Skip to main content
Gamification in the Auto Industry; Can it Drive Results?

Guest Post: Today we have a guest post about gamification in auto from Yu-kai Chou, Founder and President of The Octalysis Group. He was a featured speaker at our Automotive Mastermind event held last month in Silicon Valley. The Octalysis Group is a gamification consultancy that assists companies to understand the core drivers that motivate people to take action and applies these to business objectives.


Driving Engagement in Experiences is a Necessity In The New World

All around the world in many different industries from software to education, banking to automotive, businesses have been focused on making products that are more efficient and effective but not more engaging and interesting.

To be successful in the new age of engagement, businesses need to be optimized for human motivation. Essentially, successful companies are realising the need to shift from 'function-focused design' to 'human-focused design'.

Human-focused design strives to answer the key question: “Why do people want to engage with the products, services and environments designed for them?”

We believe that games can show us the way here. The gaming industry was one of the early adopters of human focus design. We believe that drawing insights from the game industry can help people design entertaining experiences for ‘professional’ service users, and market consumers.

The game studios behind franchises such as World of Warcraft, Heroes of the Storm, Zelda, Farmville or Chess have spent decades mastering how to engage people with human-focused design. We are now learning from those games to create similar engagement, hence we call it ‘gamification’.

Of course many games are failures. So what makes a game successful? I have published something called the Octalysis. It is named Octalysis because I discovered there were 8 core drives and almost everything we do, every human behaviour, is based on one of these core drives. So in order for all of us to create engagement in industries like automotive, we can use the Octalysis Framework to drive business metrics through behavioural science.

Gamification in Auto - What is the Octalysis Framework?

Octalysis rests on the belief that human motivation is based on eight core drives.

Octalysis Framework 8 Core Drives

Core Drive 1, Epic Meaning and Calling

This is the core drive which is based on wanting to be a part of something bigger than yourself: you are the hero of the story and have a great quest to fulfil.

A game that harnessed this drive really well was ‘Sea Hero Quest’, which was created to help assist dementia research. You are a sea explorer, recovering memories for your father. While you’re moving around, the researcher receives data in form of a heat map and can then analyse how people are navigating through the ocean maze. “If 100,000 people play for 2 minutes, they generate an equivalent of more than 50 years of similar, lab-based research”. This database can then be used to detect patterns of abnormal navigating behaviours. Loss of spatial navigation ability is one of the first signs of dementia.

In automotive, Tesla and Elon Musk do a good job of this. Tesla drivers want to stand up for their cars. Tesla has created a calling around their cars, in terms of their environmental record and ‘saving the world’. This drive is so strong than when there is bad press, say around the self-driving feature doing something it wasn’t meant to do, Tesla drivers will often say that it was their actions, not the car’s that created the accident.

Sea Hero Quest - help scientists fight dementia. (2017) Sea Hero Quest - help scientists fight dementia. (2017)

Core Drive 2, Development and Accomplishment

It is this core drive that makes you feel a sense of progress and achievement by overcoming challenges.

A great example of development and accomplishment is Fitbit, which makes life a sport, keeping track of how much you move during the day while giving you a tangible feedback of your progress. The application also provides users with statistics about their calories consumption, water intake, as well as sleeping hours.

Many designers love to create gamification based on points, badges, and leaderboards and think that somehow people automatically get long term engaged by them. In the end, this kind of extrinsic rewards are motivational mainly for the short term and lose a lot of their motivational value for senior users. Moreover, the more you focus on getting people to do things for a reward, the more they often lose their intrinsic (inner) motivation to do an activity.

In automotive, it isn’t points or leaderboards, but rather some people buy expensive cars because they believe it is a status symbol. Consumers are willing to spend 80K more to feel more status. That is the same as virtual goods in a game, where people pay money to look cooler - probably one of the more lucrative ways to introduce gamification in auto.

Core Drive 3, Empowerment of Creativity and Feedback

This is the core drive that awakens the creator in us. It is one of my personal favourites because it creates a lot of autonomy. For example, games such as Lego lets you (re)create anything you can imagine: a castle, your favourite movie character or any life situation.

In automotive, we see this when consumers go to a car company and they encourage you to go on their website and look at all the ways you can customise their cars – done well it can be a very creative and fun process which makes the brand very ‘sticky’ for the buyer.

Core Drive 4, Ownership and Possession

You are motivated because you own something you want to improve, protect and get more of it. Collecting shoes, stamps, Pokémon or even money is motivated by that core drive. If you continue your collection, you feel more and more ownership and you will want to get more and more of it.

In automotive I have seen this with auto insurance sales. One company was having a problem where the salespeople were closing the contracts, but the end-consumers were getting buyer’s remorse by the time the paperwork arrived a week or so later. So they changed one thing. After the salesperson closed the deal they asked the consumer ‘why did you choose to buy from us?’ They would answer that the company provided great value or a great product. What the company found, was that once you can get the consumer to speak about the benefits themselves, they doubled their sales as they had managed to get the consumer to take ownership of their decision.

