First version published on CUInsight.com. 2019 (current) version is CU Geek exclusive.

“Savings aren’t a game!” Except when it is.

Gaming Our Money Challenges

In many ways, the opening quote is correct. Money is an important topic for everyone. Plus, we know too many Americans don’t have adequate savings (I mean $400 or less) for a range of reasons.

So isn’t it a bit improper to compare their situation with Mario Kart (N64 version, obviously the best)?. But what if you did treat it like a game? Or, at least, make learning about it and how to escape the cycle feel like a game.

What is Gamification?

What I described above isn’t a new concept. Known as “gamification”, the idea is that by making an activity feel like a game rather than a chore, users are more likely to participate. When given the choice between fun and boring, which would you rather do?

An article by The Financial Brand dives deep into this topic.

Gamification in Sport and Banking

Think of going for a run. Many people don’t enjoy putting feet to pavement and will make any excuse to avoid it. But what if you were part of an adventure and needed to outrun a hoard of zombies? Their rotted fingers are nearly scraping your back…pick up the pace!

Come to think of it, I’ve written about this before. Here. And here.

Plus, that pennies post? It discussed a marketing campaign Ally bank put on across the country. Check it out, because it’s way cool. Though perhaps not as awesome as their latest endeavor. Yes, you may pass go and collect $200.

Oh, and that “don’t get eaten by zombies” running inspiration app? It exists, by the way. It’s called Running with Zombies. I don’t use it, because everyone knows the best way to deal with them is a shotgun, shovel, and old records. Bonus points if you got that reference (no, I’m not a Walking Dead fan).

Gamification Tips You Can Do Today

So instead, as the previous post discussed, of puzzling your members through a convoluted rewards program or other service, get them in the game! Where to start?

You already reframed their credit union relationship as game levels, right? Perfect, because that is a great opportunity to have virtual and real-world badges, rewards, and accomplishments. Make sure they have value, otherwise it’s just a hollow effort. And remember, value could mean, “look at my Instagram post here…this is so awesome!”

Ok, so you’ve taken the first gamification step, and members show their interest in person and across social media. If you can connect this with more traditional account rewards, do that, too.

What next?

For this, I’d suggest a brain storm session with your team. And a copy of Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Why this game? Because it’s the best puzzle adventure/level growth game ever made. Also, your staff will have fun.

And the N64 will probably remain in your branch. Tell me that won’t encourage people to stick around.

Using Big Boring Data For Appealing Awesome Games

How do you gamify your credit union without it being tacky or feeling like an afterthought? That is a great question. And it brings us to (cue deep announcer voice): Big Data!

Yep, that essential concept emerges again. Now, it’s going to help empower your members with useful analysis of their own data. Combine the appeal of sports stats (as in, their own financial relationship’s metrics) with playing a video game (as in, progressing through towards goals).

Hey, wait a minute! This is what Ally did with their Monopoly campaign! And they also encouraged “players” (of which nearly half became prospects for a banking relationship) to help support local charitable efforts. Sounds very “people helping people” to me.

Data Precautions

Turns out, taking big pools of data and applying it to all your members doesn’t work. It has to be their own data, not estimated metrics. A study found that some Fitbit (now a Google company) users actually gained weight while using the activity trackers. What? Why? How?

It’s believed that participants trusted the averaged metrics so strongly that they just didn’t listen to their bodies. If you provide useful data, useful suggestions can follow, ending with beneficial results.

Gamification For Everyone’s Success

Look at that. Once again, we come around to the inescapable conclusion: When you frame your services around the specific needs of your members, engagement, excitement, and loyalty will increase.

And we all get to enjoy some fabulous classic games. What are you waiting for? Go smash some pots and collect your rupees!

Image credit: http://www.digitallydownloaded.net/2012/05/review-mario-kart-64-wii-virtual.html