Gameplay - Influencing your customers


You, me, and everyone in this world, we try to work hard to meet our most pressing need. This is rarely just one need, but because we have limited capacities and resources, we have to prioritise things. Since the prioritisation is performed in a subjective manner, it can be quite easily manipulated influenced.

Let’s put moral considerations aside - the manipulation influence can be morally justified (education about Climate Change) or not (Tobacco ads). I am listing here a number of gameplays that are rather obvious, yet it is good to know when they can be used, and being aware of them is a great defence against being manipulated influenced.

Brand and marketing

Traditional marketing goes here. Blatant examples include:

  • Blackberry’s “It’s not a toy.” ads that rendered iPhones as toys, and attempted to bind BB users to BB user professional status.
  • Telecoms launching brands aimed at specific user groups (NJU mobile as a brand targeting teenagers, but being in fact a subsidiary of Orange).

Note: This gameplay requires the brand and messaging focused on a very specific group of customers and aimed at winning them.


If you are doing something better than your competition, and you want to educate your potential customers about it, then it is just Brand and marketing. But sometimes, it is not about doing something better, but about doing something that has moral high grounds (f.e. waste segregation). If you are a recycling company, you do not have to advertise your services. You can grow your market just by explaining how important it is to our planet that people segregate waste.

The business model of Sofort relied on the company pretending to be you, and using your bank account credentials to initiate transfers. Bank suffered a profit loss because their products were used less. So they started a public campaign educating users about the risk associated with sharing your bank account credentials. A campaign ‘for public good’ had, however, an invisible, primary goal - cutting out Sofort like businesses.

Artificial competition

The purpose of this approach is to convince customers they are not vendor locked in, and that you are not exploiting your dominating market position. You do that by starting another company that offers a similar service and targets exactly the same user group.

Confusion of choice

Make things incomparable.

  • Mobile tariffs. Chances are you do not have the best one suiting you, and you do not have enough of time to find one.
  • Credit cards, bank accounts, insurances - there are so many parameters, clauses and obscured fees that finding a best offer is economically unjustified.

Cherry on the cake: Incomparable offers are usually accompanied by lowest price warrants. “We will pay you double the price difference if you find a product like ours with lower price tag”. You will not, because we added there our unique insurance. Or 13 bytes of transfer for free.

Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt

Let’s just put a couple of examples, as Wikipedia documents this well:

  • “Nobody got fired for buying IBM”. - A powerful message meaning two things:
    • buying IBM products is a safe choice for your career and for you
    • buying other products is dangerous
  • “Fedora is not free, Red Hat controls it”. - Another marketing stunt increasing people reluctance to adopt this particular Linux distro, as every Linux distro is controlled by someone.
  • For a British company, in the context of Brexit: “Will they be able to deliver services? Are they stable enough?”
  • Any political debate.

The purpose of this play is to slow down adoption of a certain provider or a viewpoint or postpone a change.

Creating artificial needs

Disclaimer: I do not agree with this name. For me, it is a rather novel attachment of products/services to existing customer needs.


  • lecturing teenagers about healthy food has absolutely no impact on their eating habits, but merely representing healthy food as a protest against corporations affects teenagers choices. Source:
  • absolute masterpiece - selling nearly worthless stones (diamonds) for big bucks - a marketing campaign that was started in 50’ and is still working well. Warning: Do not read if you proposed with a diamond ring.
  • Digital Transformation, Dematerialisation - those are NOT user needs nor products, but a class of transitions. Multiple value chains are affected in a similar way, but those changes propagate in a way dependent on the initial value chain. Digital Transformation and Dematerialisation cannot be sold as products.
Mapping Glossary