Brand lessons from Flappy Bird

As user engagement increasingly becomes the holy grail of social and digital marketing, gamification and understanding what motivates people is integral. The runaway success of addictive games like Flappy Bird and Candy Crush are prime examples of human-based design at work.
Brands at the cutting edge of digital are leveraging the insights from these games to create memorable and engaging user experiences on their digital properties. Games and apps can be one of the most effective ways to enthral your target market and keep them engaging with your brand on a daily basis. Here are the top lessons from addictive games for brands:

Keep the individual at the centre of everything

When it comes to conceptualising and designing a compelling digital experience - put your KPIs and growth metrics aside. While these are important, when it comes to the actual experience, the individual user must be top-of-mind. Study your target users - understand what motivates them, what they like to engage with and create that.

Keep it simple

The simultaneous genius and attraction of games like Flappy Bird lies in its simplicity. It could not be simpler - tap to fly, don't tap to fall - and yet it is vexingly difficult to overcome the obstacles without seeing your bird drop dead. This difficulty conflicts with the perceived simplicity and drives users to keep trying in order to overcome this conflict. It's also important to remember that if you're building experiences on social platforms, the more complex something seems, the less likely users will be to engage.

Make it worthwhile

No one brags to their friends about how they filled in a form to enter a competition. Bragging rights have to be earned. People are far more likely to talk about how they completed a challenge or successfully played a difficult game - create those experiences. Provide incentives and rewards to give users a sense of accomplishment and a desire to keep engaging.

Keep them coming back

If you want users to continuously engage with your competition or app, you have to give them reason to. Creating linear experiences where the process and results are always the same (and aimed at simply getting to the end result as quickly as possible) will not achieve this. Appeal to their innate sense of curiosity by injecting unpredictability into your game or app.

Candy Crush is the master of creating seemingly infinite experiences. New levels are built every two weeks and with over 544 levels currently available. This and other games such as Angry Birds and even Plants vs Zombies have raised user expectations for the quality and quantity of content expected by users. The option to replay and restart levels is also important in terms of meeting the user's desire to better their score and for a sense of continuity rather than a dead end.

Tap into escapism

Chances are your target audience is stressed out. They're worrying about work, family, money and that deadline that's creeping up on them. If you want them to take time out of their day to engage with your brand, make it fun to do so. Create experiences that let them lose themselves for a while - don't create something that looks like more work or effort.

Make it accessible

If the desired outcome is to keep users engaged and coming back for more, your digital experience needs to be accessible on any device, any time and with any data connection - or lack thereof. Once the game or app is installed, users should be able to use it whenever and however they want to.

About Desiree Gullan

Having worked at the 'Big Three' advertising agencies in SA and proving her creative mettle abroad, Desirée has won multiple local and international awards for her work - including Cannes Lions and Clios. She believes in the importance of craftsmanship - that it's not in the designing, but in the redesigning. Not in the writing, but in the rewriting.
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