Games that get things done in real life

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Games that get things done in real life

Three months ago, Starbucks Korea held an environmental campaign at Seoul Plaza, offering tumblers and flower pots made of plastic cups to 5,000 citizens in order to raise public awareness on environmental issues. At Starbucks, customers are also offered to use a coffee mug, instead of a paper or plastic cup, if they are staying inside the cafe. It is one of Starbucks’ policies to ask for the customer’s preference, allowing Starbucks Korea to exercise corporate social responsibility in bettering the environment.

Starbucks Korea has engaged in corporate social responsibility and raised awareness about environmental issues in the past. However, even with such campaigns and policies, the majority of people do not seem to be following their lead. People prefer using paper and plastic cups because they can take their coffee with them when they leave the cafe. Could there also be any psychological reasons behind their behavior?

Motivation is one of the factors that guide the behavior of people. According to Kendra Cherry, a psychology expert and author of “The Everything Psychology Book,” motivation is what causes us to take action, whether it’s grabbing a snack to reduce hunger or enrolling in college to earn a degree. Maybe lack of motivation is one of the reasons why people refuse to use coffee mugs. Would making them motivated to use a coffee mug for certain rewards or goals encourage them to use mugs instead of paper and plastic cups?

There is a theory many companies use as their marketing strategy to engage more people to take certain actions in order to create more profits for the company. It’s called gamification theory, and its premise is to engage people in reward-seeking behaviors that lead to increased brand loyalty, not to mention increased profits. For example, Samsung uses gamification theory as one of their marketing strategies, giving awards and prizes to consumers if they write reviews of their products.

If Starbucks applies gamification to its policy of offering customers the option of using coffee mugs, they would actually be motivated to use the mugs, thus contributing to the environment. For example, providing a small incentive, such as giving extra whipped cream or a piece of chocolate to customers who choose to use coffee mugs, would motivate people to use mugs. Starbucks Korea will be able to exercise social corporate responsibility and contribute to the betterment of the environment.

In Korea, the government encourages citizens to reduce electricity use at home through Eco Mileage. If the amount of electricity reduced reaches 10 percent of total use, the government awards 50,000 points on people’s Eco Mileage card, which can be used as cash. Bicycle Eco Mileage also encourages people to ride bicycles and measure the miles traveled on their bikes using the Eco Mileage smartphone app. By March 2014, more than 33,131 people used the app and helped reduce approximately 36 million kilograms (79 million pounds) of CO2.

Gamification could bring about enormous benefits and outcomes if it were applied not only by companies that aim to carry out their corporate social responsibility, but also by consumers willing to engage in environmental activities. Gamification can be applied to different social sectors such as KEPCO or Korea’s Ministry of Environment, and could greatly contribute to the protection of the environment.


by Kim Do-hee, M.A. student in International Cooperation at Yonsei University


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