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How McDonald’s Is Crushing Youth Marketing Campaigns Using Gamification

Chances are you’ve played Monopoly. The wildly successful Parker Brother’s game has spawned hundreds of spin-offs, titles and related games.

It’s so ubiquitous that the phrase used on one of the cards, “Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200,” has entered the popular language.

The combination of one of the most popular games in the world with one of the most popular restaurants in the world would seem like a match made in heaven.

And McDonald’s wasn’t going to sit on its arches and let the opportunity pass by. What better way to get someone actively involved with your product than through a game?

This marketing technique is called gamification. The McDonald’s promotion using Monopoly is perhaps the most successful use of gamification by a large corporation.

If you’ve ever played the McDonald’s game, you know how satisfying it is to peel those little stickers off and add them to your virtual Monopoly game. If you don’t get a Monopoly piece, then you might a free item, like fries or a drink.

This element of luck keeps the consumer buying. Chances are, you’ll upsize your drink or fries just so you can peel off a few stickers and add them to your board.

Have you ever won? Have you ever known someone who has? No? Well, I’ll bet that doesn’t stop you from getting excited each time the Monopoly man struts across the TV with “I’m Lovin’ It” playing in the background.

This is how gamification really takes hold of you, and it’s how McDonald’s does such a good job with it. By making it an event that happens once every so often, each time it does occur you jump at the chance to play Monopoly again.

The instant gratification achieved through the “Get One” tokens and the long-term properties keeps the player interested.

Monopoly isn’t the only game the food giant is relying on to boost sales. They’re trying many other new things, and having across-the-board (ha!) success.

Mobile marketing has become incredibly effective, since everybody is now on their phones. McDonald’s has taken this trend, added gamification, and created a mobile game.

Called Pick n’ Play, the service was tested in Sweden, where it was a huge success. The company plans on rolling out the game to more devices in the future.

McDonald’s is also developing an app called Catch One. Users use their cameras (remind anyone of the hugely successful game Pokemon Go?) to snap a shot of a fast-moving food item that darts across the screen.

If they snag a successful image, they can just show it to their local McDonald’s vendor and get some free stuff. Yeah, it’s that easy.

Would you whip out your phone to get some free stuff in a fun game format? Sure you would, and I would too.

Pick n' Play!

So why is the company just giving stuff away? Well, an important part of any game is the reward. A game without a reward is a waste of time. And honestly, McDonald’s is hardly losing anything by handing out freebies.

Chances are, the customer isn’t leaving with just the free item. Get a free cheeseburger? Why not add on a drink? It’s just a dollar. Snap a picture of a smoothie? You might want a breakfast sandwich with that.

In this way, they get people constantly coming back to their store while being actively involved in an attention-capturing game.

But McDonald’s gamification doesn’t stop there. Their next advancement involves the employees. Learning a new skill is tough, especially when you have to master it in a short period of time.

Customer satisfaction is hugely important, and it’s the employees who ensure this occurs.

One of the things people don’t like is to have their time taken up. If they’re going to McDonald’s, a fast-food restaurant, they want their food, and they want it fast. This isn’t going to happen if some employee still needs to find all the buttons. So McDonald’s came up with a solution.

They figured out how to get people fluent in their system using a carrot rather than a stick: they created a game out of the ordering system. Employees log on, play some training games, and in the process learn how to use the ordering system.

It’s good to learn something, but even better when it’s by your own choice. By leaving this up to the employees, McDonald’s tracked huge success, even without advertising the tool.

People like to play games. Give someone something they enjoy, and they’ll do it without being asked.

This hugely successful marketing technique has allowed McDonald’s to smash the ordinary advertising system and reign supreme as the fast-food king. People are lured into the addictive gameplay and get rewarded for having fun. There’s nothing better than that!

If McDonald’s continues to follow this trend of customer interaction, there’s no telling what they can do.

Written by Aaron Easaw

Aaron serves as the founder and CEO of INC.UBATOR, an exclusive venture capital firm that offers programs and investments designed to grow teen businesses from concept to reality. Aaron has attracted investors ranging from local business owners to international multi-billionaires to join the INC.UBATOR mission. The combination of a variety of industry mentors and Aaron's noted experience has given the opportunity for teen entrepreneurs to expand their ideas into professional businesses.

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