Game dynamics can be used for everything from making school less awful to making people less lazy. (Yes, I’m talking to you: Put down the donut and pick up the Nike Plus!)
The motivating factor of game dynamics can help business owners create an entirely new kind of loyalty with their customers. And I don’t mean punch cards or coupons. I mean the superfan loyalty most companies would do anything to achieve.
There are so many game dynamics and so little time, so let’s break down three of our favorites and how we’ve seen them used in all kinds of awesome ways.
Never underestimate the power of people in groups. The opposite of this demotivational poster , yes?
Every year on Black Friday, we get to see a poor example of communal gameplay. People with the same common goal (scoring a coveted Tickle-Me-Furby) trample and beat one another like a GOP debate face-off between Mitt Romney and Rick Perry (trust me, it’ll get even more ugly). While exceptionally entertaining to watch, it’s not fulfilling for the majority of the players.
But what happens when you change the game to empower a big group to work together toward a common goal?
You get a free taco.
During the 2007 World Series, if a member of the Boston Red Sox or the Colorado Rockies stole a single base, Taco Bell  would give away one free Beefy Crunch Taco to anyone in the United States.
The entire sports community took a brief break from trash-talking one another and started calling for a steal from either team. There was an undeniable sense of unity among all sports fans. And sure enough, Jacoby Ellsbury of the Boston Red Sox stole a base, thus declaring a nationwide "Taco Tuesday."
Red Sox fans ceasing to trash-talk proves my longtime theory that people will do anything for a taco.
Communal gameplay can also be utilized to accomplish a daunting project. In 2010, ad execs at Doritos were tasked with churning out the funniest Superbowl commercial in the history of chips. The modern-day Tom Sawyers gave their fans the privilege of submitting their own lol-worthy concepts to a Doritos YouTube Channel for a chance to have their spot aired during the Superbowl. Among thousands of entries were the two golden concepts: A chip-lovin’ canine  and a hilariously territorial son . The spots were very successful--all thanks to communal gameplay.
Bottom line: Don’t focus solely on individual customers and users--activate an entire community. For example: When the weather’s bad, local businesses suffer. Why not come up with a communal game to bring the masses out of hiding on drizzly days?
On LinkedIn, my profile is at 90%. I really need to seek out a recommendation [*silent panic*]. On my Mint.com account, I can get +250 points if I pay my bills two weeks ahead of their due dates this month. And as of this morning I’m one purchase away from my trip to space on AMEX. (Not really, but Branson, if you're listening... hit me up!)
Progression dynamics can be portrayed in many different ways; points, status, benchmarks, levels, progress bars. They all help users visualize and keep track of successes in small increments.
The most hilarious progression dynamic that I’ve seen recently was on Dominos.com . You place an order for an offensively mediocre pizza and you’re jumped to a page that alerts you that “Magellan” has begun prepping your order. From “order placed” to “delivered,” you can watch his five-part progression bar illuminate (with the theme of your choice.) It turns the painful task of waiting for your pizza (stomach grumbles...) into an entertaining game. Digitally watch Magellan bake your pie, without ever getting your hands greasy.
Pizza aside, the progression dynamic is more commonly synonymous with loyalty programs. The evolution of the coffee-shop punch card has brought some exciting and effective progression renditions.
National provides an excellent loyalty program  (one free car-rental day with every two rentals) with a twist. The most-frequent renters get to skip the rental counter and select the car of their choice from the Emerald Aisle. All cars in the aisle are fair game--the keys are waiting inside. Reward and decreased inconvenience? Double win.
Bottom line: Businesses should constantly strive to devise new and creative ways to allow their customers to visualize and track their success. Hitting goals and making progress is fun.
If you open a bar and provide quality beer, sensational service, and a great atmosphere, people will come. If you open a bar with all of the aforementioned qualities and invite people to come to happy hour every Thursday at 5 p.m. to enjoy half-priced drinks, people will pack the place every Thursday. The appointment dynamic provides reason and immediacy, two ingredients that the customer needs in order to change their behavior.
When Dunkin’ Donuts declares "Free Iced Coffee Day," caffeine addicts come from near and far to accept their beverage. Appointment dynamic win. But after that single appointment, the consumer is gone and you don’t know when they’ll be back. (Unless of course you live in Boston, where you can always see three other Dunkins from the Dunkins you’re at. Translation: coffee J-A-C-K-P-O-T.)
An appointment dynamic with a bit more continuity is found in Dunkin's "Caught Cold"  promotion. Patrons are urged to drink iced coffees every time they order, especially on Bruins game days, because there’s a chance they’ll be awarded Bruins or Red Sox tickets if they’re “caught cold.”
Rue La La also puts a fun twist  on appointment dynamics. After customers make a purchase on their site, they receive the following message: "Why stop now? Everything you order in the next 30 days ships for free!" When you step outside of Amazonia Prime-atopia, this type of immediacy can spawn an unnecessary purchase spree.
Bottom line: Create urgency and regularity by implementing an appointment dynamic. Make the action and the window to take the action clear. Motivate people to come with a chance of a reward, or chance of missing a reward if they don’t!
The game layer is real, and we’re just starting to see its potential to motivate tectonic shifts in the way merchants create loyalty among consumers. How have you seen game dynamics affect the way companies are doing business?
[Image: Flickr user mark sebastian ]