This post was written by Contributing Writer Erik van Mechelen after Octalysis community member, Ivan Lee, notified Yu-kai about the story.
An over-performing Kickstarter campaign
What is Bears vs Babies? It’s a game. It was created by the same people who made Exploding Kittens: Elan Lee (XBox, ARGs) and Matthew Inman (The Oatmeal). The game takes a few minutes to learn, it’s kid-friendly, and each round takes about 20 minutes to play.
Elan and Matthew absolutely crushed their goal of raising $10,000 (they’ve raised over $2.3 million from over 61,000 backers).
This is usually the moment when Kickstarter owners add new stuff to their campaigns, sometimes pulling the focus away from what backers cared about at the beginning–funding the campaign of a capable team to get a product or service.
But Elan and Matthew decided to do something different.
They sent an email to all backers after quickly surpassing their goal by 10,000%.
The subject line read: STOP GIVING US YOUR MONEY. (More on this later.)
In this article, I’ll break down this successfully backed campaign (still with 9 days to go!) from the time they sent an email asking people to stop giving them money. (Spoiler: people kept giving them money.)
As always, we’ll look at this case study from the Octalysis perspective with a baseline understanding of the 8 Core Drives of human motivation.
Gamification is about understanding human motivation and engagement, and therefore a big part of it is psychological and behavioral studies. So on top of the countless tiring hours of playing games to…understand why they are fun, I read the book Titled Yes!: 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive by Robert Cialdini (an expert in many Black Hat Core Drives in my Octalysis Framework) to understand subtle human drives better. I thought it was one of the better books out there written on the topic, so this month I dug it out again and decided to review it another time.
Since my blog is primarily about sharing the knowledge I acquire, I have decided to share a chapter-by-chapter takeaway of the book. Below I have tried to summarize the point of each chapter into 1-3 sentences. It mostly covers the end conclusion, but does not include as much support/examples to necessarily be convincing to you. If you want to dig deeper into the data of the points below, I encourage you to check out the book yourself. I also attached at the end of each chapter the primary Core Drive that it appeals to in Octalysis.
Chapter 1: Inconveniencing people can improve your results. This is because people perceive your demand as higher when they have to work harder to work with you. Sometimes “perceived inconvenience” requires no change on the actual interaction but is useful. “Call now. Operators are waiting.” is WAY less effective than, “If operators are busy, please try again.” (Core Drives 6)
Chapter 2: Mention how other people that are SIMILAR made the choice that you are pushing. “Customers who stayed at this room generally are neater.” “Oh! Many of our best customers go to Cornell!” (Core Drive 1)
Chapter 3: Don’t push for “others behave badly. You should be special and do better.” Usually that makes people feel like doing badly is the norm, and makes them want to do bad too. “80% of the people litter. You should take care of your planet” = bad. (Core Drive 5)
Chapter 4: Make the “magnetic middle” very high and obvious. Attach emotional messages like smiley faces when people are doing well and above the average. (Core Drive 2)
Chapter 5: Providing less choices to your customers can 10x your sales conversions. Avoid decision paralysis. The exception is when customers 1. Enjoy the picking experience (shopping for ice-cream) or 2. Already know what they want and are just looking for places that have it. (Core Drive 8)
Chapter 6: If you are giving away something for free, ALWAYS state the actual value to avoid it being devalued. (Core Drive 4)
Chapter 7: Having a superior, more expensive product will help sales of the original, lower quality product. Make sure you always want the one you plan to sell as the middle-ground. (Core Drive 4)
Chapter 8: A message of fear is very effective , but ONLY when there’s a clear call to action attached. Fear itself causes people to block it out because they are uncomfortable. (Core Drive 8)
Chapter 9: Doing favors that have no direct benefit make people feel obliged to reciprocate later on. This is like how Zappos does business, as well as Gary Vaynerchuk’s Thank-You Economy. (Core Drive 5)
Chapter 10: If you put a post-it note on your messages, letters, surveys, you will yield MUCH better and faster results. Of course, this is most effective when it has your handwriting, signature, and “Thank you,” but surprisingly, just having a post-it note without anything on it is still more effective than a piece of paper with typed “thank you” messages attached. Use post-it notes when you want people to respond positively! (Core Drive 7)
Taiwan is my home country and as I became more knowledgeable in gamification, I continue to be more impressed with the level of gamification that is implemented in its society and culture (without these innovations ever really being called gamification). One of the things I have been most impressed with is how the Taiwanese government uses gamification (specifically Rolling Rewards) to ensure tax compliance.
