Date: 23.11.2023

by Bartosz Burzyński

“In recent years, gamification has emerged as a key trend within iGaming”

We talk to Vakhtang Mdivani about his many years of adventure at Adjarabet, where he held, among others, position of Director of Performance Marketing. Vakhtang’s interest in gamification, however, appeared much earlier, already in his teenage years. His passion for gamification led him to found his own company, Promofy, where he pursues this topic in the gambling industry.

Vakhtang Mdivani

During your extensive tenure at Adjarabet, you held various roles. Which one gave you the most satisfaction?

In my 7 years at Adjarabet, the role that brought me the most satisfaction was serving as Head of Product Marketing. This was a pivotal moment in my career, as it was my first managerial position as well as leading a team. During my tenure, I learned invaluable things about team leadership, task execution and adaptability.

Product marketing plays a key role, combining business and marketing efforts to drive growth. I was promoted just as the coronavirus pandemic hit, merely 2 months after taking on this managerial role. Thriving through uncertainties and adapting to a new reality was one of my biggest highlights.

Building and guiding the product marketing team during turbulent times taught me so much about resilience, innovation, and listening to customers. Balancing hands-on execution with big-picture leadership was a constant challenge I relished. This role left a lasting mark on my career and gave me great satisfaction in seeing the team succeed despite obstacles.

What is the key to effective marketing in such a large company in the gambling industry?

There are three main pillars I’ve found effective for marketing at a large gaming company:

Deep customer understanding – This goes beyond surveys and research. It means truly empathizing with players’ motivations, behaviors, and mindsets. Understanding their lifestyle holistically, not just during gameplay. This level of insight is crucial.

Blending data with human nature – A data-driven approach is important but must factor in emotional appeal. Numbers don’t tell the full story. Marketing is both science and art. The most effective strategies mix quantitative data with qualitative insights into human psychology.

Company-wide alignment – Every team, from developers to support staff, should grasp marketing’s role and impact, and understand that their work touches the customer experience. Cross-functional collaboration enables unified messaging and customer-centricity across whole organization.

Truly knowing your players, balancing logic with emotions, and securing enterprise-wide buy-in are key pillars for me. A human-centered yet data-informed approach was critical to engaging players and driving growth for years in my experience.

What was the pivotal factor that led to your departure from Adjarabet and the start your own venture?

While my tenure at Adjarabet was incredible, ultimately my passion for innovation and desire for new adventures compelled me to start my own venture. I had dreamed of running a business that brings value to customers and felt an entrepreneurial calling that I could no longer deny.

The chance to have greater creative freedom by focusing purely on gamification – an emerging space with huge untapped demand – was the pivotal factor in my decision.

I realized that to truly see my vision brought to life and have maximum impact, I needed to take the leap into entrepreneurship as well as the fact that Promofy co-founders trust into our vision and ability to make this possible.

Starting my own business allows me to blend my expertise in gamification with the creative freedom to develop novel solutions. Ultimately, realizing my lifelong dream of entrepreneurship drove my decision to embark on this new challenge.

Why are you so interested in gamification?

My fascination with gamification traces back to childhood, beginning with a Coca-Cola promotion in Georgia. Collecting bottle cap letters to spell “happiness” and win prizes was enormously engaging, even without winning. This showed me gamification’s power to motivate.

Later, as a teen, I participated in a Facebook game campaign by a Georgian mineral water company. Competing on leaderboards to answer questions first was educational and fun – and I won! This hands-on experience revealed gamification’s ability to drive participation.

Working at Adriabet, which is famous for its many gamification tools, was probably also important?

Sure, the real spark came at Adjarabet (Flutter Entertainment), when a colleague introduced me to Yu-kai Chou’s gamification framework. This opened my eyes to human-centric design and how game techniques can transform businesses. I was struck by gamification’s untapped potential beyond just marketing and became determined to explore it further.

Each instance – from that Coca-Cola bottle cap hunt to social media trivia competitions to reading Chou’s theories – progressively deepened my fascination with gamification. I’m motivated by its ability to engage users’ intrinsic desires and shape behaviors through game thinking. My journey continues, but these moments ignited my passion.

Can gamification be considered one of the key trends in the iGaming industry?

Absolutely – I’ve witnessed the power of gamification firsthand during my time at Flutter Entertainment. In recent years, gamification has emerged as a key trend within iGaming.

More operators and platform providers are realizing gamification’s ability to boost engagement, loyalty, and revenues. With such a saturated market, it allows brands to differentiate and incentivize players creatively through loyalty programs, challenges, rewards, leaderboards, and features like free-to-play games and prize wheels.

Gamification taps into players’ inherent psychological desires for achievement, status, and competition. And data shows gamified experiences increase retention and time-on-site, directly impacting customer LTV and revenues.

Mobile gaming has also heightened expectations for engaging experiences that gamification can deliver through frequent rewards and frictionless engagement.

Overall, gamification allows iGaming operators to optimize enjoyment and revenues in a crowded market. The incentives are too powerful to ignore. By making the core product more engaging and fun, gamification has become a key trend that will only grow in importance.

How do you go about designing and implementing effective gamification solutions?

As I discussed earlier, I strongly believe that effective gamification starts with human-centric design:

  • Deeply understand end users through research, data, and as said going into their shoes, like hanging out with them in a bar (btw this was cool experience we were doing monthly). Design mechanics around their intrinsic motivations and needs – not business goals alone.
  • Involve cross-functional expertise from marketers, UX designers, developers, and product managers. Bring diverse perspectives.
  • Focus first on satisfying intrinsic motivations like mastery, status, and purpose. Then layer on extrinsic rewards.
  • Enable social connections alongside individual achievements. Balance competition and cooperation and don’t focus on either one alone.
  • Avoid over-gamification that overwhelms the core experience. Integrate mechanics seamlessly.

The key is understanding motivation to fulfill human needs first. Don’t rush into gamification. Start small, test concepts, and optimize. This iterative approach ensures maximum engagement and impact.

Gamification should enrich the user experience, not overwhelm it. By collaborating cross-functionally and focusing on fulfilling intrinsic motivations through experiential rewards, we can design sticky, satisfying systems.