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Octalysis elevates gamification principles at SXSW

Gamification via Octalysis – Not as tricky as it sounds

Again, this year’s South by Southwest Interactive festival united an astonishing group of innovative thinkers and strategists. One of those innovators was Yu-kai Chou, “a Gamification Pioneer (since 2003), International Keynote Speaker and Occasional Guest Lecturer for Stanford University,” according to his profile on the SXSW website. You can find more detailed information on his theories from Chou’s website, from which some of the information from this article was sourced, in addition to live attendance at the best session of the festival.

But what is Gamification?

Gamification enables companies to use game-like elements such as competition, point systems, challenges etc. to entice customers to use their product. It’s meant to make boring things seem fun, encouraging people to do what they might otherwise ignore.

  • An example of explicit gamification is the Monopoly game at McDonalds.
  • An implicit example would be the progress bar on LinkedIn profiles, showing what percentage of your profile is complete.

Volkswagen started a campaign on its “Fun Theory” to prove that making things fun encourages people to do them more often and therefore change their behavior. While gamification isn’t a new idea — think about every store that offers you cards to earn points or receipts that will enter you to win a prize if you fill out a survey — Chou offers a new way of looking at this strategy, and explains why some gamification plans fail, by describing his theory of Octalysis. This theory analyses eight types of motivations behind successful gamification.

Why does motivation matter in gamification?

This comes down to the difference between extrinsic and intrinsic motivation, meaning being motivated to do things by outside reward, compared to being internally driven. Understanding your consumers’ motivations is very important because intrinsic motivation can be snuffed out by trying to force extrinsic motivation on them.

  • When customers are intrinsically (internally) motivated, they care about your product or service on their own.
  • Extrinsic motivation, like a point system or other gamification technique, won’t matter to customers who aren’t interested in your product to begin with.

A good example of extrinsic motivation defeating intrinsic motivation is looking at students in school who are so concerned with grades that they fail to really learn the material beyond what they need to know for tests and assignments. Poor handling of motivation may be why, even though “70% of all Fortune 500 companies will be using gamification” according to Chou, “80% of these [gamification plans] will fail.”

How Octalysis can keep gamification from failing

Chou argues that simply incorporating gaming “elements” won’t get customers intrinsically motivated to use your product or service, and they simply won’t make a game interesting. In fact, gamification could turn people away, if it feels gimmicky. What will convince potential clients to use your brand, or to keep current customers coming back, is to think about how the gaming elements make them feel. Design games with a human-based, rather than function-based, focus – keep human motivation in mind.

Gamification Pioneer Yu-kai Chou's model of effective gamification motivations, as presented at South by Southwest Interactive 2014.

Gamification Pioneer Yu-kai Chou’s model of effective gamification motivations, as presented at South by Southwest Interactive 2014.

Octalysis driven by 8 drivers

1. Meaning – The drive to be involved with something bigger than yourself, a community or a bigger purpose that drives decisions.

2. Empowerment – The motivation that drives people to paint or play with Legos. Expressing creativity and getting feedback is empowering and creates intrinsic motivation in players.

3. Social Influence – Includes drives such as competition, mentorship, companionship, acceptance, and envy.

4. Unpredictability – Comes into play with gambling. When the result is unpredictable, it drives players to try to discover what will happen next.

5. Avoidance – The drive to avoid a bad consequence, such as admitting defeat or feeling if you don’t act now, you’ll miss an opportunity.

6. Scarcity – When things are rare, it increases the motivation to obtain it. For example, if in a game only a select few are awarded a special accomplishment, it would make the players try harder to be one of the few to achieve it.

7. Ownership – When a player feels like he or she owns something, the drive to improve upon that ownership motivates him or her to continue working toward a goal.

8. Accomplishment – The drive to overcome a challenge. This is the easiest motivation to design for, according to Chou. It’s important to stress the challenge, otherwise the reward received will be meaningless.

