By Joe Pulizzi published July 28, 2011

Gamification: 4 Examples to Gamify Your Content Marketing

Listened to an excellent presentation by Chris Sullivan from Bunchball yesterday at Custom Media Day 2011 in New York.

If you are not familiar with gamification (adding game components to your content to increase engagement and retention), check out this post from Rick Liebling as well as the Wikipedia definition for gamification.  Online gaming such as Farmville and Angry Birds have brought gamification to the forefront as an important part of the overall content marketing strategy.

Simply put, gamification influences behavior.  According to Bunchball, there are 120 million people are enrolled in travel rewards programs and over 200 million people play online games that are reward based (hard to believe).

We see this as so important that we’ve added a session on gamification at Content Marketing World 2011.

Here are four examples that Chris discussed in his presentation that we can learn from in our own content marketing.

Microsoft Office PowerPoint Ribbon Hero

How do you get people to use all the features in a software package like MS PowerPoint? Well, Microsoft added something called PowerPoint Ribbon Hero as a gaming component in PowerPoint. The idea is that the more functionality you use, the more rewards you earn.  For example, if you progress beyond a certain level in PowerPoint, you unlock PowerPoint animations not available to the regular user (see image).

PowerPoint Ribbon Hero

“Games for learning is an increasingly popular field that’s quickly gaining ground. When we started this project, we wondered if there was a place for games in Office. We set out to understand whether elements of game play (things like scoring points, competing with friends, and earning achievements) could motivate people to explore more of the app, learn new features, and ultimately become more productive” – from a Microsoft Executive

What Microsoft learned is that the more they can get PowerPoint users to leverage additional portions of the platform, the more it leads to retention and customer satisfaction.

LinkedIn Progression

Chris discussed one of the simplest ways to add game components to your online content is to add a simple progression bar, ala LinkedIn.  Chris went into some detail about how human behavior drives us to get to 100% completion.  As you see in the image below, LinkedIn uses a progression bar to compel users to take full advantage of all LinkedIn features.

LinkedIn Gamification Financial Fitness

Does anyone want to be financially unfit? Of course not.

By using, you can track how financially fit you are over a set of criteria that Mint provides, including savings, budget and a number of other indicators through a fit score (more on this from Mashable).

Mint Financial FitnessNike Plus

We originally discussed the impact of Nike+ back in 2008 as part of Get Content Get Customers.  Today, it continues to be a shining example of both content marketing and gamification. Using Nike+, you’re not only able to track your running, but compare yourself against your friends on an ongoing basis.

We Have Two Choices

With our content marketing today, we have two choices:

  1. Create content that educates and informs our audience, making them more successful in some way, or
  2. Entertain them

The best content marketing does both.  Gamification can help.

Do you have any gamification examples that work for you?

Author: Joe Pulizzi

Joe Pulizzi is the Founder of Content Marketing Institute, a UBM company, the leading education and training organization for content marketing, which includes the largest in-person content marketing event in the world, Content Marketing World. Joe is the winner of the 2014 John Caldwell Lifetime Achievement Award from the Content Council. Joe’s the author of five books, including his latest, Killing Marketing. His third book, Epic Content Marketing was named one of “Five Must Read Business Books of 2013” by Fortune Magazine. If you ever see Joe in person, he’ll be wearing orange. Follow him on Twitter @JoePulizzi.

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  • TrafficColeman

    I though about doing this but its son=me thing I haven’t put much thought on it..I think a game or two will help people engage more on my blog.

    “Black Seo Guy “Signing Off”

  • todd

    Sorry, but completion bars?

    • Joe Pulizzi

      Not going for it Todd?

  • Kathy Sierra

    Way too much that’s now called “gamified” is simply “quantified”. Feedback is a powerful tool, and that which is quantified can be used for learning and goal setting. I’d argue that many of the “success stories” of gamification are working in *spite* of all the other trappings of gamification (virtual trophies, etc.) rather than because of it, and that much of the benefit is coming from the simple act of adding feedback (which we then tend to wreck by layering on all sorts of other extrinsic reward systems that, according to the science, might even be damaging the potential for long-term intrinsic motivation for the activity itself (assuming the behavior has that potential).

    Seriously, we’re at the stage of referring to a progress bar as “gamification”?

    • Joe Pulizzi

      Hi Kathy…you may very well be right. Gamification (I’m sure) was created from some company a few years ago trying to sell services around these types of things (good strategy by the way).

      But I think of this often…why didn’t John Deere come up with the concept for Farmville? Whatever we call it, there is an opportunity here…and that opportunity is that there is no right way to do anything today. 😉

  • erik bratt

    Good post and examples Joe. Excited you are adding a gamification panel. Always thought of gamification as a product strategy, interesting to think of as a content strategy, but makes sense in terms of engagement. I think we’ll see even more B2B apps moving in this direction.

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  • Amrit Hallan

    The basic idea is to provide some kind of a progressive reaction. Whether it is the progress bar on LinkedIn for choice based progression on some of the YouTube videos you might have seen, the viewer feels more engaged and also in control. That is the reason why even if there is a simple animation on a web page that can be controlled via the mouse cursor or the arrow keys it immediately attracts people rather than a simple animation.