Get in the Game: Use Gamification to Drive Sustainable Action

Sep 27, 2011   //   by Bradley Short   //   Blog, Marketing & Communication, Technology  //  2 Comments

For many customers, green has lost a lot of its luster.  Yes, consumers care about the environment.  Yes, they reward good corporate citizens and punish bad ones.  And yes, sustainable companies often outperform the general market.  But mainstream America still has yet to embrace green practices as the norm.  How do we revive mass-market sustainability now that the “green party” is over?  How do we take green from niche to normal?

How to create behavior change:

Enter Gamification.  As explained in the video below, “gamification is the process of using game thinking and mechanics to engage audiences and solve problems.”  In simpler terms, gamification takes the same reward systems that make games fun and applies them to real life actions.

Games are designed to push the little buttons in our brains that signal rewards for certain behaviors (which is also why they’re so addictive).  If you can align your green product or service with that primitive desire, you’ll reap profits while we all receive environmental benefits.

 

So what does gamification have to do with sustainability?

Game mechanics can take an idea that is sometimes associated with guilt: green, and turn it into a competitive and engaging social activity.  What if “green living” turned from a culturally divisive lifestyle choice into a friendly competition?

 

How would this look in practice?

For this illustration, let’s use a public transportation company.  It could be a bus system, a subway; it doesn’t matter.  What if this PT system successfully designed an online game where users competed against their peers to earn rewards by utilizing public transportation rather than driving places?   Users would earn points by swiping their metro card, and by doing so, would achieve a higher status in their online world.  They’d compete on things such as pounds of carbon saved, or gasoline saved, or something of the sort.  Furthermore, they would be able to see the points and status of closely ranked friends, and the service would tell them how to “beat” the person directly above them, encouraging deeper engagement.

Of course there are environmental flaws in a system like this, but you get the point.  Soon enough, riding the bus isn’t about saving a couple of bucks on gas, it’s about beating your friends and becoming the winner…for now.

 

Now, come up with your own ideas!

Our example is enough to get the point across, but you all probably have much better ideas.  How would you use gamification strategies to drive your customers (or your employees) to green action?  And for a deeper explanation of gamification and its opportunities, check out the video below.    It might just make for the most interesting hour of your day.

 

Image used under Creative Commons from harrisonweber.