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The Cognitive Usage of Gamification in Marketing and Advertising

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Playing game can be included in one of the things that people like to do as a hobby or as a time killer. Moreover, games can promote relation and engage audiences and consumers (Dahl, 2018) since there are games that required multiple people to play it. According to Przybylski et al (2010) there are several factors that motivates people to play games which are competence (suggested that human have the need to be able to conquer challenges), autonomy (refers to the need of humans to make their own choices), and relatedness (means engaging in a relationship or interaction with others) needs that humans have. As the technology keeps on improving, the emergence of internet and digital media has helped build the term gamification (Dale, 2014).

Gamification practice itself has been done roughly since around the 1980s through things such as frequent flier miles, cereal toys, and green stamps (Dahl, 2018). However, the term itself has not yet existed until Nick Pelling used it in 2002 or 2003. Since then, many gamification techniques and systems were started to be applied by many businesses.

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There are many ways on how gamification are explained. Gamification is the process of game-thinking and game mechanics to engage users and solve problems (Zichermann and Cunningham, 2011). Similarly, gamification is said to be a service design that has the objective to provides game-like experiences to users as well as affecting the behaviour of the user (Huotari and Hamari, 2012; Hamari and Koivisto, 2013). Kapp et al (2014) also defined gamification similar to the previous definitions, however, he added that gamification is not only used to engage people and solve problems but also motivate action and promote learning.

Gamification is considered as a way to influence online and offline behaviour (Dale, 2014). The reason for this is because applications are eventually lead people to do things like playing games or responding to certain situations. Not only that, these applications often rewards those who display the desired behaviour. Hamari (2015) then added that as gamification becoming more known, it has blurred the boundary between games and other systems and services. Based on all of these definitions, gamification is the usage of game mechanics into a non game platform to give users game-like experience and influence their behaviour.

According to Dahl (2018), there are two strategies in gamification: reward (giving users rewards for completing task) and competition (getting users to compete with others to keep them motivated). He added that, having a reward maybe the best way to keep them motivated. In Zichermann and Cunningham (2011), it is also explained that a gamified system has elements and rewards: points, levels, leaderboards, badges, challenges/quests, onboarding and social engagement loops.

However, these elements and rewards was argued by Margaret Robertson, New York-based managing director of UK game design company Hide&Seek that said those who simply gamified their business by adding points and badges, cannot be called gamification but rather a pointsification (Fleming, 2014). Ian Bogost also heavily critiqued gamification and said that it is an exploitationware, only a marketing trick used by businesses for their own benefits not for both which stripping away value and trust and is often misunderstood which focus more on points, badges, and leaderboards and not to the more essential to game like competition or collaboration (Hung, 2017; Fleming, 2014). Furthermore, Werbach and Hunter (2012) made their points on exploitationware, they said it is omitting the basic motivation of gamification which are supposed to be enjoyable not stressful. Even so, Nicholson (2015) made a counter-argument that reward-based gamification, that use badges and points to reward good behavior, impacted in a short-term effectiveness which in this sense, reward can help business to retain its customer because if the customer is not rewarded, then the chance of them to continue the relationship in the same manner will be unlikely (Hung, 2017). Additionally, it is not that points and badges cannot be considered as gamification, but there are far more better ideas on how to execute gamification creatively and not making the user weary and stress (Werbach and Hunter, 2012).

Marketing activities in game may took the form of advergames (a branded entertainment which mix advertising and game) or in-game advertising (placing brands in a game) (Dahl, 2018). The advantage for advergames is the company does not have to worry about competing for attention with other brand since the brand itself is the game, whereas in-game advertising may have less attention because there might be other brand’s advertisement within the same game (Percy and Rosenbaum-Elliot, 2016). These are supported by several theories such as Persuasion Knowledge, Social Cognitive Theory, Limited-capacity Model of Motivated Mediated Message Processing (L4MP), and Flow (Dahl, 2018).

Persuasion knowledge is suitable to gamification because it is essential to understand how the users react to the game so that we can develop the strategies that can engage more to the user. One of the way to ask people to play our game is by persuading them. Persuasion itself is argued as prevalent in all persuasion context and has gone way back since Aristotle era in which he suggested three pillars of persuasion: ethos, logos, and pathos (Wood, 2011). Persuasion is often delineated by the shifting of opinion due to the consideration of plausible discourse (Dillard and Pfau, 2002). Therefore, anything that try to draw someone into doing a certain behaviour or changing their mind may be fall into persuasion. It is said in Dahl (2018) that factors that can influence persuasion are credibility, perceived similarity, celebrity endorsement or parasocial relationship. These are somehow rather similar with what Aristotle’s suggested, the three pillars of persuasion: ethos (credibility), logos (rationality), and pathos (proof that appeals to listeners’ emotions) (Wood, 2010). Schiappa et al (2007) in Preiss et al (2007, p.302) described parasocial relationships as the perceptions of television viewer of a relationship with someone known through the media. However, since the world is changing more to digital media, it is not only apply for television viewers but also any other media viewers as long as the viewer sees the relationship through a media. Additionally, celebrity endorsements also have been used by organisations to increase brand awareness and additional income (Kelly et al, 2014).

