Gamification is more manipulative, as advertising is persuasive.
What makes it more sensitive most of the time is the hidden motive that the consumers are unaware of. That makes it questionable and unethical in a sense. Because of the falsity in content, Gamification of a product or service makes it less authentic and transparent, thereby causing unethical interaction with the consumer. Organizations try to undermine a consumer’s dominant values and traditions of society by covertly persuading them to make a purchase. Gamification aims to get consumers to buy in, whereas advertisement aims to persuade.
Gamification could lose its purpose when the objective does not serve its intended use for the consumer. If the consumers’ sole aim in the gamification environment is to accumulate rewards, points, leaderboards, and badges; they lose focus on the main reason they are undertaking that action. They lose the plot and question their ethical response on why they are partaking in the scheme. According to research, consumers who partake in a gamified environment should be given the liberty to understand the reason for the game (Tae, 2015).
The offering of Mobile apps aimed at pre-teen demography is ideal because they are technology savvy and employing a gamified marketing strategy to reward this designated demographic is suitable whenever they make a healthy food purchase, but the worrisome part for me is when they are playing on the psychological (innocence or naivety) of this age group of consumers. Though the app aimed at tweens to reward them for a healthy choice of meals they purchase (which is a brilliant ethical initiative), the question remains is the organization been manipulative, trustworthy, sincere, and open about their marketing to their end-users (tweens)? Is the target audience matured enough to understand why this gamified marketing is employed specifically for them? Would they (target audience) understand the plot of a gamified mobile app without losing the plot of the intended purpose of the gamified app rather than becoming obsessed with acquiring rewards and points? Organizations must be ready to recognize the core value of ethical judgment and how their decisions can impact their customers or consumers. They must be ready to understand the loss and gains of each stakeholder when it comes to decisions. Their decision must be reliant and satisfy the highest number of stakeholders. Integrity’s core values of trustworthiness (being honest), respect, responsibility, fairness, care, and citizenship are qualities any organization must imbibe when marketing a product or service to a consumer. This approach helps to clarify various concerns and areas for stakeholders and helps create awareness on the part of decision-makers in making appropriate ethical decisions (UMGC, n.d.).
Though no specific clear-cut code exists for Gamification, we do have ethical norms and values for AMA state of ethics that might apply to this Marketing situation. Because we are aware to a certain extent, the app is in a gamified environment (at times, it tends to be manipulative and coercive). The intended targeted audience, tweens (they tend to be naïve and vulnerable targets) can be classified within the vulnerable market segment (including seniors, the economically impoverished, market illiterates, and others who may be substantially disadvantaged). These are points from ethic codes that can be used or applied to control the abuse or manipulating disadvantaged groups, which applies to tween (10-13 years). Children are prone to accept and copy whatever they see in the media, do not have the mental capacity to make better choices at this age of their lives, its better this policy is used to safeguard them from being manipulated (ama, n.d).
Pending when Gamification would be included in the ethical code of conduct, they can use principles found in the code to check and balance marketers, advertisers, or businesses not to abuse this marketing tool.
Consumers should be given an option to opt for the gamified environment (Solemn Time) and it gives them the intended knowledge of what the game is all about and the benefit of opting out if they dislike the game. These can curb the underline purpose of the game and enable the abuse of it (Tae, 2015).
American Marketing Association. (n.d.). Codes of Conduct | AMA Statement of Ethics. https://www.ama.org/codes-of-conduct/.
Kim, T. W. (2015, April 18). Gamification Ethics: Exploitation and Manipulation.
UMGC. (n.d.). An Ethical Decision Model. https://learn.umgc.edu/d2l/le/content/583967/viewContent/22052797/View.