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TikTok: Gamified Branding Effect

TikTok: Gamified Branding Effect

Two years ago this month, Tik Tok launched its Gamified Branding Effect, which allows content creators to add aspects of gamification to their videos in order to build their brands and differentiate themselves from others. Developed for Tik Tok for Business, the addition came as no surprise, given the increase in gamification over the past several years and the uptick, of more than 200%, in interest in gaming, by Tik Tok users specifically, during the first several months of 2020. Any skeptics with regard to sustainability were soon proven wrong, as it has become one of the most effective tools for online sales campaigns. In fact, if you trace the meteoric rise of the Tik Tok it is clear that its success – and its marriage with gamification – was destined from the start.

Powerful Influencers

Does it Spark Joy?

New Kid On The Block

Positive Effects of Gamification 

Powerful Influencers

As we all know, the Covid-19 pandemic crushed countless companies and catapulted others to household name status – particularly those that eased the feelings of isolation during quarantine.  The most well-known example is probably Zoom, which made “face-to-face” interaction, both personal and professional, possible and experienced a 370% increase in business in just the last three months of 2020. Moreover, it was no flash in the pan; Zoom has continued to grow – at a slower but still impressive rate – as we’ve settled into a new normal of remote and hybrid work arrangements. Perhaps more surprising is Tik Tok, the social media disruptor that used to be on the periphery but is now threatening to overtake Facebook and Instagram as the most powerful influencer.

Does it Spark Joy?

Tik Tok has actually been around since 2016 but catapulted to household name status over the past two years and half years, reaching 100 million users during the lockdown and one billion as of September 2021. Whether its videos, which range from just thirty to sixty seconds in length, appealed to people because of our collectively decreasing attention span or reduced mental bandwidth due to the screen fatigue and general stress brough on by the pandemic, is an ongoing study; what is not up for debate is that they touched a chord across all segments of the population.

It probably didn’t hurt that the intention, according to this Variety article, was to  be “a less caustic environment than Facebook and Twitter.”  Rather, as stated by Blake Chandlee, TikTok’s VP of global business solutions and head of ad sales, it was designed to “inspire creativity and spark joy.” Whatever the individual factors, they resulted in a balm for minds already weary from years of negative chatter and exacerbated by terrifying covid statistics, not to mention global political and social unrest.

 

New Kid On The Block

To the newbie, the platform can seem like an almost chaotic series of rants about every conceivable topic, from astrological trends to relationship pitfalls. Many take the form of a stream of consciousness as the creator shares what they are experiencing at a particular moment.

Others rely solely on the cuteness factor, such as this Tik Tok of a baby laughing, that to date has 392.4 million views, a call-to-action (i.e. social media challenge), or imparting valuable information such as a quick makeup hack. Though they range from the inspiring to the absolutely ridiculous, they do seem to focus on enjoyment and even inspiration. One thing’s for sure, they “inspired” YouTube to launch YouTube shorts in 2020, hoping to capture this emerging market.

Another hallmark of Tik Toks is they appear completely impromptu (cars are such a popular spot for filming that it has become “a thing”) and the creators are often less coiffed (i.e. with little to no makeup and sometimes wet hair!). In other words, they come across like they are video-chatting with a good friend with whom they can just be (and look) themselves – a welcome comfort after the stress of having to get dolled up for Zoom meetings.

Positive Effects of Gamification

What does all this have to do with gamification? Well, at least a few things. For one, it breaks content down into chunks, much the way a gaming platform does, so it is easier to both understand and retain. It also speaks to that shortened attention span mentioned earlier. Who wouldn’t rather watch a sixty-second video about the best way to work your abs or apply mascara, rather than a longer one with a lengthy intro and too much talking throughout, especially if you watch it repeatedly to perfect the technique. In fact, as of May 2022, YouTube has a “Most Replayed” feature, or time stamps based on the most valuable parts of the video, so we know how far to “fast forward.”

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, there is the connection to joy shared by Tik Tok and gaming. Both acknowledge, and are rooted in, the idea that enjoyment is an essential ingredient, not only in learning practical skills, but in life itself. This is not just an assumption, but backed by science: a recent study found that 52% of users thought Tik Tok ads were “fun and engaging,” and 66% had a positive perception of them, and when you’re talking about a billion people and growing, that equals limitless potential for expansion well into the future.