Core Drive 5, Social Influence and Relatedness

This core drive is motivating you to be inspired by what others think, do or say. It is the core drive that lets you check your messages on Facebook, gives you a sense of belonging if you have a mentor and makes you feel jealous if you see something you don’t have.

In automotive, I remember going to a Porsche dealership and asking the sales person what the Porsche offered me over a Tesla. The response from the dealer was that by buying the Porsche you are entering an esteemed group, the Porsche family. You can say, ‘I am a Porsche person’ and you see this a lot where some families have always owned a particular brand of car.

Core Drive 6, Scarcity and Impatience

This core drive is based on the feeling that when you can’t have something yet, you want it even more. A successful example for that is Kickstarter, an online crowdfunding platform that first dangles with an amazing product, then uses a what we call ‘last mile drive’ to tell you that it just needs, say, $1000 more to reach its goal, shows you a timer to urge you to act immediately and tells you that there is a limit of four pledges in that category.

Core Drive 7, Unpredictability and Curiosity

What happens next? How will the story end? What’s hidden behind this door? These are questions you would ask yourself motivated by this core drive. It is the main driver to watch horror movies, play with slot machines or follow a football game.

The New York Public Library created a treasure hunt where 500 selected people spent a night at the museum collecting 100 stories to write a book together and 'Find the Future'. To make the experience more engaging they didn’t just tell people to write a book, they made them curious about what content they could write about and how they could make history. They created a theme and a storyline around the experience which first needed to be discovered, leading them towards the end goal, to write a book together in one night.

Core Drive 8, Loss and Avoidance

Last, but not least, this drive is based on the fear of losing something you own or avoiding something negative to happen. Think of it as expiry dates on a shopping voucher or your crops withering on Farmville. Also part of this core drive is a very controversial gamification example up to date. China’s government (with the help of companies like the Alibaba Group, Asia’s biggest e-commerce provider) is in the process of building the Sesame Credit System. They are experimenting with big data to monitor behaviour and create a credit score for performance as a citizen. Sesame Credit will give you a score for your behaviour, your credit history as well as your social connections.

In automotive, Volkswagen turned this idea of loss and avoidance on its head. They created gamification in auto by building a speed camera lottery experiment. Installed on one road, the camera would take photos of people who were speeding and they would receive the normal police fine. However to encourage people not to speed the twist came from then giving a cash jackpot to random cars that were travelling below the speed limit.

Extrinsic Motivation vs. Intrinsic Motivation Design

Unlike robots, we are hard-wired to create new things, solve problems and receive feedback. Humans are intrinsically motivated to do this without being given or looking for a specific reward.

Extrinsic motivation happens when we do an activity mainly because of a reward, milestone, or goal – but we may not necessarily enjoy the activity itself. Doing grunt, repetitive work, like moving boxes, is something nobody will do for real without an extrinsic purpose or reward to it. These core drives are situated on the left side of the Octalysis octagon.

Intrinsic motivation is when we do something simply because we enjoy doing it – we would even pay money just to experience it. Even if all “progress” is lost the next day, we may still enjoy spending time with our friends or play a friendly game of basketball. In the Octalysis Octagon, you find these core drives on the right-hand side, indicating what we call the fictive right brain.

Many companies default to extrinsic motivation because it is simpler to design. However, the Over-justification effect shows that, once someone does a behavioural because of extrinsic motivation, they would lose their initial intrinsic motivation of doing that activity. Once the extrinsic goal or reward is no longer there, they would have even less motivation to do something than before (for instance: people who used to go to a restaurant because they enjoyed it, but later on would only go to the restaurant if they received a coupon).

We always have to balance our choice of designs carefully so that we do not overemphasize extrinsic rewards over intrinsic motivation.

Not everybody is motivated in the same way. Some of us are highly competitive, while others like to explore and take their time. Usually, we can optimize a product’s design for one or two player types. It’s like building a company, you can’t assume that everyone will like your product or service but need to focus on a specific customer segment that it is targeted towards. Finding the right combination is both an art and a science.

Who will win the Battle for Engagement?

Clearly, gamification is not a one-size-fits-it-all solution: it is an intricate process of trade-offs to create more motivation, engagement, and conversions within an experience. However, the rewards of gamification are immense. In the new world where every product, phone screen, and advertisement is fighting for our limited attention, people will not just take action on proposals that make logical sense, but on experiences that engage their minds. The customers who are too busy to research and buy your products often have enough time to play games for hours a day. With cars being a passion for so many people, the possibilities for gamification in auto are not only present but there for the taking.

In this new era of human-focused design, if you lose the battle of engagement and fun, you lose the hearts and minds of your customers to other companies that are dedicated to getting it right.

related posts