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How to Engage App Users: Duolingo & Merge Mansion Case study

Looking for ways to increase your app’s user engagement?

For app marketers and growth teams, the challenge isn’t just to introduce a functional app to the market, it is to captivate and retain users when the market is brimming with alternatives.

We will be discussing the examples of Duolingo, the language learning powerhouse, and Merge Mansion, a unique name in the puzzle gaming world as case studies in this article.

Why? Because they were carried out effectively, and you can learn from their strategic approach to engaging app users beyond the confines or rather outside the app functionalities itself. (We are a fan)

Whether you’re in the early stages of app development or looking to revamp your existing app’s engagement strategy, the insights we have derived from Duolingo and Merge Mansion’s success stories are poised to inform and inspire.

We will learn how to engage app users and retain them. Ready for a deep dive into the ‘how’ and ‘why’ behind their strategies?

Let’s go!

Source: Duolingo

Case Study 1: Duolingo’s User Engagement Mastery

Duolingo is a hugely popular language-learning app with over half a billion users. It’s known for its fun and engaging approach to language learning, which uses games, stories, and quizzes to help people learn new languages. Duolingo is changing the way people learn languages by making it more accessible, affordable, and enjoyable.

Imagine a language app becoming a social media sensation — that’s like your high school teacher becoming a Hollywood star overnight!
Duolingo’s user-engagement strategy has transformed the yawn-inducing chore of language learning into an enjoyable activity where verbs and vocab are the main attractions.

Let’s take a look at key engagement strategies used.

1. Gamification – Turning Learning Into a Gaming Playground

Points, Streaks, and Rewards. Duolingo’s gamification does not solely rely on adding badges and leaderboards. Talk about creating an addictive circle of learning, rewards and gamification on repeat.

Creating reward cycles like this ensures that users come back for the dopamine hit making progress in their brain.

Collecting points – check.
Chasing streaks – check.
Competing on leaderboards – check.
Competing with friends and family – check.

Impact – Duolingo made $369.7 million in revenue, primarily from subscriptions to the company’s premium service proving that everyone loves a good game, especially when it’s sprinkling some Spanish or sprucing up your Swedish.

Duolingo’s strategy for user engagement was on point, but they added personality-driven content marketing in the mix to amp up the impact.

2. Personality-Driven Entertainment – Conquering TikTok

You must have seen the big duo bird on your TikTok feed at some point. Duolingo jumped on the TikTok bandwagon early on and it didn’t just join a trend; it became the trend.

On TikTok, Duolingo currently has 8.5M followers and counting, and let’s not forget the 19% engagement rate that’s making even the coolest TikTok stars go green with envy (or maybe that’s just Duo’s feathers).

3.Building a Community – Duolingo’s Community Empire

Think of it as the ultimate language-learning clubhouse. Forums, discussions, clubs – it’s where enthusiasts unite, creating a buzzing hive of linguistic exchange.

Under Duolingo’s various social media forums, users engage, compete and engage with each other keeping the community alive and thriving. We’re witnessing a surge in user loyalty.

Why does it work? Outcomes and Lessons

The success story of Duolingo underlines the significance of user engagement beyond traditional methods. The key takeaway from Duolingo’s strategy is compellingly straightforward: make the learning process so engaging and enjoyable that users become eager participants in their educational journey.

Building an app is one thing; creating an ecosystem where users thrive, interact, and advocate is where the real magic happens. The key takeaway from Duolingo’s strategy is compellingly straightforward: make the learning process so engaging and enjoyable that users become eager participants in their educational journey.

In summary, Duolingo enhanced user engagement by:

  • Creating a gamified learning experience by developing a system of points, streaks, and rewards.
  • Leveraging social media for brand expansion and engagement, Duolingo strategically utilised platforms like TikTok to broaden its reach and engage users with creative content.
  • Building a vibrant and supportive online community, they established forums, clubs, and interactive discussion platforms.
  • Integrated monetisation into the User Experience by ensuring that monetisation adds value to the user’s learning journey, making it a beneficial feature rather than a hindrance.

