Kindness is the killer app

By Peter Ballard @Ballyfool

I can’t take credit for the deep fried slice of philosophical gold that is the title of this blog, it came from Vincent Sider, a Strategy Specialist for BT, at consultancy's recent Future of Digital Marketing 2010 event.

Vincent talked about gaming mechanics, and how they are being applied successfully to the design of online experiences outside of games, and how this has wider implications for marketers in the future. If you’re a member of Econsultancy you should definitely check out his presentation.

You only have to look at the annoying frequency of Farmville and Mafia wars updates on your Facebook feed to know that Vincent is on to something.

Gaming behaviour encourages and rewards discovery and learning. It inspires social interaction, and actively encourages the collection and sharing of rewards. All of these things are deeply rooted in human nature. Gaming is a way of meeting these primal needs in a virtual world.

As human beings we are basically pre-programmed to be nice. We give gifts, and expect to receive gifts back. Reciprocity is a fundamental part of being a human. Because so much of our interaction with other humans has moved onto a virtual basis, acts of kindness are an important part of the interaction we have online.

And games are big business, Zynga who own 6 of the top 10 games on Facebook, is expected to make $450m in revenue this year, and the total market for selling ‘virtual’ goods to game players is estimated at $1.6 billion!!!

But can it extend beyond games? Will brands learn to be more sophisticated in their understanding of how gaming mechanics and the importance of acts of kindness can influence our behaviour?

In a world where customer attention is a scarce and valuable commodity, smarter brands will find ways to offer new ways to collect rewards and loyalty points. These will increasingly be linked to acts of kindness. Whether it is using points to make donations to charities, earning gifts for friends, or sharing points with others to earn group rewards, our instincts for engaging in acts of kindness will be cleverly exploited.

And we won’t just be rewarded for buying stuff. We will increasingly be rewarded with these tokens of kindness for spending our precious time engaging with sales and educational content, writing reviews, rating products and sharing recommendations with our friends.

So get ready to become a millionaire in kindness.

Peter Ballard

I co-founded Foolproof with Tom Wood back in 2002. Today I work across a range of clients, particularly in the roles of Experience Planner and Client Partner. In my role as Experience Planner, I ensure that our design teams have access to the right insight to respond appropriately to the business and creative challenges faced by our clients.

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