vintage Coca Cola ad poster Yes beach girl

Gamification: I Ain’t Mad At Cha, Coke

Expand your customer base to form lifelong brand loyalists, increasing average selling price and frequency by decreasing price sensitivity while garnering evangelists to promote your brand through word of mouth. That’s the goal of marketing.

Gamification

vintage Coca Cola ad poster Yes beach girlI started playing My Coke Rewards in December 2007. I usually enter codes for 2 liter bottles of pop (worth 3 points) or 12 pack cans (9 points). After almost five years, I have about 1,050 points. I don’t cheat or buy codes online. (Yes, there is a black market for Coke Rewards codes. Much like property swapping during the McDonald’s Monopoly game.)

I’ve amassed my points organically. I keep playing because I’m a consumer who has been gamed, because I expect a great prize when I reach a high point level, and because Coke accomplished their goal: I am more engaged in the brand and spend more time on their site.

Sadly, the most point-expensive prizes aren’t off the charts. What’s funny is the variance in prizes for a point level. 1,000 point rewards:

Coca-Cola Ceramic Cookie Jar
1000 Points
Garden Tool Set
1000 Points
Red Wireless Mouse
1000 Points
$100 Restaurant.com® E-Gift Certificate
1000 Points
Coca-Cola Popcorn Bowl Set
1000 Points
Personalized Laptop or Notebook Skin from Skinit®
1000 Points
Diet Coke® Yoga Mat
1000 Points
Of the above prizes, the most discrepant in terms of retail value:
  • Garden tools
  • $100 restaurant.com gift card
  • $25 Nike.com gift card
  • a yoga mat
The only prize that looks A) useful to me as a baker and B) worth at least $100:
More prizes that make no sense for their even higher point values:
2PacMadness, right? But I echo 2Pac: I Ain’t Mad At Cha, Coke. You gamified drinking Coke and I participated because humans are inherently competitive, I like your brand so I want to project that image, (and admittedly, because I was doing research).

Consumer psychology

Shouldn’t I be irked that I have wasted an estimated 2-3 hours of my life entering codes for a selection of prizes that is hardly what I feel my brand loyalty and effort deserves? I’ve had my mom send me codes from our Coke-loyal house. Once someone even emailed me several high-value codes as an apology or a peace offering or something as intangible as the virtual rewards of Foursquare (according to Emily Murphy at Forrester Research). The point is that people knew I was playing the game and it mattered to me to some degree. But was I duped?
…critics say the risk of gamification is that it omits the deepest elements of games — like skill, mastery and risk-taking — even as it promotes the most superficial trappings, like points, in an effort to manipulate people.
NYT, You’ve Won a Badge (and Now We Know All About You)
I guess I’m not really playing a game because My Coke Rewards requires no skill. In fact, it’s boring. But I need another 850 points to get my stoneware mixing bowl set. Send me your extra codes via my contact page.
  • What did you decide to go with? I was thinking about the bowls (1900 points now), but didn’t want to waste the points if it wasn’t worth it.

    • I haven’t cashed in my points yet — holding out for the bowls. Hope they’ll still be around when I get to 1900. It’s hard to imagine parting with the points, right?

      • Jonathan D

        You get those bowls yet? If so how are they?

        And yes, it is hard to imagine actually using all those points. I started collecting them seven years ago, and once I cash them in I don’t think I’ll keep collecting them. I feel like a huge chapter of my life is ending, haha.

        • No, I still haven’t cashed in. I am afraid of buyer’s regret. I think I prefer having all the points marinate in the bank because it means keeping the possibility of attaining goods I don’t really need from a brand I don’t much like these days.