#FAILFriday: Could Flappy Bird’s Fail Influence Gamification?

By: Austin Jensen

I had a plan to write this last week, but I noticed that not enough dirt had been dug up on this issue yet.  Most of you probably know by now that the popular mobile game, Flappy Birds, has been taken off of the app shelves.  Flappy Birds is a very challenging game that had people hooked right from the start.  It seems simple too, all you have to do is navigate a bird through a series of pipes.  The first time I had heard of the game was 3 weeks ago.  I looked over at my friend who seemed to be getting flustered by something that he was doing on his smartphone.  I thought to myself that this cannot possibly be that difficult, then I tried it.  After 10 minutes of playing the game I found myself equally as frustrated as my friend, yet I still could not put the game down.  You are probably asking, “How in the world does Flappy Bird relate to the world of marketing?”


It is an interesting concept to think about for me as a marketer.  I was recently at a conference in Des Moines, and one of the speakers had a presentation on a concept called “Gamification.” Gamification is using game techniques in non-game situations, and it has become incredibly popular among marketers.  One example is when you fill out your Facebook profile.  Facebook will continuously ask you to finish your profile by filling it out with movies, books, etc.  Facebook will tell you that you are so close to completing your profile.  People love to complete things just like in the gaming world, nobody wants to fall short.  That is a very simple example of gamification.   Another example that is gaining popularity is giving out badges or rewards for getting to certain stages.  I experienced this first hand at Old Chicago the restaurant.  They offer the World Beer Tour to customers.  It is a great way to get people through the door, the more beers that you try the more prizes you can win in hopes of someday making it to the “Wall of Foam!”


I think that a game like Flappy Birds can teach marketers a lot about the world of gamification. People love a challenge, and this is something that organizations can start working into their marketing campaigns.  Proper use of gamification can add a lot of interaction among your audience.  At the conference we learned that it is important to find that fine line between challenge and achievability.   However, Flappy Bird brings up the question of how much challenge is acceptable.  The challenge of Flappy Bird kept people trying, and kept them engaged to constantly keep achieving higher scores.


For all of you hoping to go out and download the Flappy Bird app, you no longer will be able to.  For those of you who really want to try the game, you can purchase a smartphone from Ebay that already has the app downloaded for a high price.  The creator of Flappy Birds was pulling in around $50,000 per day from advertisements on his app.  So why did he pull it off the shelves?  Some say that he seriously couldn’t handle the pressure compared to the “simple life” that he was used to living.  Others will say that it is a marketing move.  They believe that the game will be pulled for awhile only to be reborn and climb back to the #1 spot in the app store.

Nobody knows for sure why it was pulled, but I think there is a great lesson to be learned here for marketers of every organization.  Marketers should try to challenge their audience to keep them interacting with their brand.  Gamification is catching on in a big way all around the world.  It is easy to incorporate as a marketer, but difficult to find that perfect sweet spot that will keep your audience coming back and engaging with your brand.

So for all of your marketers out there, try and think back into your younger days when you used to play video games.  What was it about those games that drew you in?  Was it the thrill of the challenge?  Was it the feeling of success from beating a level?  What were the obstacles that needed to be beat?  All of these questions can help your organization incorporate gamification strategies into your marketing efforts.  Take a page out of the book from airlines who use loyalty programs for attaining a certain number of miles flown.  The possibilities are endless as this is a concept that is has just recently started to gain some momentum.  One tip though is to not shut down your successful strategy once you have started, because you could end up like Flappy Birds.

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