achieved.

All of this must be focused around the real insprirations.  With real inspriation, the motivation is sustained, and your gamification will be powerful.

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