Online Marketing Games & Competitions: What’s the Difference?

Whether you’re an experienced marketer or brand new to the field, being able to effectively analyze marketing performance can be incredibly useful. With the vast amounts of data available from digital marketing platforms, it’s much easier to track performance metrics, identify strengths and weaknesses, and take actionable steps to improve results. One potential pitfall some marketers fall into, however, is thinking that simply because these metrics exist online that they’re synonymous with performance. In reality, marketing performance can vary massively from site to site, and in some cases, can be completely disconnected from digital marketing activity.

To help marketers understand how and where they stand, we recently set out to review the key differences between online marketing games and competitions.


One of the most noticeable differences between online marketing games and competitions is the format. While games are free to play and usually have a scoring system that determines the winner, competitions usually have a cash prize or some other material incentive for the winner. As a result, competitions tend to focus more on the technical aspects of the sport/activity, such as accuracy, timing, and speed rather than on scoring systems and winning leisure activities.

However, that doesn’t mean that games aren’t useful. The fact that they’re free makes them easier for marketers to test, and if a game is already installed on a potential customer’s device, it provides a readymade platform for marketers to showcase their product. Platforms like iOS and Android provide enough friction so that one of the biggest mistakes mobile marketers make is thinking that just because a game is installed on a device, it will automatically translate to that person playing the game and making the effort to reach the end goal – in this case, to make a purchase. But, if a game is just a formality and the real goal is to have customers visit your site or follow you on social media, the free version of a game may not be the best option.


While competitions don’t necessarily have to have a scoring system to be considered a game, the vast majority of them do. The scoring system takes on a critical role in the game, determining the winner and encouraging players to compete for the highest scores. The scoring system can be based on a number of factors, such as how well you performed in the game, your activity in the game over time, and the number of players.

The scoring system in a game is usually designed to be a bit more complex than the simple “1-for-1” style competitions where the goal is to be the first to reach a certain point score. This is because games tend to have a scoring system that reflects how well players performed over the course of the game. As a result, if a marketing manager sets the point score too high from the start, the game may end up being impossible to win. If the point score is set too low, it may encourage players to play for the sake of playing and not for the purpose of competing for the highest score.

Even if your goal is to simply beat the other players, the scoring system in a game provides a more structured and, therefore, a more reliable method of doing so. Unlike competitions, where the goal is often to determine the number of visitors that linked to your site or to follow you on social media, in a game the winning formula is more reliable because it’s based on how well players perform over time rather than just the number of people who visit your site or follow you on social media when the competition ends.

Player Vs. Player

Player vs. Player is another critically important difference between a marketing game and a competition. In a game, each player competes against the other players individually, with no team aspect to the gameplay. This means that in a game, it’s you against the world, and you’re not always going to have the advantage of a team behind you. The other players in the game may also be stronger than you, improving your odds of winning.

To provide a better comparison to explain this concept, think of a soccer game where players are all on their own against another team of players. In a game like this, the objective is to score (usually with a ball) as many goals as possible without letting your opponents score too many against you. As a result, you’re constantly fighting for the ball to keep track of it becomes more important than ever to stay organized. If you lose the ball, it can easily result in a goal for your opponent. This is also the case in marketing games where individually each player is trying to beat the other competitors individually. In this scenario, the ball can quickly become the most important thing in the game as the result of a single misplaced pass can easily lead to a goal against you.

While in a game, it’s you against the other players (and the world), in a competition, it’s you and the rest of the world (or at least your designated team of competitors) against each other. The gameplay in a competition is team-based, and it’s often compared to a sports game where you have a team of people (known as “competitors”) that you’re trying to beat. As a result, in a competition, you’re always going to have the advantage of at least having the team behind you, and in some cases, you can have the team controlling the entire game, deciding the goals and who wins and loses based on how well you perform based on some pre-determined scores. For example, in a marketing quiz competition, you might initially have the advantage of the other players not knowing the answers to the questions. However, over the course of the game, your competitors will catch up, and at the end, you’ll have the advantage of the score reflecting your performance.

One of the most important things to keep in mind, though, is that even though you may have the advantage of the score in a competition, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll win. Sometimes, it takes a bit of luck – or at least, the grace of the gods – to win a game. Just because you scored more points than your competitors in the game or quiz competition, it doesn’t mean you’ll automatically win. It all depends on whether or not the other players are going to let you win. In some instances, you may have to resort to cheating in order to win.


Another important difference between a marketing game and a competition is the rewards. While competitions usually have some type of cash prize or honorific that’s given to the winner, this is rarely the case with marketing games. The vast majority of the time, the only reward you’ll get for playing a marketing game is a sense of pride in knowing that you beat the other players. In some instances, you may even get some credit towards a future reward if you perform well in the game.

This may vary depending on the type of game, but in general, you aren’t going to win huge prizes or earn any type of cash reward for playing a game. This is especially important to keep in mind if you want to create a good impression among gamers that you’re trying to attract. Remember, you’re competing against people who are also trying to make a name for themselves, so it’s better to remain neutral in terms of rewards, especially since the goal is to beat the other players, not to reward them. In some instances, you might get a medal or achievement for hitting a target number of goals, correctly answering a certain number of questions, or reaching a certain score in a game – but these types of rewards are more common in competitions than they are in marketing games.

As a result of all these differences, when you’re deciding whether or not to enter a competition or to play a game, it’s important to keep in mind the differences between the two so you don’t get yourself in a situation where you’re not prepared for. If you’re new to the field and just entering the fray, it may be a good idea to start out with smaller, more manageable competitions or games rather than taking on the world in terms of a giant quiz competition.