Retail

Game of consumers: Why brands should tap into our childhood passions

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One of my strongest childhood memories is the thrill of collecting World Cup soccer stickers. I loved to feel the full pages in my sticker albums, to see the faces of all the players and pretend that I knew them.

This collecting also became a social activity; it would go down something like this – we would sit in a circle, and one person would start to swipe through his or her deck of stickers very quickly. Suddenly, another friend would shout, “Nola!” – Peruvian ’90s card-collector slang for “I don’t have it!” That person would have the first chance to trade for the sticker; then he (or she) would start the same fast swiping.

These were simple, fun times – my excitement and sense of belonging have probably never been greater.

The appeal of gaming dynamics

Why did I love my stickers so much? Science shows that gaming dynamics shoot dopamine into our brains; the neurotransmitters in charge of our body’s reward system also play an essential role in attention and learning. Considering the neurological cocktail that we are enjoying whenever we play, it is not surprising that more and more companies are starting to use gamification as a very efficient loyalty tool.

Recently, I worked on a research project about a retail promotion – one that evoked my childhood collector memories. Customers would get a sticker for buying specific products and save them on a card; when you completed the card, you could exchange it for a prize: dishes, pots, a set of knives, or some other fancy kitchen tools.

It was the second year of the campaign, and the retailer was worried that people might become bored with the game, making it meaningless to the buyers. So we sat down with the client’s customers, and what they told us was a big surprise – the complete opposite of what the retailer was thinking. People participating in the promo (mainly women with families) said it reminded them of the ineffable collections of childhood. The promotion card was their sticker album.

Interacting with consumers through games

Think about the Samsung Look-a-Galaxy-for-an-Hour challenge, or the “Chock-Chock” Coca Cola campaign in Hong Kong – smart brands make us interact with them through games. They invite us to play to alleviate a little of our everyday stress, and to build stronger relationships with consumers. I still vividly remember Panini, the sponsor of my World Cup stickers from then to nowadays, and the constant excitement of fulfilling my album… I still belong to a group of friends who exchange stickers every 4 years, for every World Cup.

Playing is better done in groups, and even better when we can do it anywhere, anytime. Nowadays consumers expect their brands to give a satisfactory and involving experience on whichever channel they choose to use. We have to take into account that the consumer does not stop being a consumer when leaving the retail environment – just as a gamer does not stop being a gamer when the console is turned off. The consumer takes the retail brand along – in a pocket, on a screen – and it is in these experiences (both physical and digital) that the opportunity rests. Retailers can play and truly engage with consumers’ decision making and take advantage of omnichannel consumers to connect with them in both the present and future.

Maybe it is time to start questioning our own loyalty strategies, and ask if we can play a little more. How can we make our brands fun (and memorable) for consumers? Along the way, we may bring up some powerful childhood memories, happy times etched in people’s minds. After all, doesn’t everybody want to be a kid again?

Carlos Galvez is a Senior Analyst at GfK. To share your thoughts, leave a comment below or email carlos.galvez@gfk.com.

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