Apathy, Ambivalence and Annoyance in co-creation and gamification

In this Strategy Blog I follow up on the topic of gamification. Specifically where potential users do not engage, because of their apathy, ambivalence or annoyance. In a different context these three issues were recently discussed by Malshe & Friend (2018) in the Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science. They discussed apathy, ambivalence and annoyance in relation to co-creation.

Gamification and co-creation are different topics, but they both share some common ground where they aim to create value through reciprocal interaction between supplier and customer. Important elements in these gamified co-creation situations are instant feedback, freedom to fail, freedom of choice, achievements, leveling, progress mechanics, badges, and leaderboards. Gamification and co-creation can also suffer from lack of interest of the customer for different reasons. Malshe & Friend (2018) describe in relation to co-creation:

Customer apathy: in this situation the customer is indifferent to the suppliers’ value co-creation initiative. The customer does not want to engage more deeply beyond day-to-day supplier interactions on a specific topic, because the supplier is perceived as inert, incompetent or too little added value (commoditazation).

Ambivalence: here customers understand and appreciate the value of engagement, but they are hesitant about the return on their invested time and resources in such efforts. The underlying reasons can be that suppliers are fixated on specific symptoms, there is a lack of follow through or the supplier can not meet the customers’ expectation.

Annoyance: occurs when the customer has aversion and resentment towards the supplier. This can be caused by mechanisms where the supplier is too rigid and egocentric. It can also happen when the customer do not gain an equal return for their investment in resources (resource drain).

Based on their research Malshe & Friend (2018), created six supplier strategies to deal with these specific situations (see figure).


In this blog I shall not go into detail about the six supplier strategies related to co-creation (please read the article). More important for this blog is the essence of these supplier strategies towards the customer where these strategies should be intrinsic, inspiring and beneficial for both supplier and customer.

Relating these supplier strategies to gamification, these strategies should be: intrinsic, inspiring and beneficial for both. In this context gamification probably works best where the goal is to innovate.

Gamification can however hinder co-creation or innovation as well. Especially when gamification magnifies one the underlying reasons for apathy, ambivalence or annoyance. As a tool, gamification can be seen by the user/customer as a simplification and not an intrinsic solution that does not inspire. Introducing and using gamification as a tool should therefore always be done with careful consideration of the situation where there is an equal benefit for customer and supplier.

The main message on using gamification is: don’t fall into the trap of implementing solutions simply because they look fun or engaging.

Norbert Bol


Malshe, A., & Friend, S. B. (2018). Initiating value co-creation: Dealing with non-receptive customers. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 1-26.

Photo by Stoned-Gorilla, Annoyance on New Grounds, www.newgrounds.com.


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