Campaign Teardown

What Makes Wordle So Addictive? (And What Can Marketers Learn)

By Editorial Staff

To begin, what in the world is Wordle? For those who don’t know, haven’t you been wondering why people are posting green, gray, and yellow boxes all over social media, specifically on Twitter? 

Wordle is a web-based puzzle that was created by a Reddit software engineer named James Wardle for his partner, Palak Shah, who loved word games so that they could play together. Once Wardle introduced the game to his family and friends via WhatsApp and noticed how obsessed they became with it, he figured why not introduce it to the rest of the world? And so, in October of 2021, he did. 

Wordle’s Genesis

Wordle gives you six chances to guess the day’s five-letter word. The player types in a word as a guess, and the game tells you how accurate your guess is via a color code. A letter will turn yellow if it is in the word but not in the right place, green if the letter is in the word and in the right place in the word, and grey if it’s not in the word at all. 

The ultimate goal is to figure out the word of the day with the least amount of guesses possible. This game has become quite popular mostly because of its addictive nature and because Wardle tweaked the game shortly after releasing to allow players to share their results without giving away the answer.

Share your Wordle results without revealing the answer

Virality has a tangible impact. Check out this blog to see how the Dyson Airwrap became a consumer trend without even launching a campaign.

What Makes Wordle Addictive?

Interestingly enough, this addictiveness is not an accident. There are psychology and behavioral science principles that explain why a simple word puzzle like Wordle has become part of people’s daily routines.

Harvard’s Johnstone Family Professor of Psychology Steven Pinker delves further into why this game is so attractive to people. He says, “I imagine it has the optimal level of reward. It’s hard enough to require concentrated thought, but not so intractable as to leave people frustrated most of the time.”

In other words, Wordle is more gratifying than most games in the sense that it’s quick, taking less than ten minutes to get through. Additionally, the game provides feedback/hints to players via box colors and the way it was created makes it impossible to binge play the way games like Candy Crush do, given that there’s only one chance to play per day. Last but not least, there are no ads. 

Keeping this in mind, according to Lee Chambers, a British psychologist who specializes in environmental and well-being coaching, Wordle is appealing because it requires players to use both logic and language areas of their brains, which in turn leads to the release of dopamine. This is significant considering that dopamine is a motivator and is released from the reward center of the brain in response to pleasure. As is explained by Healthline, “While dopamine isn’t the sole cause of addiction, its motivational properties are thought to play a role in addiction.” 

To be more precise, when we experience something that makes us feel good and dopamine is released into the reward center, our brains try to figure out how we can feel this positive sensation again, often searching for environmental cues that will help us find that pleasure we felt previously. The drive that results from this search for pleasure explains why Wordle triggers the response it does from our brains’ reward centers. 

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What You Can Learn from Wardle and Wordle

There is more to be said about what marketers can learn from Wordle about attention to detail and how sometimes simplicity is best when it comes to gaining a following. For instance, two of the things that have greatly contributed to Wordle’s success are: 

  • Players only get access to one game a day on the official website 
  • The game allows players to share their results without any spoilers. In other words, Wordle’s social media presence. 

Share your results on social media

Beginning with the one game a day idea, the fact that players can only play once a day makes them want to keep coming back for more and prevents the novelty of the game from fading away quickly the way it usually does with other games that allow users to play nonstop. Also, the share feature on Wordle only adds to its competitiveness because it allows players to brag about their success without ruining the fun for everyone else. The grey, yellow and green squares are only recognizable to those who have played the game before, so the only way for anyone on social media who hasn’t played the game before to know what the squares are all about, they too must play the game. 

However, if you have played the game, the excellent graphic design of the shareable Wordle chart serves as a perfect snapshot of another’s attempt. This mystery element that has come along with the share feature has contributed greatly to the growth of Wordle. Instead of overthinking how to reach a target market and hone in on a specific consumer, marketers should take note of something that Wordle has done effortlessly: creating a game that feels exceptionally human. Ultimately, Wordle is a game that brings people together in that everyone is struggling, and that is what makes it so brilliant.

Community and relatability are inherent parts of influencer marketing. Read more about how we value and define relatability in this blog.

All in all, who would’ve known that such a fun game could’ve been born out of a love story between a Reddit Software engineer and his partner? However, here we are. What started out as an innocent effort to please a significant other has become a phenomenon that when first launched had a daily player count of 90 and by January 2nd accumulated over 300,000 daily players.

Today, the company has been valued by the New York Times at over one million dollars, which is exciting considering Wardle was initially inspired by the New York Times approach to their games and treatment of their players. Now the question becomes what is next for Wordle? Will a game so simple yet addictive and enjoyable always be free of charge? 

This article was written by Sophia Montalban

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