Tax evasion is very common in most countries, where businesses prefer to take cash over credit cards so they could report less on their earnings. Most countries use the penalizing Core Drive 8: Loss & Avoidance by cracking down and punishing companies that evade taxes when they are caught, but besides a chronic lack of complete enforcement, it is also extremely costly to investigate all the businesses that are suspected of tax evasion.
Introducing Core Drive 7 into Taiwan’s gamified tax collection process
As early as 1951, the Taiwanese government has sought to resolve this problem by doing two things. First, it unified all receipt and invoicing systems into a central system, which means that all businesses that give out a receipt would have the unique receipt number and amount sent to the government for tax reporting.
But the second step is where we see true innovation. The Taiwanese government turned each receipt and invoice number into a lottery ticket for citizens to play. For every odd-numbered month, citizens can see if their receipt numbers match the winning prize, with the first place winning the equivalent of $62,000 (about 5 years worth of salary for an average new college graduate), second place $6,200, and scaling all the way down to $7 wins.
Because of this “Uniform Invoice Lottery” system, consumers are now demanding receipts and invoices from businesses, preventing the businesses from evading taxes by exchanging cash under the table. Not only that, consumers are likely to be willing to spend more since every time they make a purchase they can become a winner, boosting the economy in the process.
Even my grandmother has won many of the small $7 and $31 wins over the past two decades, just by doing what she already does – buy groceries, food, and gas.
As a result of the Uniform Invoice Lottery, the Finance Ministry collected 75% more in tax revenue in 1951 compared to 1950. Great ROI, especially for government efforts.
This has been so successful that the government added much higher prizes after that, topping at over $300,000 prize money, or the equivalent of over 25 years of salary.
In 2006, the Taiwanese government even started to transition these unified invoices into e-invoices, reducing the involved processing costs by $250 million and saving 80,000 trees every year.
We should see more of our governments implementing innovative solutions by motivating and engaging its constituency instead of just clamping down harder or making punishments for infractions more severe.
Left Brain vs Right Brain Core Drives, and how they related to Extrinsic vs Intrinsic Motivation
There is a lot of literature out there on Extrinsic vs Intrinsic Motivation. Most people talk about how Intrinsic Motivation is better, but is that always the case? And even so, how to design for more intrinsic motivation?
How Extrinsic Rewards can KILL Intrinsic Motivation
Most companies like to use Extrinsic Motivation in their motivation design, mostly because it is much easier to put a reward on a behavior you want, as opposed to making it fun. However, the consequences can be detrimental in creating longterm motivation!
One of the most popular debates and criticisms in the gamification industry is what is considered gamification and how it relates to Serious Games and Advergames.
For those who are unfamiliar with these terms, Wikipedia defines serious games as, “a game designed for a primary purpose other than pure entertainment.” In other words, games that are generally built for a productive purpose, such as training, education, healthcare, and the like (Hence, the term “serious”).
BusinessDictionary.com defines advergames as, “A video game which in some way contains an advertisement for a product, service, or company.” These are games that basically act as interactive advertisement campaigns which draw potential customers onto a website or into a business. When I refer to “shoot-the-duck banner ads” as early and embarrassing forms of marketing gamification, those banner ads are technically classified as Advergames.
As you can see, both definitions have the word “a game” in them, which seems to go against the core essence of what “gamifying” something means. In my own writings, I talk about how you can gamify anything that involves human motivation, as long as it is not already a game, just like how you can’t liquefy liquid. You can however, apply better game design to games.
So because advergames and serious games are “games,” by that standard you can’t really gamify them. Right?
The Semantics of Gamification vs. The Value of Gamification
In early 2014, I was invited to the global conglomerate *Huawei* in Shenzhen, China to do a few workshops on gamification. During this trip, I had an assigned tour guide that took me to the beautiful Tea Stream Valley for a full day trip. (You can see much of this trip, including my camel ride and a jaw-dropping lion dance performance, in my video series – The Beginner’s Guide to Gamification). Between all that excitement, the educational part of my trip came towards the end.
As I was leaving Tea Stream Valley, I saw people soliciting for pencil drawn portraits. My tour guide was using the restroom, so I decided to check them out and if they were any good – that’s the power of Core Drive 7: Curiosity. They saw me approach and asked if I wanted a portrait which I politely turned down.
