3 Gamification-Lite Examples You Can Pull Off (Today)

“We do not stop playing because we grow old, we

“We do not stop playing because we grow old, we grow old because we stop playing.”
– Benjamin Franklin

Since 2010, businesses have been increasingly adding game-like elements to their marketing campaigns. Viewers can participate, sometimes for the fun of it and sometimes to earn prizes.

A fuller explanation of how it works is here and here.

True gamification means altering the way one usually interacts with your brand to entertain participants and track their scores over time.

Today, we’re talking gamification-lite. While large companies’ campaigns have vast budgets and manpower, you don’t need either to pull these ideas off.

Midwest Sea Salt’s New Years Giveaway

Sea salt retailer Midwest Sea Salt Company celebrated the New Year by running a sweepstakes on their Facebook page. Email subscribers who clicked to their page and “liked” it earned an entry; those who commented earned two.

In an effort to get their email subscribers to become Facebook fans, Midwest offered entries into a $100 bath-and-body giveaway for both “liking” their page and commenting on it.

How You Can Pull It Off

This is the game you’ll want to pick if you’ve been running an email campaign for awhile, but are just getting started on your brand’s Facebook page.

While you can include a “follow us” button in every single one of your emails, there’s nothing like a free gift (the tangible kind, delightful to find in the mailbox) to motivate Facebook like-ing.

To choose a winner, require comments. Simply note the total number of related comments, enter that number as the max in a random number generator and the number it spits out is the commenter who wins.

Running the giveaway just off page “likes” is a little trickier, as you’d theoretically have to assume any likes your page got during that time frame were from entrants in the giveaway. However, if you’d prefer not to require comments, you can use a service to help you track responses.

Plant Therapy’s Product-Placement Photo Contest

Essential oil merchant Plant Therapy offered both gift certificates and exposure for the top creative photos featuring their essential oils. They’re running the contest on Facebook, where the photos entered are highly visible to other fans.

Plant Therapy actually got extra mileage out of this giveaway by getting it showcased by another blog in their niche (and this isn’t the first time).

This strategy’s a win-win: the other blog got fun content to publish, plus free samples to test Plant’s products. Plant got an influx of Facebook fans from the other blog’s audience.

How You Can Pull It Off

Half the fun of participating in this giveaway is the chance to show off your photography skills.

Contact a few blogs in your industry (though not selling the same products) and ask if they’d be interested in a co-promoted giveaway.

Choose something your followers can create (limericks, arguments, a recipe using your product). It should, of course, relate to your brand. Invite them to show it off to each other.

Give a reward to the highest-quality entry – at this point, the prize is the icing on the cake.

… And The Easiest Of All, By M&M

M&M GameAll M&M did here was camouflage an orange pretzel M&M in a flock of its friends and ask followers to find it.

If you’ll notice, M&M didn’t promise a prize. Over 20,000 fans “liked” this. Over 10,000 commented. Over 5,000 shared it. True, M&M has over 4 million fans, but the point is, we often play games for the fun of playing.

How You Can Pull It Off

All that’s required for this game is compiling a busy brand-related image and posting it to Facebook. Ask followers to find one element in the melee, and you’re done.

The flip-side of this simplicity is low return on your (low) investment. You’ll get visibility and create positive brand associations, but subscriptions and purchases aren’t likely to directly result.

Keep it up, though, and it’s likely that those subscriptions and purchases will happen over the long run.

So How Do You Make These Happen?

Depending on which kind of game you want to run, tutorials to DIY your own abound across the web.

To make things easier, services like North Social let you pop together coupons, contests, and sweepstakes easily, then publish them anywhere.

Whether you DIY or let the pros handle the backend of your game, for best results, implement the email-social action plan: promote the game to your current email subscribers and invite your social followers to subscribe to your emails to find out who wins.

Want Suggestions?

You might find it easy to translate the ideas above for your business. If you don’t (some businesses are more challenging to game-ify), tell me about your business in the comments and I’ll try to help you out.


  1. Randall Magwood

    3/25/2013 7:55 pm

    I still can’t see the orange pretzel lol. The M&M example is sort of like a “Where’s Waldo” game… which I used to be a huge fan of. I’m thinking I could use a find the “$” sign in my image within the next 24 hours, and i will reward the winner with $50.

  2. Bethany

    3/26/2013 1:39 pm

    Okay – so how about a company that sells funny coffee mugs? I’ve been very curious about gamification for a while but have had a hard time figuring out how I could apply it to me.

  3. Dereck

    3/26/2013 2:01 pm

    Actually the gamification scene has been growing for a while now. The truth is, we can all expect more of this to occur in the future.

    @ Randall, very cool idea! What will you be promoting?