How to employ Gamification using Octalysis

Begin with how you want your potential customers to feel when engaged with your process and your company. The motivations you wish to emphasize and act upon will help you decide on the best gamification techniques to employ. But ideally, you would use almost all of these motivations since different people are motivated by different drives. After that, consider these four phases a customer will hopefully go through. It’s important to think about how you want your clientele to feel at each stage, showing participants the value of not only beginning your game but sticking with it. These stages include:

  1. Discovery – Value must be evident immediately or no one will begin the process.
  2. Onboarding – When a new participant begins to create a space for themselves in this new gaming community or situation.
  3. Scaffolding – In this stage, value is often achieved through customers’ actions. Their motive may be driven by the core values of accomplishment and empowerment.
  4. End Game (Veteran Retention) – This stage includes mentoring new players and improving the community.

You have the power to interest potential clients and keep your current customers interested in your product or service by employing techniques that will speak to their motivations and show them value every step of the way. No one really needs your particular brand of product, so according to Chou, you need to figure out how to make them want your specific brand.

South by Southwest Panel Picks 2014

South by Southwest 2014 Panel Picker: Vote NowWhile it seems March is long away, now is the time to pick which panels and speakers pique your interest for South by Southwest 2014. The Panel Picker process wraps up on Friday already!

For sure, it’s an overwhelming process, but I’ve committed, this year, to participating in the Panel Picker process.

Full disclosure: I have 2 proposed talks for 2014.

South by Southwest Interactive – Ticks vs Humans: Can Social Media Crush Pathogens?

3 Social Media pros, 4 University of Rhode Island interns, 30 years of tick research, and 1 @Tickguy aim to prevent tick-borne diseases — like Lyme disease — by engaging via new media and live events.

South by Southwest EDU – Ticks Suck: These Social Media Internships Don’t

Learn best practices – and best-to-be-avoided – from the University of Rhode Island’s inaugural Social Media SWAT team. Smashing traditional internship models, the team leveraged digital and social media to squash ignorance about the disease-carrying, scary, and hard-to-look-at tick. Paid interns, social media pro mentors, and URI faculty share how to revolutionize career preparation with real-world experience, creating sought-after, highly trained contributors to the workforce.

If you find either or both worthy, please vote now … time is running out.

Here are the other panels I hope to see at SXSW Interactive

1. Foremost, I’ve been eager to see Nancy Duarte since reading her books, Resonate and Slideology, which are excellent. But imagine engaging with Duarte in her expert medium.

Pimp Your Pitch: Learn Visual Storytelling
Panel picker submission excerpt: Everyone’s got a story to tell or an idea to sell. But your audience has to understand and embrace it if you truly want to motivate them to act. Bring your pitch to Duarte’s two and a half hour long Pimp Your Pitch workshop and we’ll help you rework it to better connect with your audience – whether you want to secure funding from a VC, sell your story to a filmmaker, convince a prospect to buy your product, or land a gig as a speaker at the next SXSW conference.

2. And how can you resist Go Home Marketing, You Are Drunk?
But upon closer inspection, it’s top content strategist and Content Strategy for the Web author Kristina Halvorson:
Panel picker submission excerpt: Stop treating every day like a fire drill. Momentarily ignore the shiny new trends. Instead, take a look at the things that are (still) fundamentally broken. Your message is splintered. Your teams are siloed. Your technology is backwards. Your content still sucks. So let’s sit down together and talk about a whole new world of marketing, one where pragmatism and principle drive a new kind of innovation: fixing what’s actually broken, versus finding new things to break.

3. How to Market Your Infographic Like a Rockstar
Panel picker submission excerpt: While visual content offers powerful marketing advantages, there are many unfortunate pitfalls one may encounter while attempting to build a content strategy in such a heavily saturated industry. In this session, Killer Infographics Director of Marketing, Charlie Holbert, will guide you through the highs and lows of marketing your infographic online. Having promoted thousands of viral infographics, Charlie will show you how to prepare your visual content for success, what mistakes to avoid and how to measure your ROI. You’ll leave this talk a true infographic “bielieber!”

