Following up from last week’s post….
Can gamification be used at a more macro level, to build, revitalize or otherwise re-position a brand? A great example can be found in the revitalization of a Las Vegas based hiking club. The club, Hiking Las Vegas, was founded by Branch Whitney, a former professional gambler who decided to make a living out of his loves for fitness and the outdoors when casinos caught on to the fact that doing business with a gambler as skilled as Branch was, well, a bad bet.
Branch launched his business in the late 1990s by publishing a book containing the routes of some of the most interesting hikes in the mountains and canyons surrounding Las Vegas. At that time, very little information on hiking routes was available from any other source, in no small part due to the fact that Branch himself had only recently pioneered many of the most interesting hikes. The emergence of the Internet at first created a boon for Branch’s business as he was able to begin selling individual hike descriptions online through his club’s website. And by giving his customers a chance to sign up for hikes with him – the legendary personality who pioneered the routes – he kept his brand very strong.
Eventually, however, the internet began to disrupt his business, as more and more competitors emerged, with many of them building strong reputations of their own, and some offering their information for free. In short, Branch’s business – and ultimately, his brand – was starting to be commoditized.
Branch’s answer? The 52 Peak Club. He chose 52 of his favorite hikes, ranging from easy ones to the most difficult, and assigned each of them a card within a standard deck of playing cards. The easiest hikes were assigned the lowest ranking cards, while the most difficult – and some of the most spectacular – were assigned the highest ranking cards. He then had decks of his cards printed, and challenged the members of his club to “earn” all of the cards in the decks by hiking to the tops of the associated peaks.
In a hobby that includes many “peak baggers” (enthusiasts who take great pride in diligently setting and pursuing goals of climbing certain lists of peaks), Branch’s challenge wasn’t going to be ignored. Those who made it up each peak would now receive tangible evidence, and often in an onsite and highly social ceremony that amplified their feelings of accomplishment. What’s more, they could compete with their friends in seeing who could come up with the highest value “hand” over any period of time by climbing the peaks associated with specific cards. And where there might have previously been debate between friends over which hike represented a greater accomplishment, the card values assigned to the peaks by Branch – a subject matter expert – helped settle those arguments.
So what was the outcome of this gamification campaign for Branch, the club he founded, and his business? Nothing short of sensational! First, stories on his 52 Peak Club began to appear in the local media. Next, the club was featured in hiking and outdoor sports journals. Eventually, the club even gained exposure in the national news. And then the sponsors came, eager to support, and receive exposure in, the club’s special events. Through gamification, Branch’s business – and his brand – is now stronger than it’s ever been, with membership and participation reaching all-time heights.
Some secrets to Branch’s success?
- Developing a game that is simple, easy to understand, easy to implement, and competitively differentiated. The 52 Peak Club is now synonymous with Hiking Las Vegas.
- Designing a game that keeps his targeted audience’s attention focused on his business’s most attractive offerings. The odds that a hiker will reach the top of a peak – and get rewarded with a card – go up significantly with the purchase and use of Branch’s route descriptions.
- Choosing a unique theme that is very well aligned with both his local customer base and his personal brand.
- Developing rewards that are not just tangible, but highly durable.
- Establishing a leader board of sorts by recognizing “53ers.” 53ers are those hikers who have completed all 52 of the hikes in the 52 Peak Club. They are an elite group which all other participants in the club aspire to join. The challenge of becoming a 53er is particularly appealing to those who are motivated by the desire to achieve a sense of “mastery” from their participation.
- Priming his customer base to be enthusiastic about the game with messages like, “Don’t climb get caught climbing Rainbow Peak for the first time without being carded!”
- Fully leveraging the power of the media in promoting the club. The media love good stories, and those involving the 52 Peak Club are easy, fun and interesting to tell.
- Creating irresistible value propositions for sponsors. (“Which card in the 52 Peak deck do you want to ‘own’ with your brand?”)
- Making extensive use of social media to incentivize and reward all of his stakeholders. Branch provides daily recognition of his club members’ accomplishments, his sponsors products and financial support, and the media’s coverage of the club’s activities through postings on the club’s Facebook site.
Comparing the challenges Branch wanted to overcome to those faced by your own organization, what lessons from his gamification example can you apply in building, revitalizing or re-positioning your brand?
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Tags: engagement, gamification, Technology, technology at events
This post was written by Ron Graham; EVP, Freeman AV