Playing for Time: How Gaming Can Help Treat (and Prevent) Dementia

Playing for Time: How Gaming Can Help Treat (and Prevent) Dementia

Cognitive decline has become a worldwide epidemic, with an estimated 50 million cases reported as of 2021 – a number that is expected to triple in thirty years. As of 2022, 6.5 million in the U.S. alone have dementia, or one in nine people over the age of sixty-five. Some say these growing numbers are due to environmental factors such as exposure to aluminum, power lines, and air and noise pollution, while others point to the fact that we are simply living longer and therefore susceptible to diseases younger people typically don’t experience.  Whatever the case, it is taking a huge emotional and financial toll on sufferers and their families – not to mention the global annual price tag of $605 billion.

Mental Activity to Prevent Brain Decline 

Gamification Miracles

Healthy Competition

Allow More Play

Mental Activity to Prevent Brain Decline

Currently there is no cure for Alzheimer’s, though there are medications that treat the symptoms. A growing body of research suggests that the most powerful tool we have to prevent or slow the decline of brain function is through mental activity, much like physical exercise keeps the body strong and limber. While any kind of activity is better than nothing, play has been particularly effective. For example, a 2021 study found that playing cards and other games can delay dementia by up to five years, while another, which spanned several years, found that engaging in mentally stimulating activities can protect brain health well into one’s nineties.

A much shorter study, just eight weeks, yielded even more exciting results: play, especially when it encompasses both physical and mental training, can actually diminish existing symptoms. The participants were forty-five residents of two Belgian nursing homes, with an average age of eighty-five and severe dementia symptoms. One group trained with Exergame – a machine that combines cognitive and physical exercises, while the other listened to music and watched videos of their own choosing.

Incredibly, after using Exergame for just fifteen minutes three times a week the first group experienced improved cognitive function; the second group, however, got worse. This built upon an earlier, similar study, in 2015, that also had positive results but only tested healthy individuals. The researchers also noted that the typical reluctance of this demographic – elderly and suffering from dementia – to engage in physical exercise was conspicuously absent here. The reason: they had made the “workout” fun… like a game.

Gamification Miracles

While these results certainly seem like something of a miracle, they may not be all that surprising to neuroscientists – or those, for that matter, who employ gamification in their businesses or classrooms.  The former will explain to you how gaming (specifically hitting certain milestones and/or beating other players to reap a reward) releases dopamine, a chemical that stimulates the hippocampus, which is part of the brain’s pleasure centers.

This not only aids in the learning and retention of new information, the recognition of achievement makes it more likely that the user will return to the game and strive to reach the next level. The employer will likely forgo fancy lingo and simply point out that their sales teams are meeting their quotas, mundane tasks that are usually pushed to the side are now being completed, and the culture has become more collegial. Or they may speak to the fact that they use a gaming platform to recruit candidates most aligned with the organization’s mission and as part of their onboarding and ongoing training processes.

Healthy Competition

Similarly, teachers will have noticed that their students are enjoying the material more and are performing better, even when it comes to subjects they avoided in the past – this, because the fun in playing the game reduces stress, a major barrier to comprehension and retention.  Just as importantly, they are learning how to collaborate and compete with each other in healthy ways, a social skill that will serve them well throughout their lives.

On a related note, gamification is also an excellent tool to restore healthy socialization to those with any kind of cognitive impairment. Undoubtedly one of the biggest sorrows for their friends and family is feeling like they have lost their loved one, even though they are physically present.  This study discusses the benefits of digital play in terms of changing the public perception of people with dementia by showing that they can participate in activities and, hopefully, will lead to their being included more frequently.  Positive feedback provided throughout the game is key here, as it helps to keep the user, whether they are impaired or not, remain engaged.

Allow More Play

Finally, if you’re worried that you haven’t “played” enough throughout your adulthood to prevent dementia, don’t be. Researchers have also found that your behaviors as you get older are actually more determinative in the prevention or reduction of dementia symptoms. The ability of the human brain to rewire and regenerate itself is nothing short of astounding, and we have barely scratched the surface.  In the meantime, we have our wake-up call to introduce more play into our lives, starting today.

