B2B Gamification: Game Over?

To those marketers who do not give B2B gamification a fair chance It was 2011. Popular marketers Gabe Zichermann and Sebastian Detarding were having a public debate on Gamification.  Their argument was not about the importance or the future of gamification marketing. Instead, it was about the syntax of game design. While Gabe believed that […]


  • To those marketers who do not give B2B gamification a fair chance

    It was 2011. Popular marketers Gabe Zichermann and Sebastian Detarding were having a public debate on Gamification.  Their argument was not about the importance or the future of gamification marketing. Instead, it was about the syntax of game design. While Gabe believed that serious games and advergames are also gamification, Sebastian disagreed. Yes, despite the lack of importance, it was a debate of epic proportions. 

    Team Against B2B Gamification

    Meanwhile, B2B gamification marketing was being leveraged by global brands. Although many were successful, some B2B giants failed to witness a spike in revenue. For instance, Adobe used gamification marketing to get their B2B customers to learn about Photoshop and buy their product. Yet, the particular marketing strategy failed to increase revenue. Cisco used gamified strategies in their global sales meetings and improved their sales by only 10 per cent. Soon after, many marketers began to question the effectiveness and success rate of B2B gamification marketing.

    In 2012 and 2013, several reports, surveys, and research studies about gamification marketing’s unexpected success were published. A Gartner study stated that “by 2014, 80 Percent of Current Gamified Applications Will Fail to Meet Business Objectives Primarily Due to Poor Design.” With the increasingly negative perception of gamification marketing, many B2B brands decided to do away with the dicey strategy. Experts call the action a hasty decision. 

    Although Gartner described gamification as the “Trough of Disillusionment”, it never dismissed the strategy altogether. It indicated that it could take some time before being a success. Right, it was! B2B gamification was questionable a decade ago because it lacked knowledge, analysis and did not have the support of technology to be revolutionary.

    With the introduction of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, B2C marketers dived into gamification marketing with AR and VR in recent years. For instance, Pizza Hut introduced an AR experience that welcomed customers to undertake its Trivia Challenge and win rewards. 

    ALSO READ: When Enterprises Dare to Play

    On the other hand, despite the technological elements, some B2B brands were still sceptical about gamification in their B2B marketing strategy. They strongly believed that B2B gamification marketing would only fare well in B2C businesses. Considering B2B businesses as a high value and relationship-oriented industry, they consider it a bad marketing strategy. Despite some successful gamified campaigns and strategies, they remained hesitant.

    B2B marketers who deny gamification’s effectiveness have been blinded by the failed strategies of other brands over time. Gamification is not magic, they don’t turn out to be successful by itself. We looked at the possible causes for B2B gamification failures. 

    One reason might simply be due to the ineffectiveness of the brand’s product or service. In that case, even a brilliantly gamified CRM campaign wouldn’t cash in results. 

    Did the brand have enough traffic? A gamified strategy might be useless if the brand does not foster enough web traffic. Similarly, every gamified marketing campaign requires the right target audience. Brands might not have invested in time and resources to analyse the volatile trends and data that resulted from the games. Hence, they were unsuccessful. 

    There are several possible conjectures for the few failures of B2B gamification marketing. Today, in the digitised era, where several brands succeed with gamification, industry experts urge marketers to try gamification. They delve into further possible mistakes made by brands.

    Also Read: Marketers, Let the Games Begin

    Unclear Objective

    Sometimes, marketers lodge themselves into game design without a clear objective of what is to be achieved. Customer acquisition, user engagement, customer retention, and brand awareness are several possible goals for B2B marketers. Unmindful of the targeted goal, a chaotic and random act of gamification might unfold. While this mistake might still deliver considerable success in B2C brands, B2B companies might risk losing their customers altogether. 

    Competition Gets Hot

    If the gamification strategy involves customers competing amongst themselves, it might most likely leave them in the angst of both their so-called rivals and the brand itself. Friendly competition might work in employee experience gamification but not with customers.  On the other hand, brands could try to encourage collaborations that might engage customers and increase loyalty.

    Underwhelming Rewards

    After a compelling game, nothing is more disappointing than an unworthy prize. For those who get their objectives clear, the decision of what the reward would be is critical. Based on the objective and offered brand solutions with which customers are prompted to the game, the reward has to be a big win. A merely interesting game might dampen their experience.

    An Over the top Game Design

    A visually appealing and thoughtful game is always exciting. However, the complicated mechanism of the game with several levels, mini-games within games, rewarding too often with badges can complicate the game to the extent that B2B customers disengage themselves. Investing in such a complex gamified marketing strategy might come across as overachieving to fend off curious customers. Engaging yet straightforward gamification will work well with a B2B crowd.    

    Research and Learning

    As some B2B marketers believe, B2B Gamification is not a good marketing strategy. It is essential to invest in a short survey and research. Taking a similar-sized brand or industry and analysing their gamified marketing strategies is very helpful. Insights on what works and what doesn’t for a B2B crowd is crucial. Most companies either fail to dive into research, or they completely abandon the idea of gamification without trying to figure out the mistakes and problems that previous failed strategies faced. Gamification is rewarding to the marketing team. They just need to invest in a short research phase. 

    Also Read: Customer Profiles That Businesses Can’t Ignore


    Creating a successful gamified experience is a lot of work, no matter the industry. The sceptical B2B marketers must also realise that even some B2C gamification marketing strategies fail – from Google to Mariott, due to useless rewards and complex game design, respectively. 

    Gamification marketing has a lot of potential and can create revolutionary marketing history. It comes down to the brands’ strategy itself along with the technique’s many principles and guidelines. Just because everyone loves games, it doesn’t mean they would play them. 

    All marketing innovations turn old at some point. In 1981, American Airlines launched the frequent flyer programme. It was a revolutionary strategy, and it forged a lasting relationship with customers. Today, customers expect rewards when they travel. The only difference, the strategy has now become a norm. It’s not attractive, but an expected duty of airlines. 

    Hopefully, B2B gamification will soon find its revolutionary milestone when the marketing teams agree – Gamification marketing works! 

    You’ve reached the end. It’s time to set gamification marketing on your priority list.


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