Gamification in Email Marketing_Interview with Mailjet
01 November 2021

Opinion Leaders about Email Gamification: Tips on How to Use It Right

Dmytro Kudrenko
Dmytro Kudrenko Founder and CEO of Stripo

Gamification in email marketing is being widely discussed now. Most want to give it a try, but only a few have done it so far. Why? Because email gamification is said to be time-consuming, and pretty expensive, and you never know if you’re gonna recoup the costs spent. But is it so? 

To put some light on the subject, we decided to run a series of interviews with opinion leaders in email marketing — with people who have used gamification in their emails. 

Here’s what they have to say...


Please, meet Nicolas Garnier, who was a Head of Product at Mailjet, and now Nicolas is a Senior Product Manager at Gorgias.

Nicolas Garnier_Photo

Follow Nicolas on:

First of all, I want to say your report at Litmus Live Boston 2019 that was named “How to make email fun” got us really excited and encouraged us to give gamification in emails a try. Thank you. The results were beyond expectations.

1. As the name of your report suggests, we should make emails fun. Why do you believe it is a good idea to let recipients play games in emails?

The battle to stand out in the inbox is ever-growing, and this has been even more true with COVID as brands turned to email to communicate with their customers. As a consequence, our inboxes get more crowded and we skim emails even more rapidly than before. Adding some fun into our emails is a great way to make your customers stop on yours a little longer.

2. What makes games interesting, in your opinion? Are there any criteria so marketers know beforehand their game is supposed to be successful or it’s going to fail?

Jane McGonigal covered this better than I would in her book "Reality is broken". What she explains is that a game is made of four key principles:

  • a goal;

  • rules;

  • a feedback system;

  • voluntary participation.

If you can reunite all four within your game, you're headed in the right direction.

3. Given that we need time to build the game with designers and coders this all seems time-consuming and pretty expensive. Are there any mechanics that you know of today that anyone could customize, and use right away to make gamification cheaper?

While technology can enable some great games, great games don't necessarily require technology. A great example of this was built by Chris Vasquez. His creative and interactive newsletter is mostly built around using two different CTAs, great design, and a lot of creativity, but doesn't use any complex code.

Gamification in Email Marketing_Example from Chris Vasques

(View the web version of the email)

As for using technology, it will generally be a matter of using CSS to create interactivity which can quickly get complex. There are not a lot of solutions making this very easy, but it might be a great suggestion for the community to work on! One company that did use to simplify this was RebelMail which has been acquired by Salesforce.

4. With the AMP4Email technology being available and widely supported by email clients, there are many more mechanics to utilize games in emails. Have you given AMP a try yet? If yes, share your experience with us, please.

I wouldn't say AMP4Email is widely supported, quite the opposite actually, and that's my problem with it. The big challenge in email is already the lack of a standard, as each email client built their own rendering engine for emails over the past years. We could have learned from the past, but instead repeated the same mistakes. Outlook actually stopped supporting AMP4Email at the end of last year, now suggesting developers use Actionable Messages instead. The fact that email clients continue to build their own standard is a huge friction factor for adoption, as most companies cannot afford to spend so much time and effort using a technology that only works in one or a couple of email clients.

5. What works best: 1 gamified email or a series of them?

I think a series of gamified emails is a great idea because your recipients will expect them, and even look forward to opening them. As they discover the series, they will know the next emails include a game too, and it is, therefore, less likely that they will miss the interaction. 

6. When do you think it’s reasonable to use gamification: in Holiday emails or regular promos? Why? Give some examples/use cases, please.

Holidays definitely are a good time to use interactivity as they are special events that you can incorporate into the game. It can also be very time consuming to create interactive emails, so it makes sense to only do it for a few special occasions
Companies that I've seen do that very well are Email on Acid and Uplers. I love this example from Uplers as they used interactivity to provide a year in review for the new year. However, due to lack of support, it will not work in all email clients and some users will need to open it in their browser.

7. When should email marketers start implementing gamification? What is your first advice to them? 

My first advice would be to start small and test out what works and what doesn't for their audience. I would definitely recommend looking at the "Would you rather" example from Chris that I was sharing earlier. With sufficient creativity, it can be very easy to experiment with games and interactivity, and you won't need to hire a team of email aces to pull it out.

8. Where does one search for ideas? Or should they use someone else’s ideas by simply customizing them?

At the risk of sounding cliché, I will reuse this quote from Pablo Picasso: "Good artists copy, Great artists steal". I think it's totally ok to take inspiration from others as long as you don't just copy without adding any value. This is how multiple iterations of a concept appear, and this is how we all grow as a community. And of course, give credit to people who inspire you.


To help you design professional gamified emails in no time, we've prepared an eBook "Ultimate Guide to Email Gamification" with a number of tips and ready-to-use mechanics.

Get your free copy now
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