It’s All Fun And Games

February 19, 2013

I find it ironic that Delta announced changes to their frequent flyer program just in time for the gamification summit hype.

If you need a refresher, gamification means applying game mechanics – points, rewards, challenges, unlocking levels of achievement, leaderboards – in non-game situations such as airline travel. Studies prove gamification enhances engagement, improves participation and ultimately increases ROI. It’s a proven fact. Just ask Delta.

DeltaAirline frequent flyer programs demonstrate gamification at its best. Over the years, we’ve seen air travelers book flights at inconvenient times, opt for layovers and wait for connecting flights just to move from silver status to gold and reap the rewards that go with it. Not just the reward of free travel; that’s the definition of a simple loyalty program — buy five and get the sixth free.

Adding game mechanics elevates the stakes. With airline frequent flyer programs you gain status – seat upgrades, early boarding, free carry on baggage. The airlines even give their elites special luggage tags — badges of honor proudly displayed. Have you seen any other marketing tool get people to act against self-interest for the sheer glory of unlocking privileges?

Delta claims their top travelers, the road warriors who fly every week and rack up millions of miles, asked for these changes. These diamond titanium over-the-top elite passengers felt they deserved greater recognition and additional privileges, and Delta agreed. Delta knew they needed to make these highest ROI customers feel even more valued or risk losing their business.

It made me wonder, what could we accomplish if we “gamified” real world problems? So far experiments in this realm such as SuperBetter  have yielded disappointing results. But there is a certain amount of gamer in all of us and if we keep trying we may find the key that makes this dream possible.