Social cognitive theory, one of the theory that is applicable to gamification, which suggest that human, with more emphasis on children, learn by observing others (Dahl, 2018, p. 108). Furthermore, the way of learning is described by doing a certain task or behaviour and get reward or punishment (Dahl, 2018). When people get reward, that means that they have succeeded, whereas receiving a punishment is indicating a failure. In this theory, factors such as behaviour, cognitive, personal, and environmental events influence the determinant’s behaviour (Bandura, 1988). Social cognitive theory is said to be the most commonly used theory for the basis of behavior change (Baranowski et al, 2008). Since game can be resulted in a change of behaviour, this theory is relevant to gamification.

Another psychological concept that has been used as the foundation of game design is called flow which coined by Csikszentmihalyi (Starks, 2014). Flow is condition when people is so absorbed in doing a task (Dahl, 2018). One greatest compliments that can be given to game designers is when the game can successfully immersed the players (Kubinski, 2014). Therefore, there are many people when playing games, they can get so immersed in it that they often forget to do other things. This makes the concept Flow relevant. However, the concept is argued further by Jennet that people might be so immersed in the game but still aware of other things that needs to be done (Jennet et al, 2008; Albertsen and Jepsen, 2014).

As for the Limited-capacity Model of Motivated Mediated Message Processing or L4MP. This theory specifically addresses cognitive capacity issues for people to encode, store, and retrieve information received (Dahl, 2018, p.109). In other words, it is whether people are able to remember what they have seen, particularly in this context is about the product placement or advertisement on games.

Gamification has received some attention from both practitioners, academicians, and has been applied in a lot of marketing sectors. This is because gamification can be used to gain more user engagement (Adamou, 2018). Ever heard of a phrase saying that ‘The Customer is King”? Well, this may suggest that customers play a vital role for the success of a business. Without customer, the business will not be alive. Of course acquiring new customers may be beneficial for the company, however retaining the existing customers are also critical for the business. In order for a business to keep its existence, it is essential to have a clear strategy of engagement and retention, especially through digital channels since the trend is moving forward towards digital (Ryan and Jones, 2012).

Engagement with customers or users can be achieve through gamification because it uses psychology dynamics (Maan, 2013). Engaging with customer means getting a customer retention because it is an effective indicator of loyalty and profitability (Bingham, 2014). Additionally, HelloWorld (2017) stated that engagement is an important key to gain a customer retention which showed from their research’s result that 75% of the respondents wants to get rewarded and customer most likely to engage if they are rewarded. The reason is because everytime people get rewarded, the brain releases a hormone called dopamine which causes pleasure, happiness and satisfaction (Boer, 2013). Moreover, reward is included in gamification strategy, hence it may be suitable to be used to gain customer retention by engaging with the users and give them rewards.

Many have tried to gamified their businesses. Not to mention, company now uses gamification in most of their loyalty program (Barmak, 2013; Dexter and Yazdanifard, 2014), including e-commerce and technology-based company. Take a look at Go-Jek, for example, an Indonesian Uber-like, on-demand mobile platform that provide services ranging from logistics, transportations, food delivery, mobile payments, and many other services (, 2019). In 2017, Go-Jek added an additional menu in the application which called Go-Points. The initial goals for it was to increase user activity (Amirio, 2017). Not only that, Go-Points was also created as a loyalty program of Go-Jek which uses a gamification element in it (Triwijanarko, 2017) to increase the user’s usage of Go-Pay (Sugiharto, 2017).

For Go-Points, they implemented a slot-machine system (, 2018). This system allows Go-Jek users to earn a reward in a form of points that can be redeemed for prizes by spinning the Go-Points wheel which then will land on a random points (Amirio, 2017). However, they can only do the spinning if they have tokens which received from every Go-Jek transaction using Go-Pay (, 2019). Go-Pay is a mobile payment system that can be used for any Go-Jek’s transactions.

So far, according to Piotr Jabukowski, Go-Jek’s Chief Marketing Officer, 50% of Go-Jek’s application users has already use Go-Pay as a way of payment (Sugiharto, 2017). Michael Perera, VP of Go-Points stated in 2018 that there are significant increases for 2-3 times more than when Go-Points first released (Nurfadhilah, 2018).

Another example of gamification is coming from a leading e-commerce platform in Southeast Asia, Shopee (, 2019), who introduced Shopee Shake as their newly developed in-app game. According to Terence Pang, Chief Operating Officer of Shopee, Shopee Shake is created to better engage their users and provide them with an exciting new way to earn rebates and other prizes (, 2018). Shopee Shake asked its users to shake their phone in a certain time to acquire coins that can be redeemed with various prizes.

As written above, gamification enables its user to feel a game-like experience, get rewarded, as well as striving to motivate behaviour. In this sense, both Go-Points and Shopee Shake can be included as examples of gamification because it motivates people to use Go-Pay to get tokens to be able to earn points (which in this case is the desired behaviour) or shake their phones for Shopee Shake; both of them use the reward system by giving people the chance to redeem their points with various prizes depending on how many points they want to exchange and the users can feel like as if they are playing a game by spinning the Go-Points wheel and shaking their phones.


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