The trend of gamification as a tool to generate consumer insights has risen largely because it is a very effective, indirect form of questioning. It has grown from a tool that was principally used in the design and development of software, gaming and apps with potential users; into one that is beginning to be widely used in FMCG innovation research, crowdsourcing and other key areas of consumer insight.
Gamification is the use of game thinking and game mechanics in non-game contexts to engage people in solving problems – according to Wikipedia.
We all know that the quality and integrity of the insight we gain from consumers is proportionate to the success of the innovation born out of it. Yet we seldom feel that we have achieved a breakthrough. Gamification tackles many of the barriers to uncovering deeper insight, head on.
What stops the unarticulated insights being uncovered?
Whilst the process of extracting this insight is obviously essential from the business’s point of view, it’s traditionally something consumers look to avoid. Consumers are inherently lazy, and when you ask them questions, it’s much easier for them to answer on auto-pilot rather than truly think through a problem. For example, if you ask a consumer what they think of a new savoury product idea from a well known confectionary brand and they will immediately reject it. Get them to work through the idea and they will quickly see that it has a number of merits.
Even when willing and engaged, consumers have a tendency to police their own thoughts at fear of being socially judged, so you rarely get true disclosure from them, and thus, a deep understanding of their innermost thoughts, feelings and motivations.
Most market research techniques rely on consumers knowing their own minds, and what they do and don’t want, but the reality is that consumers don’t often know themselves as well as they think they do, and need help to draw out their true beliefs and any inconsistencies and contradictions.
It is as a result of these problems that marketers are often left feeling as though they are stuck in ‘groundhog day’ – hearing the same consumer insights re-articulated in a slightly different way each time, and never feeling like they make any form of significant breakthrough.
How can gamification help?
By using the aspects of games that make them so appealing, brands and moderators are able to interact with target consumers much more effectively. They are better equipped to keep “players” engaged for much longer periods of time, and whilst in the process, they are extracting the information they need to better develop and target new innovations. Essentially, the fact that the consumer is now getting something back from the process means they no longer see it as a chore or hassle, and they are far more “giving”.
The use of game play in consumer insights work also helps to handle sensitive topics and overcome barriers related to social expectation.
But, the real beauty of this technique is that it gives insight beyond the articulated as the consumer is so hell bent on completing the game, that they end up sharing all of their “internal workings” with you as they go about the task, which provides a huge amount of additional context and fuel for downstream strategy development, and guidance for execution too.
How does it work?
The concept of play is deeply integrated into human beings’ mental development.
Psychologist Piaget observed young children playing and he concluded that the very first steps we take towards adult cognitive processes are found in play. Children play with objects to obtain knowledge about them. Piaget’s theory was that we develop internal cognitive processes by transforming our physical play into internalised actions, which is the basis of subconscious thought – that gritty stuff we all know is the path to success in the world of insight, marketing and innovation.
Other studies tell us that there are parts of the brain that we do not access when we are simply discussing our views, or trying to think through a complicated situation. However, when we play a well-structured game with other interested players, our actions, interactions with other players, and explanations of our behaviour can provide a better, more comprehensive view of how and why we make certain decisions.
Changing the status quo
Once you start seeing that the route to deep consumer insight is through creating the right medium for people to engage with, it suddenly starts to put far greater onus on creating very different research stimulus and questioning techniques.
Game mechanics aren’t in themselves interesting. What’s interesting instead is the way games make people interact and think intensely around finding a solution to a problem – with no pre-set solutions, but only parameters to operate within. This is quite the contrary of more traditional concept stimulus, which is ultimately designed to seduce and sell to the consumer – it’s based on the premises of storytelling and projection.
The holy grail of consumer insight is actually getting consumers to understand themselves better – recognising their own contradictions and being able to reconcile them. Gamification taps this in a way like no other.