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Gamification and the Importance of Correct Engagement


You’ve heard of Pavlov’s Dog, right? If you haven’t, this scene from ‘The Office’ explains it quite well.

So, now you know Pavlov’s Dog. The immediate benefits of being able to drum up a willing audience/set of participants go without saying, so I won’t. But look at the Dog (or Dwight, in my example), he’s not exactly happy now, is he?

Being in the market research game, it’s a fair assumption to make that one main goal you might have for your business or service is not to generate a series of drone-like consumers who blindly follow your every whim – you’re not, as much as you might sometimes think you are, a Marvel super-villain.

So, how do we draw the line between simply offering people a basic reward just for turning up and creating something genuinely engaging, but fails to meet the initial requirements and therefore, completely lacks insight.

The process of ‘gamification’ has been slowly ebbing its way into market research in varying forms and, like everything, has its positive and negative points. The main thrust of gamifying something is to make it more pleasurable for the end-user, simple as that.

If you’re conducting surveys that target younger audiences, are fairly long or need to reproduce exact scenarios, gamification is a serious option to consider.

Arguments for gamification in other aspects of life are much more obvious, Nike cottoned on to the idea that boasting and sharing your latest run time or gym ‘sesh’ output is at the forefront of seemingly everyone with a Facebook or Instagram account, so their various fitness apps compliment that. It wasn’t even new then – remember FourSquare, anyone?

In research, primarily, much like our canine friend from earlier, we’re mostly inclined in maintaining the attention of those who are taking part in your offerings, more in terms of enhancing their experience in the brief slot of their attention you’ve managed to harness.

Unlike Rover, you need to ensure your audience isn’t blindly ticking boxes for an end-game pay out. Rich, immersive HTML and Flash-heavy ‘experiences’ are, in some instances, the new standard survey – the key is to balance out your usage of it.

Say, for instance, you’re looking to work out the purchasing habits of a certain strata of consumers – pulling together a focus group of that precise cross-section in one place (a supermarket in this instance) and having them make certain choices based on something they’re all told at once can generate a gamut of issues including bias, pandering and a hell of a bill to foot.

However, target that same cross-section online with the same, virtually crafted supermarket and having them explore the same issues via their home desktop or laptop, you’re more likely to develop an interested, engaged insight into people’s natural habits.

There’s no outside force making the introverts shier and the extroverts more bolshie, but at the same time, no-one keeping them in line and on message. So, we see why the line between useful and excessive can be a hard one to tread.

Hypothetical time: You’re looking to canvass opinion of 12-15 year olds of both genders and all types of background about which magazine they pick when they’re in front of the magazine rack at WH Smith’s with their parents. It seems slightly obvious to say that generating a black and white, point and click survey to have kids answer some questions isn’t the best idea – I’m already losing my own attention.

Likewise, a focus group had the potential to turn somewhat feral, be over-ridden by pushy parents and their agendas. So here we have an example were gamification works perfectly.

Where from here, then? Apps are already pouring from every brand, shop and person that has the nous/ability/money to make it happen, so it follows that apps created with the sole purpose of farming specific data from end-users and consumers will fast become a norm.

Attention spans may be waning, but gamification allows you to still grab your audience in a familiar fashion, giving them the end-result they know and trust, but by-pass the boredom and turn a tedious exercise into an engaging insight.

Pavlov would be proud.

By Stuart Buchanan

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