The Ethics of Gamification in a Marketing Context

Abstract

Gamification is an increasingly common marketing tool. Yet, to date, there has been little examination of its ethical implications. In light of the potential implications of this type of stealth marketing for consumer welfare, this paper discusses the ethical dilemmas raised by the use of gamified approaches to marketing. The paper draws on different schools of ethics to examine gamification as an overall system, as well as its constituent parts. This discussion leads to a rationale and suggestions for how gamification could be regulated and/or controlled by more informal codes of conduct. The paper ends by outlining a practical framework which businesses can use to evaluate the potential ethical implications raised by their own gamified marketing techniques.

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Fig. 1

Notes

  1. 1.

    We use this term to avoid the disciplinary debates concerning the diagnostic criteria of addiction in its clinical form.

  2. 2.

    As the industry standard reference point for mental health, the current version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Disorders (DSM-V) positions internet gaming addiction as having ‘proposed status’ as a formal psychiatric condition, following the manual’s review of over 250 papers. Formal inclusion into the main body of the manual is pending further research that specifically overcomes the problem of the diversity in how studies have defined and measured gaming addiction to date (Petry and O’Brian 2013).

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Thorpe, A.S., Roper, S. The Ethics of Gamification in a Marketing Context. J Bus Ethics 155, 597–609 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-017-3501-y

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Keywords

  • Gamification
  • Ethics
  • Regulation
  • Marketing
  • Stealth marketing