Badges aren't Diamond rings


When I was a Boy Scout getting presented with a new badge symbolized hours of hard work and probably some parental bribery. Badges delivered that sweet taste of success and personal achievement. 

Social Media games like Foursquare have been touted to become the hottest craze in social marketing promoting the ability to unlock badges once you visit too many photo booths or spend too much time away from home globe trotting the next big deal. 

Unfortunately for the likes of Foursquare Game Mechanics have evolved. Points and achievement based leader boards only appeal to a certain group who probably dont care who you are as long as they are above you on the leader board. The rest of the population need a little more than a check-in fetish. There just isn't enough emotional depth in badges to capture peoples imagination.

So whats lacking and are badges dead as we know it?

The question still needs answering "Can customer engagement be increased through game mechanics?"

Badgeville presented at TechCrunch Disrupt and enables any website to employ fully customizable achievements. Basically you can design your own badges and levels of achievement for your website. Badgeville says;

Bespoke awards systems engineered like this can deeply affect the core user experience in three ways:

  • Focusing user attention (no longer herding cats!)
  • Incentivizing interactions (reducing user dropoff)
  • Rapid adoption of new or advanced features (stickiness!)

But hang-on aren't we all suffering from badge fatigue? And yet companies are still winning awards for badge based incentive programs...

People fall into one of two main groups in the world of game mechanics

  1. Leaderboard Bulldogs - will do what ever it takes to be top of the list (foursquare)
  2. Achievement Peacocks - rewarded by challenges and story (farmville)

With Foursquare and Badgeville one key ingredient is missing. The Story!

In terms of the game there is nothing connecting the badges together that celebrates or rewards a users long term commitment.

The purpose and objective of Gameification is to coach and reward desirable behavior patterns. We're in a world were participation is the ultimate ROI. Every brand wants you to participate with their brand more than any other, increasing the likelihood you'll share milestones with your friends. Hence game mechanics are a useful tactic to drive repetitive behavior patterns. It's that sense of achievement that motivates people to return; perhaps its akin to the coffee card or hitting the discount milestone at the jeans store. 

Badges show status, progress, achievement compared to others in the community. But the badges part is easy. What's harder to do well is the story telling that connects the badges. When people are fascinated by the story the motivation becomes emotional and the reward becomes more meaningful. 

So if you are thinking about how gameification might help stimulate your website or community think about how the layers of functionality and story telling interact to create a compelling user experience. Think about what you want people to do and the impact or significance of those actions. And tie in an interesting story that takes people on a journey as they engage and experience your brand.

Badges can be very personal in terms of accomplishment. Where the story goes can be very much a shared experience. Badges aren't very social. Perhaps the next step is developing collaboration and team work into your gameification, after all its happening everywhere else.

Badges aren't Diamond rings - loyalty comes from the story we share together


Note: Game Mechanics has been a hot topic for me and the basis of much discussion in a project I'm working on. I'm no expert by any means so I'm very keen for your thoughts, ideas and feedback on this