Editor's note: Jon Puleston is vice president in the London office of Seattle research firm Global Market Insite Inc. He can be reached at jpuleston@gmi-mr.com. This article appeared in the January 23, 2012, edition of Quirk's e-newsletter.

Gamification is one of the buzzwords in the marketing industry right now and is a subject of growing interest amongst market researchers. The idea is being applied to everything from teaching to brand marketing, even to whole social engineering schemes by governments. Over the last year, GMI has conducted extensive research looking at how to apply gamification techniques to make surveys more fun and measuring the impact they have.


In this first installment of a two-part article, I will show you how the thinking and theory behind game play can be applied in market research, demonstrating the dramatic impact that gamification can have in improving the survey experience for respondents - and the quality of feedback. The second part will focus on designing questions to be more game-like. 

To begin, gamification is the process of applying gaming mechanics to everyday tasks to encourage more active participation. The theory of gamification: more fun = more feedback. There is a vast amount of literature on the theory of game play but if you are interested in pursuing this further I suggest, as a starting point, that you read Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World by Jane McGonigal. Or, simply type in gamification on Google.

What defines a game?

The starting point for all this is to understand what turns an activity into a game. There are all types of activities that we could call games, some more obvious than others. A game is just about any form of thinking activity that we do for fun and that could encompass playing conventional games such as I spy, chess, cards, sports or video games. Bu...