4. Multiplier Effect – Paid Social + Inbound

Panel picker submission excerpt: Many marketers are focused on inbound marketing as the most cost effective and sustainable way to drive new high quality leads. Using paid social channels to amplify existing organic marketing can be a great way to amplify your existing inbound marketing. Organic marketing takes time to build and complementing it with paid promotion can help you grow your audience faster and when done right, with a high ROI. We’ll explore how to unite paid and organic marketing teams, how to track effectiveness, when is the best time to promote and most importantly, of the dizzying array of paid social options, which seem to be the most effective in complementing organic and inbound marketing.

5. Visual Storytelling in an Omni-Channel World
Panel picker submission excerpt: The rise of visual social media platforms has resulted in a show, don’t tell era that’s redefining marketing as we know it. Shrinking attention spans, coupled with platforms like Pinterest, Instagram and Vine, are creating consumers who welcome snackable bits of visual content over traditional marketing messages. The challenge and opportunity for marketers is to shift from broadcasting to curating a dazzling visual conversation which brings their company or brand’s story to life. – See more at:

6. Bootstrap it! Marketing Automation on a Budget
Panel picker submission excerpt: With 90 minutes of time every week and a total budget of less than $150 per month, you can get all your online marketing done easily and this talk will show you exactly how.

Which panels do you recommend?

Stop the Ticks: Send Us to South by Southwest Interactive


TickEncounter Resource Center

Humans vs. Ticks and Internships

Are humans smarter than ticks? According to Dr. Tom Mather at University of Rhode Island’s TickEncounter Resource Center, not by a long shot.

But ticks don’t have social media.

Leading a team 4 social media interns and 2 other social media professionals, we’ve spent the past 6 months fighting off ticks one tweet at a time. How’s that? Come again?

@TheTickGuy Dr Tom MatherA decades-long leading tick researcher, Dr. Mather saw an opportunity to harness social media to save lives and well-being. According to the CDC, Lyme disease rates are actually 10 times higher than what has been reported. In these parts, it’s hard to find people who haven’t been affected.

CBS News reports: “This new preliminary estimate confirms that Lyme disease is a tremendous public health problem in the United States, and clearly highlights the urgent need for prevention.”

Are ticks zombies in our midst? Here’s where we start to fight back

I narrowed down URI’s Harrington School of Communication’s best and brightest to become TickSmart interns. Thanks to Newport Interactive Marketers, I knew just which social media pros would be ideal social media mentors. Once we settled on an initial strategy and goals for this first-of-its kind project, the pros trained and mentored the Journalism, Marketing, PR, and Environmental Science/Writing majors.

The first challenge was nailing the messaging. How to train an intern to speak the language of tick researchers? Everyone adapted, and we found successes.

TickSmart Social Media Team Successes

  • Blogger outreach and guest posting
  • Building Pinterest boards without strictly showing pictures of ticks
  • Developing media outreach lists
  • Creating segmented newsletter content
  • Developing a TickSmart pledge card tool to link in-person events with ongoing relationships
  • Testing and engaging and growing followers and fans on Twitter and Facebook
  • Repurposing email content into SEO-rich blog posts


Some Welcome Social Media Surprises

  • Developing memes and enticing the tick research teams to create dozens more
  • Videoing a riff of a cult movie trailer
  • Presenting at South by Southwest Interactive

South by Southwest is still a work-in-progress, and I’d like your help!

South by Southwest InteractiveIf you’re not familiar with SXSW Interactive, it is the premier conference for social media professionals. In 2012, Interactive had 24,569 attendees, up 27 percent from 2011.

Help spread the word about Lyme disease and tick prevention by engaging with these influential people!

Let’s use social media & SXSW influencers to beat back the ticks: Click on the thumbs up, or leave a comment. Simply follow this link,, sign in, and comment!

Thanks in advance, on behalf of the TickSmart Social Media team, the tireless TickEncounter researchers, and everyone who’s been or will be touched by ticks and may become infected.

