What Candy Crush Can Teach Associations About Increasing Member Engagement

Many of you are probably familiar with the popular Facebook and PC game, Candy Crush. In fact, since the game gets an average of 45 million people playing it per month and has earned its creators approximately $230 million, there’s a good chance you’ve played it or you’re playing it right now! 

We are very pleased to have a guest blogger sharing his thoughts today on gamification. Jack McGrath is president and creative director of Digitec Interactive. For the last 20 years, he has worked exclusively in digital media, specializing in eLearning. 

So what makes this game so sticky? And what can associations learn from this type of experience that can help us increase member engagement? 

1. Unpredictability: We’ve been hearing for years how important consistent branding is. So, it’s ironic that one of the most addictive features of game play is its unpredictability. In great games, we continue playing just to find out what will happen next, even if it’s just a silly animation when we complete a level.  So why is this so addictive?

Many of us remember B.F. Skinner – the behaviorist who came up with the concept of using reinforcement to condition a behavior. He found that positive reinforcement, like giving someone praise when they complete a task, makes that behavior more likely to be repeated. But Skinner also found that intermittent (unpredictable) reinforcement is an even stronger way to condition a behavior.

So how can you use unpredictability to make your members return to your website more often? You don’t need to go as far as creating random Candy Crush animations, but think of ways within your site or your transactions where you can inject an element of surprise and a bit of unpredictability. Make sure it’s still a positive experience!

2. Competition: Let’s face it, when players compete in a Facebook game, the fun is in beating your friends. Competition is innate and definitely increases engagement and fuels the appeal. So, consider ways to create a points system that would create competition amongst members. Allow members to see how they rate compared to their peers.  Perhaps you could create a competition at your next annual meeting to engage members and encourage participation. Use scoreboards and leaderboards to keep your members engaged and coming back for more.

3. Redemption: You may have noticed that many retailers have created redemption programs that use points, as well as unpredictability to increase participation and excitement. If you have a redemption card, for example, you might notice that a random transaction at a Panera Bread restaurant just might result in a free scone. That’s a nice surprise that keep many patrons coming back. Smart retailers are not only using points, but also unpredictability.

So, what can your association learn from Candy Crush and other “sticky” favorites to increase member engagement and retention?

More About the Author: Jack McGrath has been an instructional designer, producer and multimedia developer for eLearning titles for organizations that include The Walt Disney CompanyCisco SystemsGenentech, and P&G, among others. He is currently designing eLearning and mobile applications that use simulations and single and multi-player game-based learning techniques to better engage the “game-based” generation. Jack is also the creator of Digitec Interactive’s Learning Management System, Knowledge Direct