Don't expect loyalty when you can't provide honesty.When you think you need a loyalty program, you are already in troubles. How else would you call bribing somebody into buying your product by giving out points to get free stuff? The companies with the most ardent fans do not even have a loyalty program. Think of Apple, Red Bull, Harley Davidson, GoPro or any sports team. Some of their fans are so loyal, they tattoo the company’s logo on their body to be a walking commercial for their favorite brand. These fans even go through the worst experiences with them, and that for a long time when their favorite sports teams is disappointing over and over again. They don’t have to get free things for their loyalty. It’s actually quite the opposite. The fans are willing to pay premium prices just to be part.

Here is the paradox: even though the fans pay premium prices, they talk about it and make free advertising for these companies. In a regular loyalty program I wouldn’t tell others. Because when there are scarce resources (such as an airline seat or a free mug), the thing I need least is more people competing for those freebies. And it’s not only the scarcity of freebies. If you collect points or miles, then you can redeem them for free products or services. Or you can try. Just try to get an upgrade or a flight ticket to a destination “purchased" with your earned miles. Or think about the way they make you jump through hoops to redeem them. And then companies keep changing their policies. In the end this does not create loyalty, just an annoying dependence. And as soon as there is a better offer somewhere else, I jump ship. I am not going through tough times with you.

Companies with such bribe-schemes focus too much on themselves. As Sebastian Deterding has explained, the messages that companies convey in those programs look like this:

  1. The company is great!
  2. The company’s products are great!
  3. I am doing great things with the company’s products!


SAP Short StoriesExplaining what a business software company like SAP is doing is an uphill battle. Many of my colleagues had a hard time to tell their family and friends, that working for SAP is actually a real job. Back in the 1990s you could even find a book "SAP: the secect software power," where the author brought this cumbersome topic to a broader audience and why people should know about it. I still remember my first career fairs in the early 2000s at the Stanford campus, where most attendees asked me what startup SAP is (back then we had already 30,000 employees).

Though SAP is nowadays a way more well known global brand (#25 by Interbrand in 2012), the population outside this field still struggles with what SAP really does. That's what my colleagues around Julie Barrier try to approach with innovative gamification. They use narratives (one of the game mechanics) to simplify how SAP communicates about SAP. They came up with a storybook, that is telling in an entertaining and enjoyable way through a mix of short stories, questions, and lovable characters, the story of SAP.


Paul the OctopusWie stellt man sein neues Produkt ins Rampenlicht, ohne dabei in langweilige Verkaufsreden zu verfallen? Indem man ein Spiel erstellt, bei dem man das Produkt gar nicht erst zeigt. Man versteckt es, spricht nicht darüber, lenkt den Kunden sogar davon ab. Das klingt irgendwie merkwürdig?

Not talking about SAPs new analytics platform is what SAP Marketing did to demonstrate the capabilities it. The mobile application Paul the Octopus (available on the iTunes-store), named after the famous octopus from Sea Life Center in Germany that predicted with 100% accuracy the outcome of the soccer world cup games, engages users by asking the to predict which team in the UEFA Champions League will win the upcoming matches. Thanks to the wisdom of the crowd, the prediction of the winning teams may be as accurate as well. Beside that, trivia quizzes and games played against your friends are part of the app as well.