 

Metaverse

Metaverse

metaverse

It wasn’t all that long ago that the idea of using gaming aspects to shop, learn, and work more effectively would have sounded ludicrous; now gamification is recognized as one of the most powerful tools in attracting, engaging, and retaining consumers in virtually every arena. More recently, the word metaverse is increasingly being bandied about, the buzz fueled by our shifting habits due to the pandemic and enormous investments made by Facebook and other companies.

For those in the tech world, the metaverse is the natural progression in our collective digital experience, allowing us to harness the power of AI and avatars to interact in environments we wouldn’t be able to access in real life;  the rest of us, however, are left wondering what, exactly, it is and what it means for our future.  Is the metaverse the next step in our evolution, or the stuff of a scary science fiction novel?

Virtual and Mixed Reality Worlds 

Virtual Objects

Nike: The Gamification Pioneers

Future of the Metaverse

Escapism or Exploration 

Virtual and Mixed Reality Worlds

Kristi Woolsey, tech guru and Associate Direction of BCG Platinion, has one of the clearer definitions, which was quoted in Forbes as “the combination of the virtual reality and mixed reality worlds accessed through a browser or headset, which allows people to have real-time interactions and experiences across distance.”  Woosley goes on to explain that similar to the internet, which linked once separate networks, the growing number of individual metaverses will eventually come together in one other-worldly place we can all pop in and out of to enhance our lives, or perhaps live several at once.  For example, instead of staring at your family members on a Zoom screen, you could gather together in a tropical environment and enjoy activities just as you would in a physical space.

Virtual Objects

Intimately connected with the metaverse – and, many say, even more puzzling – is the market for virtual objects, ranging from artwork and clothes to real estate for one’s avatar, creating potentially limitless sources of revenue. For evidence of this we need look no further than recent NFT auctions, including artwork like Beeple’s Everydays: The first 5000 Days, which sold for $69 million in March 2021.  NFTs or, non-fungible tokens, are also redefining the music industry, creating new income streams for artists and unique experiences for fans.    

Nike: The Gamification Pioneers

Nike is perhaps the best example of a gamification pioneer that is now leading the charge into the metaverse.  In 2006, long before gamification was a household word, the sneaker giant launched its Nike+iPod Sports Kit, in which a device in the sneaker communicated with a wristband, iPhone or iPod to record the speed and length of a workout. Later iterations included celebrity shout-outs when the user hit a new milestone.

This was followed in 2010 by the Nike Runners Club, which was leaps and bounds ahead of the Sports Kit, as well as any other gamification fitness product on the scene. Designed to help runners overcome the waning motivation that keeps them from reaching their fitness goals, the NRC includes guided workouts and coaching to keep things fresh and interesting. Perhaps its most important feature, however, is the ability of runners to create their own tribe, with members serving as both competitors and cheerleaders for each other.

Given this trajectory, it seemed inevitable that the company would create an entire virtual world, which it did, in collaboration with gaming platform Roblox, in November 2021. As per usual, Nike has pulled out all the stops with Nikeland, providing a space where avatars can shop, work out, and socialize with others. They have even contracted Lebron James, one of the NBA’s biggest stars and currently with the Los Angeles Lakers, to interact with fans and give them a basketball lesson. James has even trademarked a line of virtual merchandise, from sneakers and trading cards to jewelry and furnishings for the home. As of spring 2022, Nikeland has had seven million visitors.

Future of the Metaverse

Though the future of the metaverse is yet unclear, it is already creating real and tangible change in the world of work. Not surprisingly, Nike has been actively building their team for their Technology Innovation Office, with roles including 3D game designers and other alternate reality visionaries to take things from concept to prototype and eventually, market.  They are not alone, however; other employers are exploring how they can create virtual doubles of their workplace environment in which workers’ avatars can work out real-life problems without the risk or the cost. As mentioned above, it is essentially taking the benefits of gamification to a whole new level.

Escapism or Exploration?

On the flip side is the argument that people will use the metaverse as a form of escapism, preferring to disappear into alternate realities rather than dealing with this one.  That is certainly a legitimate concern, and one we have been facing since the appearance of the first video game. Indeed, navigating the metaverse may prove to be our greatest challenge.  Right now, however, we are in the exciting position of exploring how alternate worlds can improve the way we work, play, and impact each other’s lives.