Gamification isn't a new idea; it's just a new term. McDonald's has run its Monopoly game every year since 1987, and its success is evident in the company's profits. Some customers have visited McDonald's restaurants every day in search of much-needed tokens. Before 2010, however, few other businesses followed McDonald's lead. These days, gamification is very much in vogue.

Marketers are always looking for ways to better engage customers. Gamification can be a powerful tool for this purpose because it harnesses consumers' innate desires to master, overcome, and compete. There's a fine line between "fun" and "gimmicky" when it comes to gamifying, but with the right strategy in place, your brand could reap huge rewards.

Gamification in the Travel Industry

Businesses in the travel industry are already making waves with gamification. Part of this success stems from the fact that many of today's travelers have been participating for decades in these games, presented as loyalty and reward programs.

Take JetBlue's TrueBlue Badges. The company implemented this scheme in 2013 to modernize its loyalty and rewards programs. Hopping on the popularity of digital badges as beacons of achievement, JetBlue incentivizes loyalty by making it easy for customers to unlock accomplishments and to compete with friends and other customers worldwide. According to Comarch, more than 100,000 people have participated in the program, with more than 560,000 badges awarded.

Is Gamification Right for Your Brand?

Travelers are already in that relaxed and adventurous mindset, so it's easier for airlines and hotel chains to employ gamification, but other industries can benefit, too.

Athletic apparel maker Nike has seen huge success with its Nike+ products that have users log fitness data to gain points, and this success is driving product sales. Back in 2011, when membership jumped by 40 percent, the company's running department saw profits rise by 30 percent, and the scheme now has more than 18 million users, each with access to 30 million running songs.

Before gamifying, ask yourself a few strategic questions to ensure that the goals of the campaign, the problems being solved, and the audiences' preferences are all correctly aligned.

Getting Gamification Right

The most important questions are centered on your customers: Are they open to participating, and if so, will they enjoy the game's payout? Here are three tips to ensure consumer enjoyment and increased brand awareness:

1. Focus on the Game, Not the Rewards

Earlier this year, Gravity partnered with the Singapore Tourism Board to create an interactive and educational game. The grand prize was a free trip to Singapore, but we found that when we structured our messaging around the game itself, rather than the prize, users were more likely to sign up and complete the game.

Your prizes might be great, but if the game isn't engaging, then people will just shrug their shoulders, say the odds are against them, and decline to participate.

2. Use Unlockable Content

Computer games have levels for a reason: People love to feel that they have achieved something. Use unlockable content, mini challenges, and global stats to offer that feeling. To boost the hype for your promotion, release new challenges every week.

3. Get Social Celebrities Involved

Users are more aware than ever that their favorite social celebrities are being paid to advertise. With this in mind, pit your social influencers against one another. Have them prompt followers to "join them" in competition against other influencers in amassing the most engagement with your brand.

If you have them post videos and images tagged with the social influencer's unique hashtag, be sure to create a hub so everybody can track the teams' progress. The prize for the winners could even be a meet-and-greet with their beloved social celeb.

People love to have fun, compete, and play games; why shouldn't your brand get in on the action?

This article was co-written by Angel Merz, account manager at Gravity Media.