From 9,000 to 45,000 followers in just three months (+ 400%), without supporting communication and advertising campaigns, without give-away or # follow4follow, without influencer marketing: this is the case of Despar Nordest’s Instagram profile.
A fortuitous coincidence? No, but the reconfirmation of a good strategy that applies gamification to marketing and which once again proves to be a winner. Despar Nordest, the green fir brand managed by Aspiag Service, is in fact a unique success story of its kind in the Italian GDO sector, with a loyalty program and a brand community of loyal players (for those unfamiliar with it, we’re talking about the “Despar Tribù”) which amazes even the insiders themselves for the impressive levels of engagement.
When we talk about gamification marketing, we refer to the application of playful dynamics and elements to marketing strategies.
The term “gamification”, taken individually, is a neologism born about ten years ago and entered, as often happens, in the common jargon to convey the idea of transforming something into play. Gabe Zichermann, US entrepreneur and author, as well as a respected and recognized voice regarding gamification and its applications, defines the term as “the process of using thought and game mechanics to engage the public and solve problems“.
One of the simplest forms of gamification, to take a very common example, is to receive a stamp every time you pay for a coffee; collected ten stamps, the eleventh coffee is a tribute. A bit like completing a level and getting a reward for the achievement.
In the digital world, forms of gamification clearly leverage on different elements but with similar mechanics: loyalty points, rankings between users, badge recognition or advancement between levels.
Gamification works because it triggers human emotions linked to a positive user experience. People play because they have fun and if successful they feel fulfilled by a sense of physical and psychological reward that makes them feel good.
In this sense, game dynamics brought into social networks allow you to entertain your brand community by allowing users to spend quality time online thanks to content that motivates them to interact.
And it is the interaction, or the most famous engagement, that is the real benchmark for all social platforms: if years ago the brands’ and social platforms’ attention and strategies were focused on increasing the number of users, today the focus has totally shifted to how much existing subscribers – on a specific platform or on a brand’s channels – interact with content.
This is also confirmed by the new Instagram algorithm, a novelty in recent weeks, which has further modified the organic ranking of the contents by enhancing, once again, the posts with which the user has interacted or for which he has exhibited interest.
This is why “being there” is no longer enough: the user experience deriving from a brand’s marketing strategies must necessarily be a quality experience, which creates value for one’s brand community and which ensures that the people who choose to devote their time to the contents of a company, whatever it is, not only do it out of boredom and to scroll the feed, but because they feel the desire to interact proactively with content that they consider interesting.
Despar Nordest is undoubtedly a virtuous example of how to create value for your brand community thanks to gamification.
Over the years, the brand has cultivated a community that is unmatched in the sector: it is the “Despar Tribù“, over 200,000 users who interact monthly with the brand’s digital ecosystem, including apps and social channels.
The choice of the word “ecosystem” is not by chance: with the support of TSW, Despar Nordest has developed a cross platform user experience entirely based on game dynamics, consistent but always different depending on the touchpoint.
In practice, everything starts from the Despar Tribù App, the beating heart of the community: a hub of constantly evolving offers and contents which, through the game, allows users to join the company’s loyalty program – entirely digital – based on the collection of Heart Points.
The Heart Points represent the first element of the game: users collect points by simply shopping, purchasing specific products, interacting with brand content (on Facebook, Instagram or directly in the App).
Upon reaching certain Heart Point thresholds – here is the second element of the game, represented by the “levels” – users can unlock the Tribù Coupons and convert them into discounts on their shopping, when the App passes to the cashier – third game element, the reward.
Through this dynamic, made possible by the Despar Tribù App, the user’s gaming experience has become omnichannel, with interactions triggered by different online and offline touchpoints – the point of sale, the flyer, the social channels – and converted into “challenges” to collect Heart Points within the brand application.
The recent case of Despar Nordest’s Instagram profile, mentioned at the beginning of the article, is the confirmation of a win-win strategy, for the brand and for customers.
It all begins with “Follow the Heart“, a game created by TSW in 2017 to encourage the use of the Despar Tribù App by the large pool of followers of the Despar Nordest Facebook page. The game included and still includes a fixed weekly appointment (every Friday at 4:30 pm), at which time a post containing a riddle, strictly educational and linked to the products and values of the brand, is published on the Facebook page. The solution, included in the appropriate section of the Despar Tribù App, allows you to instantly collect Heart Points.
A simple mechanism that connects two otherwise unrelated touc points and that allows the brand to inform by playing (and, why not, to promote products and initiatives).
The game collects an impressive success, moving in a short time from a few thousand players to an average of 30 thousand plays per weekend.
Here in September 2020, with the aim of enhancing and differentiating the brand’s Instagram channel, the game is revisited and proposed in a completely renewed edition, capable of supporting the peculiarities of the new platform. The Instagram profile of Despar Nordest then turns into a game board, with 3 weekly challenges to compose each stripe of content, and the possibility to participate in the single challenge or to compete for the super bonus by completing the entire triplet of riddles.
The numbers tell the rest of the story: in one quarter, in the absence of supporting communication campaigns, Despar Nordest’s Instagram profile recorded an organic growth of + 400%, with a community that plays and interacts with the brand, demonstrating daily to appreciate its contents.
Gamification strategies lend themselves to applications in very different fields. In this case, we have seen how game dynamics can support marketing strategies, but at the same time they could be applied to the healthcare sector to encourage virtuous behavior, or to education to make learning easier and more engaging and much more.
The important thing is to create a user experience that responds to concrete needs, leveraging factors of real interest to the person who will be using a specific service or buying a product. With this in mind, in TSW, we always start by listening to people through research, to offer experiences that, like games, really make those who live them feel good.