Gamification To “Green” Customer Behavior

(This is Part 1, which explores how gamification can attract customers and “green” their behavior.  Next month, Part 2 will explore how gamification can “green” employee behavior in order to achieve business goals.) This post also published by

Leading-edge companies are using gamification to attract and “green” customers. In fact, in the next two years more than 70% of Global 2000 organizations will have at least one “gamified” application, according to Gartner.

What is Gamification?

Gamification applies game design to make otherwise boring tasks more engaging.  Think of airline points and loyalty cards. However, the rise of social media and mobile internet (smart phones, tablets) has taken games to whole new level of consumer engagement (some say addiction!) and online sharing of brand loyalty.

Gamification hooks us by meeting our basic human needs for achievement, appreciation, reciprocity and a sense of control over our little corner of life. Here are some of gamification’s addictive inventions:

  • achievement levels rewarded with badges
  • a progress bar or other visual meter
  • virtual currency
  • systems for tracking and exchanging points

Now, let’s see how gamification is being used to attract more customers and promoting sustainability by greening their behavior. (In Part 2, we will explore how gamification can green employees behaviors in ways that also helps achieve strategic business goals.)

Greening Consumer Behavior

We’re looking for that tipping point where most consumers are motivated to go green for “fun and fame, not guilt and shame.”  How do companies move people from occasionally just turning off the lights to adopting and sharing a new way of life?

Let’s look at some of the gamification strategies that leading-edge companies are successfully using to increase their customer base while helping their customers, their companies, and society, become greener.

Reward Green Actions
Recyclebank attracts customers by offering them points for taking green actions like recycling, saving energy, and learning about sustainability-related topics.  Members can also earn points by correctly answering quizzes or making certain pledges. These points can be redeemed with reward partners for food, health, home, clothing, and gifts.

Enable Social Comparison
The Nissan Leaf’s Carwings is a digital tracker that both measures fuel consumption and ranks drivers according to fuel-efficiency. An online portal lets drivers know how well they are conserving energy compared with other nearby drivers. The most efficient drivers receive virtual bronze, silver, gold, and platinum “medals.” What had been solely a matter of personal virtue—driving more efficiently—has become a community activity.

Encourage Friendly Competition
Opower motivates customers to save energy by appealing to their competitive instincts and their desire to save money. Opower does this by mailing their utility customers personalized reports on their energy consumption and compares it with their neighbors.

Reinforce Reuse
TerraCycle has a game called Trash Tycoon that is played on Facebook. Players earn points by cleaning up a virtual small town and building sustainable businesses from the trash. The game reinforces the real-world effort of school kids who recycle packaging materials to raise funds for good causes.

Give Groupon for Good
To join The Mutual, a member picks a pledge level and a charity to steer the donations towards. Members, in turn, are rewarded with perks from business members looking to connect with a big pool of green-minded consumers.

Individually, these strategies won’t solve global environmental issues like climate change. But companies are betting that small actions can add up over time, AND that they will attract more, and greener, customers.

What do you think?

  • Do you play games or interact online in some way to earn points, badges, or rewards?  How has that impacted your behavior?
  • Do you think gamification is just a fad? Or a viable business approach for attracting and “greening” consumers?
  • Do you think that gamification will really lead consumers to adopt more environmentally-friendly behaviors?



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2 Responses to Gamification To “Green” Customer Behavior

  1. Just got a FitBit ( wireless physical activity tracker device. Case in point. It’s a digital pedometer and accelerometer that tracks your activity level, miles traveled, floors climbed and posts the info to the web where you can compete with friends and share your stats to all the social networks. Nike has the fuelband and more devices are on the way. Apple has to enter this market. The gamification of fitness has so many sustainability applications rooted in the triple bottom line. From lowering healthcare costs to decreasing obesity rates, this trend is awesome. The Fitbit is a “bridge” between the real world and the digital world. If we make more of these types of meaningful connections between lifestyle and digital environments, the digital space can start to work for the betterment of humanity. Today digital borders on diversionary. The precipice of real meaning and real impact is in sight. Last week I wrote about the healthcare crisis in America. Gamification is a promising way to tackle it while balancing the privacy concerns inherent to the issue.

    Adam Freedgood

  2. Hey Vreni Hommes, first of all thanks for this post. I love it to see how the idea of gamification is going to spread over different branches and areas, finally 🙂

    I would call me some kind of Gamification-evangelist so that’s why I just want to add something here. You mentioned that “Gamification hooks us by meeting our basic human needs for achievement, appreciation, reciprocity and a sense of control over our little corner of life.” That’s by far not all but, of course, you’re totally right!

    But achievement levels rewarded with badges, a progress bar or other visual meter
    virtual currency systems for tracking and exchanging points is not what makes Gamification work. These are just some kind of communication tools between the gamifyed process, its feedback-loop and the User. These are game mechanics that support the whole activity but these are also just results of your action. And Gamification is about the action itself. It is about the game dynamics that are buid into those activities. What gamification means is to creat a meaningful Learning-environemnt for the user. And this is more about motivational psychology than about games. But we can use game design thinking to make it more attractive 🙂 Why? Because the gaming-industry knows best how to touch our emotions and keep us ‘sticky’. And why Meaningful and Learning? Because these are the conditions that help us humans to gain the biggest amount of dopamine flushed out into our brains while we are involved. And that’s what our brain wants to achieve and to repeat. This is build into our DNA.

    But of course you are right by saying that we love and are addicted to see our progress being displayed at a leaderboard or by badges. What works best depends on the ‘Player type’ that is participating.

    Looking forward to read the second part. Thanks again and have a great weekend. bye, Roman

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