I was about to leave, when I saw another artist drawing a portrait based on an iPhone photo for another customer. I asked (in Mandarin of course), “Oh, so if I give you a mobile photo, you can draw it too?” He responded, “Of course! Do you want one?”
I decided that this would be a great way for me to bring something back for my wife to show that I was thinking about her during my long trip away from home. Instead of just buying something expensive on the shelf at an airport, a hand-drawn portrait of her would be more personal and more endearing. It would show her that I actually spent time to have something unique and custom-made for her.
I asked the artist, “So how much for one?” He told me it was about the equivalent of $50 USD. I thought, “Wow, that’s extremely expensive, even by U.S. standards.” Instead of negotiating with him, which I generally dislike doing because it requires too much emotional energy, I decided to use the walk-away tactic in Core Drive 6: Scarcity & Impatience.
“Sorry, that’s way too expensive for me.” As I started walking away, he rushed to say, “What if I could do it for $35?” I felt happy that my scarcity tactic was working, but $35 was still too expensive so I said, “Naw, like I said, it’s way too much.” Of course, I wasn’t bluffing. I truly did not intend to buy anything at that point.
He then said, “Okay…I can do it for $25. Since the day’s about to end, I’ll just do you a favor and wrap up with this one.” At this point, even though it still wasn’t very cheap (for comparison, a 90-minute massage in Shenzhen was only $25), I thought I haggled well by cutting his original asking price down by 50% – feeling a sense of Core Drive 2. He also just used a Core Drive 5: Social Influence & Relatedness tactic of “I like you, so I’ll do you a favor,” so I thought I might as well agree to do it. I’m on a fun trip anyway.
After working for twenty minutes, he was almost done with the portrait. It was alright. It wasn’t great but you could tell that it looked like my wife.(That was my main goal – I didn’t want her thinking that I was having another woman drawn!)
As he was wrapping up, he asked, “Would you like to add a transparent protective layer to the drawing? It will protect the pencil lead from being smudged.” I said, “Sure, sounds good!” He gave me a concerned look and said, “It’s going to cost more though.” Slightly surprised, I asked, “How much more?” He told me nonchalantly that for the protective layer, it was going to cost me $15 extra.
I then realized his sneaky tactic and felt fairly annoyed. I responded in an emotionally disturbed tone, “Then forget about it. I’m not going to pay $15 just for that layer.”
Then, with a very concerned and considerate facial expression, he explained, “But if you don’t add the protective layer, the pencil lead will definitely smudge in your luggage bag and ruin the whole drawing. Look how easily the pencil lead falls off.” He then proceeded to use his thumb to rub a corner of the portrait, and indeed a layer of graphite came off onto his thumb. “It would be such a shame if this nice drawing got destroyed!”
Obviously designing for Extrinsic Motivation is not all negative. Besides enhancing a person’s focus on completing monotonous routine tasks, it also generates initial interest and desire for the activity.
Often, without there being extrinsic motivation during the Discovery Phase (before people first try out the experience), people do not find a compelling reason to engage with the experience in the first place. Promoting, “You will get a $100 gift card if you sign-up,” usually sounds more appealing than “You will utilize your creativity and be in a fun state of unpredictability with your friends!” (Though both actually utilize Core Drive 6: Scarcity & Impatience.)
When people consider themselves “too busy,” they won’t justify spending time to try out your experience. But when you offer them an extrinsic reward to try out the experience, they will at least test it out, assuming of course that the reward is not an insult to the value of the user’s time investment.
Rewarding users $2 for trying a new search engine for an entire month is pretty weak, while paying people $3 to spend weeks going to stores, taking pictures, and sharing them with their friends is also a path to failure. It is better to not give them a reward at all!
And of course, as we have seen earlier, if people continuously justify doing something for high extrinsic rewards, their intrinsic motivation dwindles as the Overjustification Effect settles in.
Therefore, as Michael Wu of Lithium points out, it is better to attract people into an experience using Extrinsic Rewards (gift cards, money, merchandise, discounts), then transition their interest through Intrinsic Rewards (recognition, status, access), and finally use Intrinsic Motivation to ensure their long term engagement. Through this process, users will start to enjoy the activity so much that they will focus on relishing the experience itself without thinking about what can be gained from the experience.