How to Generate Ideas and Creativity | South by Southwest Interactive

There’s plenty to do when the creative juices just aren’t flowing. Take it from Matthew Diffee, cartoonist for the New Yorker & Texas Monthly and The New Yorker a cartoonist for The New Yorker, who creates 10 ideas a week, just to have 9 of them rejected by management. What can you do to meet your deadlines? And how do you stay creative when your atmosphere is stale?


The following are highlights from Matthew’s talk, “How to Be an Idea Factory” at the 2012 South by Southwest Interactive Festival.

Creativity very possibly requires you to ‘unplug’

  • You must get away periodically to be more creative.
  • Acknowledge what affects your creativity:
    • YOU – Mindset …What you think
    • What you feel
    • What you do

The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt

  • Creatives need to be better at controlling our emotions
  • It’s hard to be creative when you are angry
  • Don’t inhibit your train of thought when being creative
  • Just keep going. It takes a lot of bad ideas to get a good one

Big Creative Principles

  • Get in the zone (sometimes it takes a while)
    • Stephen King works every morning til noon or until he reaches his quota of 10 pages
  • Do not believe in writer’s block. You are never blocked-just go backward
  • Flip the funnel (try not to go to outside sources)

Collaboration is king

  • Tips for when you are stumped on idea
    • Change location and attitude
    • Doodle
    • Add constraints on idea
    • Bring other people in

Special thanks to @socmetrics, @RandyElrod, and @FCSdotcom for the insight!

Make your business socially, behaviorally, emotionally intelligent

Chip Conley

When analyzing consumer buying behavior, folks down at the South By Southwest Interactive Festival found themselves at the crossroad of psychology and business, with Chip Conley acting as the crossing guard.
Chip Conley is the CEO and Chief Emotions Officer at Joie de Vivre Hospitality, a company he founded two dozen years ago. Chip’s years of experience and best-selling books helped him to create his talk, “Emotional Equations to Connect With Your Customers,” which aimed to help business leaders understand how to be more emotionally intelligent in the workplace.

Unpack your emotional baggage

  • Despair = suffering minus meaning. Suffering is a constant, meaning is a variable. Meaning lessens suffering.
  • Fear is used systematically to control, suppress and get people to do “something.”
  • When going through bad times, a company is a sweatbox.
  • Study: Women who had teen depression vs those who did not – the former were much better able to handle being a widow later.
  • Stress early in life builds long-term courage and resilience, builds emotional muscles.
  • Anxiety resolution: Chart what do I know/don’t know, what can I influence/can’t.
  • Disappointment = Expectations minus reality.
  • Disappointment is usually the result of poorly managed expectations.

Happiness and business practice

  • Happiness = wanting what you have/having what you want
  • Happiness = practice gratitude/pursue gratification.
  • Happiness = wanting what you have divided by having what you want.
  • Solace and comfort comes from consumption, replacing religion?
  • Bhutan – forget GNP – try gross national happiness.
  • Hedonic treadmill, whatever we get is what we want, we want more, which yields unhappiness.

Our basic needs to survive, succeed, and transform

  • Meet expectations, meet desires, meet unrecognized needs, but unrecognized needs will become expectations.
  • Transformational companies focus on the unrecognized needs of their customers.
  • Between stimulus and response is a space to choose our response.
  • We all aspire to self-actualization, but how do you make it for a company? Many great companies used it.

Buying behavior

  • Buying behavior is driven by unconscious thoughts. 95% of thought, emotion & learning happen w/o consciousness.
  • Identity affirmations play a huge role in consumer behavior. What does the product say about me, self-actualization.
  • People identify with things they aspire to be. Shopping is buying identity.
  • The more options we have, the more opportunity for regret.
  • What does a self-actualized customer looks like?

4 ways to succeed

  • Help meet goals
  • Allow expression
  • Feel part of bigger cause
  • Offer real value that they hadn’t imagined
 Want to learn more about Emotional Equations? Check out Chip Conley’s Prezi presentation for free.