American Marketer


Sophisticated game mechanics for luxury mobile marketing

January 30, 2012


By Scott Forshay

The 21st century digital native consumer is hyper-connected, socially integrated, empowered with information and always in motion.

The mobile medium has been a tremendous catalyst for consumers to get out into the world and experience.

As we as a society evolve from stationary models of entertainment and information gathering to one that experiences our world by immersing ourselves in it, we are constantly seeking ways to make our encounters more meaningful and interesting.

The power of connection and information allows us to demand greater degrees of intimacy with the brands we most admire.

We actively search for ways to achieve efficiencies while being consistently entertained and informed along the journey. What does this mean for luxury brands as they try to engage this digital native?

Game face

The primary function of marketing has always been to attempt to boost the lifetime value of a brand’s consumer base by increasing loyalty and, in turn, the average selling price of a good or service, while simultaneously heightening the desirability of a brand to a larger potential base.

In this hyper-connected world, marketers are constantly testing strategies to expand engagements, improve lines of communications, entertain and create intimacy with consumers.

Marketers are discovering that applying gaming mechanics to campaigns can be an effective strategy for advancing brand loyalty by increasing participation.

Brand marketing can no longer be cemented in unidirectional communication strategies, so engaging consumers and encouraging them to interact with brands is essential for success.

Gamification fundamentally succeeds as a marketing strategy because it fulfills our basic human needs for achievement, status and rewards by effectively playing on our desire to compete.

However, this seemingly intuitive evolution in approach takes on an added layer of complexity for luxury marketers.

Luxury’s consumer base has little patience for clutter or noise and expects brands to participate with them, without the need for social objects and digital status symbols such as badges and mayorships, or virtual goods and currencies.

That said, how do gaming mechanics apply and how can they be leveraged in a way that is subtle, refined, and on-brand, not ostentatious and designed for the masses. What are sophisticated game mechanics for luxury mobile marketing?

Rewarding experience

For decades, travel and hospitality brands have provided the quintessential example of refined, smooth game mechanics through rewards programs.

Showing loyalty to a particular airline or hotel brand is rewarded by priority access, express lanes for check-in and points that carry redeemable monetary value.

These types of seasoned game mechanics incent loyalty and participation for mutual value between brand and consumer. They provide engagement, the ability to achieve status and exclusive rewards for the most loyal participants.

The luxury digital native is not concerned with competition, nor is she interested in mass marketing attempts at gaming.

In an era where conspicuous consumption is passé, the luxury consumer is far more subtle and sophisticated.

This consumer is seduced by exclusivity – by her inclusion in a lifestyle and her personal connection with luxury brands that few can attain. She seeks a greater degree of intimacy with the brands she covets and expects those brands to reward her for her faithfulness.

Attempts to gamify the luxury retail experience with strategies successful in more mass-market campaigns are perilous.

The luxury consumer desires priority access to the brand that is exclusive and available only to a limited few.

Rewarding loyalty with exclusive access is at the heart of the luxury game mechanics strategic equation, with refinement taking priority over conspicuous competition.

Scott Forshay is a luxury and premium brand marketing consultant and mobile strategist in Austin, TX. Reach him at