(Flickr)

(Flickr)

Gamification is the latest buzzword in the marketing world. Last year it was content marketing, but in 2015, building loyalty by communicating useful, relevant information to prospective clients may as well just be called marketing — that’s just what you do.

This year turning consumer behavior into game behavior is the major objective, and you’ll probably start hearing more people talking about it. You’ve also probably been doing it long before you knew what it was called.

Gamification is applying elements of games — points, competition, leader boards, prizes — to things that are not games. The first time you probably encountered gamification was in elementary school when a teacher gave you a star for every day you didn’t blurt out profanities (or some such thing). Earn 20 stars by the end of the month and get a Tootsie Roll.

For car wash businesses, gamification could mean anything as simple as scoring a point for buying a car wash to something as complex as a most-car-washes-in-a-year leaderboard that pits patrons against each other. If you happen to be a regular of the car wash around the corner, you might find yourself on the board and keep coming back just to see if you can stay on it. Others who don’t come as often will enjoy watching the names move. That’s the beauty of games: They’re fun for spectators, too.

But here’s the thing. You’ve gotta have good rewards, too. Free car washes are always good. We have a decent list of small-scale freebies here. The best thing is to get creative and be local and unique: Don’t give away an iPad. Instead, give away some Browns tickets.

OK, just kidding. Don’t give away some Browns tickets.