Would you drive more slowly to win a prize?

Car speeding

What if you could win a prize for safe driving? Would it encourage you to drive more slowly? The answer, an experiment in Sweden found, is yes.

The system uses a camera that takes a picture of every vehicle driving by. If the car is going too fast, the driver receives a speeding ticket. If the car is going at or below the speed limit, the driver is entered into a lottery to win part of the fines from the speeding drivers.

The experiment reduced the average speed of cars driving through a school zone from 32 km per hour to 25 km per hour, according to an article in Drive.

I first heard about this experiment on NPR’s Weekend Edition. Host Liane Hansen was talking with Gabe Zichermann, co-author of the book Game-Based Marketing and chairman of the Gamification Summit.

The Swedish experiment used rewards to change behavior. “And that positive incentive to create better behavior,” Zichermann says, “is a core tenet of games.”

He uses a model called SAPS to describe user rewards. SAPS stands for status, access, power and stuff. “It turns out,” he says, “that cash isn’t that good of a reward. Status is a fantastic motivator for getting people to do stuff.”

Status, access, power and stuff are “what customers really want, in that order,” Zichermann said in his blog. “And this list is also prioritized by ‘most sticky’ and ‘cheapest to fulfill.’”

STATUS. More companies are using gaming principles to increase customer loyalty. They reward their customers with points and badges for sharing brand information and experiences with their friends, according to an article in SF Gate. Status comes from being first on the block.

Another example: Sales staff earn badges for completing training programs, with the potential for an increased commission. The badges are visible to the entire company.

ACCESS. People get a chance to interact in a special or private way with your company or service, such as dinner with the CEO, elected official or celebrity. Or they could get access to new information or hot deals sooner than others.

POWER. People get to be a moderator of your forum, where they control content. Since I’m not a gamer, this seems a bit fuzzy to me. But you gamers out there will understand it better.

STUFF. People earn points for making positive lifestyle changes. Points translate into dollars or merchandise. I’ve seen this in my own life. My health insurance company offered a gift certificate for completing an on-line health assessment. A previous employer provided store coupons as a reward for commuting via bicycle.

There are problems with using stuff for rewards, Zichermann says. They’re expensive for you to provide. They can turn users off. If they’re not big enough, they won’t motivate people to act.

How could you use games and SAPS to encourage people to adopt green behaviors?

Ed. note: In honor of my 10th anniversary in business, I am updating and reposting some of the posts from my (now-defunct) Sage Enviro blog to make it easier for people to find them.