Marketing Mobile to Emotions

Keith Caswell
Wednesday, Oct 12, 2011 at 10:00 AM

It’s no secret that people love their mobile devices. For example, a 2010 survey by the Pew Research Center revealed that a majority of adults sleep with their phones on or next to their bed. A whopping 90% of those respondents within the ages of 18 to 29 called their phone a bed partner during slumber. But what is it exactly that creates such a strong emotional connection with an inanimate piece of electronics?

An emerging theory could be the advent of gamification. After crunching the numbers, we found that 61% of mobile phone users’ primary activity on their phone was playing games—a higher percentage than any other activity on the list, including watching videos, listening to music, and even social networking. Some U.S. employees—as many as 50%—have reported dodging their companies’ social media policies in order to play Farmville.

Farmville image

Gamification, the use of gaming techniques and mechanics, has been adding the fun of communal discovery and rewards systems to mobile phones since the smartphone was invented. Think Foursquare’s earned badges or the to-do list app Epic Win, which allows you to gain “XP” points and “level up” for just going about your daily chores. These also call to mind the ad campaign by VW, titled The Fun Theory, which posits that simply making something fun to do could change people’s behavior for the better; (watch the video below to see how bottle bank arcade turned recycling into a game). A recent episode of WNYC’s Radiolab podcast explored what it is about games that “make you feel, at least for a little while, like your whole life hangs in the balance.” No matter how you slice it, though, games have the ability to create some very powerful emotional connections, ones that we don’t easily forget.

Even our very own Microsoft Tag has been known to get its game on from time to time. We’ve already told you about quite a few scavenger hunts that Tag has been a part of in the past. Earlier this year, Tag also dribbled its way into March Madness with an app called Mobile Hoopla. The app allows users to fill out their bracket picks by scanning Tags found in USA Today, as well as compete to win prizes. The app marries people’s excitement and love of sports with a communal sensibility and a competitive edge: everything people love about a great game.

badge mobile hoopla image

So then what exactly is it about mobile phones that make people love them so much? Do all the electronic components simply combine to form something lovable? Or is it the apps that get us? Or ultimately the games? The bottom line is that mobile phones bring us closer to each other and the world. We get our news on them, we have fun playing games on them, we talk to loved ones and can even see their faces while we chat. Phones become deeply personal objects, and—put simply—they make our lives easier and better.

What’s not to love?

Got any more ideas for ways that games can improve the mobile experience? Or maybe you just want to express your undying devotion to your mobile phone? That’s cool, too. Do it below in the comments or on Facebook or Twitter!


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