PurposeThe purpose of this paper is to research the role of stakeholder motivation in the context of gamification. The authors suggest, that a player’s motivation, is a key determinant of psychological engagement and subsequently, behavioral engagement. To examine stakeholder engagement through gamification, the authors propose a research model that links gamer types, i.e. a gamer’s motivation, with engagement and potential effects beyond the gamified content.Design/methodology/approachOnline survey with 90 active users of a gamified application, followed by a multiple regression analysis.FindingsThe findings of the study suggest that a gamer’s typology, i.e. her underlying motivation, positively influences psychological stakeholder engagement toward gamified content and indirectly behavioral stakeholder engagement toward the communication instrument (i.e. the app) itself. The findings suggest that particularly gamified content that targets a person’s need toward achievement is a key driver of behavioral engagement toward an application. Thus, gamer types seem to be a good predictor for engagement on the part of stakeholders.Research limitations/implicationsThis research provides first empirical evidence about the effectiveness of gamification of mobile service apps and the critical role of stakeholder engagement. However, several limitations have to be noted: first, the study was conducted with only a single mobile app which targets only a specific audience and which only conveys specific types of gamified content. Second, given the small sample size and sampling approach the findings should be interpreted with care in respect to its reliability, validity and robustness. Third, as only a fraction of the variance of behavioral engagement was explained by the research, future studies should investigate additional variables that drive app usage (e.g. perceived informational value).Practical implicationsWhen talking about the role of dialogue in the process of establishing good and lasting relations between an organization and its stakeholders, the non-rational (e.g. emotions) forces of engagement are often disregarded. The human drive to play can be a powerful door opener in that process. The paper suggests that engaging in stakeholder relations through gamification might be as effective as the standard way of dialogue and two-way-symmetrical communication. Especially potential stakeholders who lack the interest and motivation for information seeking, can be attracted to the organization in such a manner.Social implicationsMany studies that focus on engagement in the digital realm look to Twitter, Facebook, etc. in order to study company-stakeholder relationships. Thereby, the importance of many other digital media, especially games, is neglected. However, within gamified apps, small social networks form, which are driven by other forces (such as play), than in the aforementioned.Originality/valueThe present study contributes to research in the area of stakeholder engagement in the following way: even though engagement is widely believed to play a vital role in the process of building stakeholder relationships, research in the field of PR focuses mainly on the behavioral aspect of engagement. The results suggest to pay more attention to psychological antecedents in order to understand what drives engagement.
Journal of Communication Management – Emerald Publishing
Published: Feb 5, 2018