You’ve signed up for a news service, where you get a daily email of all the best pieces of news from around the country and the world. The next morning you get your first blast, finally, you don’t need to trawl through various feeds, it’s all curated for you. You grab the first article and it’s about the latest scientific discoveries, your favourite topic, you devour this article. And as soon as you finish it and click away, you get another email from the news service, is this another bonus news blast? No, it’s an email saying, “you managed to gather enough points to earn our top reader badge!”. You’re a little confused now, you only one read article so far, how many points was that then? And how are you a top reader already, you only just signed up and read that one piece. Was it because it was a specialist topic? You ignore it for now and read another article, about local politics. After finishing that article, you get another email informing you that you are in the top 10% of gold readers and you’ve earned another badge, a gold badge.
At this point in the story, you’ll be wondering what these points and badges mean. What is their value, how did I achieve this, and if you’re getting the top 10% gold badge after two articles, how good is this service?
This is a fictional example, but it’s based on real events. The example highlights how an engagement and gamification strategy is not done well. The service believed that adding these things would motivate the reader, but it managed to demotivate them because the rewards were empty, the “why” was missing, and the service had not properly contextualised the value of the rewards.
Only by giving a good reason, a proper “why” and context for the rewards, do you create value. Adding mystery is fine, but the audience needs to know and understand the system first, if there is a hidden guiding hand that no one is aware of, then it’s usually met with suspicion.
In this blog article, I’m going to explore how a well-thought purpose and good storytelling can transform the most basic form of engagement mechanics, the dreaded PBLs, into one of the most powerful tools in your arsenal.