  4. cbs

    3/26/2013 2:49 pm

    Great, thank you for the inspiration! Did a gamification subject through Michigan Uni recently. This will be a great way of bringing it to life. Will run regular ‘spot The SRF feather’ challenges on Facebook.com/thesrf starting with an Easter chicken image. Will let you know how it goes.

  5. Keith

    3/26/2013 3:31 pm

    We just started offering contests, always interesting to see which ‘game plan’ gets a better response than another. Also the amount of effort to play vs the reward you’re giving out has a lot to do with participation. And as a retailer there needs to be a reward for us as well.

  6. Mark Madere

    3/26/2013 4:06 pm

    I’ve wanted to run a pet photo contest on by Facebook fan page (Facebook.com/SpectraLight) or my blog where people enter their favorite photo and voting is done with donations to the viewer’s favorite photo. All donations would go to a local rescue shelter.

    The best solution I could think of is that people would email their photo to me and I would create a PayPal donation button for each entrant. Just not sure how to lay-out the photos on a page with the PayPal donation buttons so that everything lines up nice and orderly.

    Any suggestions for a WordPress theme or other solution?

  7. Lonnie Phillips

    3/26/2013 7:11 pm

    Hay Randall, I think I found the pretzel.

    right side of the picture.
    from the bottom row count up to the 14th
    then over 5

    I was a fan of Where’s Waldo also!

    Ha Ha Ha

  8. Meg

    3/27/2013 12:35 am

    Your first example would fall foul of the Facebook rules for running giveaways. You can find them here: https://www.facebook.com/page_guidelines.php#promotionsguidelines

    Basically they boil down to:
    You must run a giveaway on a 3rd party app
    You must make it clear that Facebook has nothing to do with your giveaway
    You can make liking your page a condition of entry but you cannot make commenting on your wall, or liking a post a condition of entry
    Liking a page can not automatically register a person into your giveaway
    You may not notify winners via FB

  9. Ray

    3/29/2013 7:36 am

    Great article.

    I’ve started a monthly digital magazine for Baby Boomers (45+) on the iPad and I’m looking for innovative ways to promote it.

    Any suggestions of appropriate games etc? I can offer free subscriptions.

  10. Keith Johnston

    3/29/2013 12:09 pm

    I like the idea of games. My business is a little tougher as I offer leadership development services. Any ideas on what I might do?

  11. Aretha Frizzell

    3/30/2013 12:52 am

    This looks very interesting. We are looking for ways to get exposure for a service that gives access to medical professionals at a price everyone can afford.

  12. Amanda Gagnon

    4/2/2013 9:00 am

    Randall – Good thought – just one question. What about multiple winners??

    Bethany – I bet your readers would love a “design our next funny mug” contest. Winner gets their mug created with their signature on it and one free mailed to them.

    Dereck – Yes, exactly. We’ve posted on it before, but wanted to make these examples available for inspiration. Can’t wait to see what else businesses come out with.

    CBS – Find the feather on the chicken? I bet that was a tough one!

    Keith – True, true. I know that Plant Therapy offers a discount to anyone who plays but doesn’t win; could be a good way to bring in some orders.

    Mark – Love that idea; Vincent’s Country Store in Ma runs the same kinds of contest on Facebook. There are definitely table generators online; the trick is finding one that you can upload images into. I’m thinking you’ll find a good one in this list: http://www.infographicsarchive.com/create-infographics-and-data-visualization/.

    Lonnie – You got it!

  13. Amanda Gagnon

    4/2/2013 9:13 am

    Meg, on review of those rules, it does look like we’ll all have a bit of work to do to set up Canvas pages or Apps. It does look like, though “liking,” commenting or sharing can’t be the criteria rewarded, quality of a comment can be.

    Ray, I can see several vote-driven contest options for you – ask for funny pictures of grandchildren, the best retirement advice, ideas for remodeling a room after the kids are gone, etc – and running a vote on them (Formstack may work for this).

    Keith – That’s a serious business to gamify! If you’re up for it, you could create an online choose-your-own-adventure quiz your clients could use to track their progress. Make the copy, some of the situations and the design fun (think Super Mario), and it’ll feel like a game.

    Aretha – Again, a serious service to apply a game to. Could you list your site so I could take a look before making any suggestions? Thanks!

  14. Donna D'Amico

    5/16/2013 2:42 am

    Can gamification marketing work for real estate agents? I am soon to be a new real estate agent looking to obviously stand out from the herd so I am just wondering if this concept would work for my new role? Does which brokerage I choose to work for impact if this marketing concept would work?

    Thank you

  15. Jeffrey Enabe

    8/20/2014 8:57 pm

    I have a client that owns a gun shop that I am working with and thought your article provided a lot of ideas to work with. While Facebook is changing their rules on likes there are still a million ways to make your content go viral without spending a lot of time on it.