On track and ahead of the game

The world has ended. My 59-year-old mother has a Fitbit.

It is a common occurrence on the adoption curve of new technologies that once it reaches the wrinklies, it’s officially dead. At least, that’s what I always thought and that’s certainly what it felt like when our grandparents popped up in Friend Requests on Facebook a few years back.

Truth is, my mother was actually ahead of the curve. She was using diet tracking tech such as MyFitnessPal in the noughties, before the “quantified self” became so mainstream. She has always been a keen observer of her own behaviour, in some form of auto-ethnographic exercise which never reaches a conclusion.

A recent OMD Insight survey into the British sporting culture highlighted that 41% of Brits are already using some form of health and fitness tracking technology and 3 in 5 people agree that this type of tech is changing the way we exercise for the better.

But there must be boredom with endless line graphs of steps travelled and maps of pavements pounded, right? Wrong.

For two of the biggest trends of recent times are slowly merging together. The first I have covered briefly, widely known as quantified self. The second is Gamification; defined as “the application of game mechanics to non-game contexts”. Case in point. Mum’s aforementioned wearable sent her this after ten days:

Penguin March

112km would otherwise have had no real significance. But gamification relies on the breakdown of goals into smaller, micro tasks. It uses notifications and reminders to motivate and encourage. There is real time accountability, but most crucially – tasks become fun ‘challenges’ to overcome. Badges to add to your collection. Levels to unlock.

Gamification taps into our inner child and lets them loose. It makes the dull, mundane and endless monotony of activities such as walking or running feel like positive and appealing ways to spend time. The Zombies, Run! App is another example of this. This concept is not restricted to sport though and there are banking apps which embrace the same constructs to encourage small savings to add up to big investments. Qapital and Save Up are two of note. You can even get gamified smartphone alarm clocks, which encourage you to ‘win’ by avoiding the snooze button.

What’s next?

Expect these two trends to continue to dovetail – but spread their wings even further. As self-tracking systems become better linked up and we have longitudinal data on our own behaviours, they will be increasingly linked to longer-term lifestyle changes. The Future Foundation have suggested that in the course of a year or so we will be seeing gamified loyalty and reward schemes in a bid from brands to encourage mutually beneficial behaviours from their consumer base.

This gamification will continue further with the adoption of AR and VR technologies, making it more realistic and more rewarding to play these everyday games. This gives the marketing world a new host of opportunities to deeply engage and involve consumers in fun, rewarding and immersive experiences.

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About Author

Frances Revel

Nosey by nature, Frances fell into the perfect career to satisfy her curiosities and obsession with trends. In her years of experience in marketing and media research, she has studied everything from engine oil in Indonesia to the contents of the UK's breakfast bowls.

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