Duolingo’s approach to user engagement shows the power of innovative, user-focused strategies in the competitive world of app marketing. By prioritising user experience and enjoyment, Duolingo has achieved remarkable financial success and established itself as a leader in educational technology.

Case Study 2: Merge Mansion – Generating Interest with Story-driven Enigma

Source: Metacore
Merge Mansion, launched in 2020, has transformed the puzzle game landscape. With over 50 million downloads, it stands as a testament to the power of storytelling in mobile gaming. This game goes beyond the typical match-and-merge mechanics by weaving a rich narrative that captures the player’s curiosity.

Key engagement strategies include.

1. Storytelling with a Twist: The Grandma’s Secret

At the core of Merge Mansion is a captivating story about a grandmother with a mysterious past. This narrative approach transforms each gaming session into a journey of discovery, engaging players beyond the traditional gameplay.

The story-driven approach has led to an increase in downloads and player engagement, as users become invested in unravelling the mysteries of the mansion.

Result – a catchy and magnetic story-driven narrative. It’s turning heads, sparking conversations, and yes, skyrocketing downloads.

2. Video Ads & Social Media

The game’s marketing strategy extends brilliantly to its video ads, which are crafted like chapters of a captivating story.

Each ad contributes to the overarching mystery, encouraging viewers to play the game and find out more.

In 2022, Merge Mansion took its video ad strategy a step further by featuring acclaimed actress Kathy Bates, adding a touch of star power to its already engaging story-driven ads.

Source: Merge Mansion Youtube

Then, in 2023, Merge Mansion introduced a new twist in its advertising narrative by adding a detective character, portrayed by Pedro Pascal, in their campaign. This new angle, featuring a renowned actor, deepens the game’s intriguing storyline. The detective character, trying to solve the case, adds an extra layer of mystery and engagement, captivating the audience and encouraging them to explore the game further.

Merge Mansion ran a series of three video ads featuring Pedro Pascal. (The second and third are here)

On social media, Merge Mansion has successfully created a buzz around its storyline, with players eagerly discussing theories and anticipating new developments.

With a robust presence on Instagram and buzz on platforms like Twitter and YouTube, Merge Mansion has turned its storyline into a social media phenomenon. Fan theories, anyone?

3. Community Engagement and Continuous Improvement

Merge Mansion’s active community on Reddit is a hub for player interaction, where users share theories and feedback. The developers actively take into account the feedback from the community and use the insights to refine and enhance the game’s experience.

4. Monetisation

The game introduces various challenges and events that cater to both free and paid players. By allowing players to enhance their rewards through purchases, the game maintains an inclusive environment for all.

In Merge Mansion, spending money feels like a crucial part of the adventure. This is clever and it’s profitable. We’re talking revenue that makes even the big players sit up and take notice.

Why does it works? Outcomes and Lessons

The case study of Merge Mansion proves that in the world of app marketing, storytelling is as important as the mechanics of the app.

The lesson here is crystal clear: weave a tale so captivating that users can’t resist being a part of it.

In summary, Merge Mansion drove user engagement by:

  • Creating a narrative that captivates and drives player engagement.
  • Leveraging social media and advertising to extend the game’s story and build community interest.
  • Designing monetisation strategies that feel like a natural part of the game’s progression.

Comparative Insights for App Marketers

When you put Duolingo and Merge Mansion against each other, it’s not a battle; it’s a masterclass in-app marketing diversity.

Here we have two champions, each playing a different game but winning the same race — user engagement and app downloads.

Let’s break down what sets them apart and what ties their strategies together.

Gamification vs. Storytelling

Duolingo turns learning into a game, while Merge Mansion spins a tale that keeps you on the edge of your seat. Duolingo’s approach hooks you with achievements and rewards, fueling your competitive spirit.

Merge Mansion, on the other hand, pulls you into a narrative labyrinth, making each puzzle piece a clue in a grander mystery. Both approaches are different but equally effective in keeping users coming back for more.

Social Media Mastery

Duolingo’s TikTok fame is a lesson in leveraging social media for brand personality and reach.

Merge Mansion, while more subdued on social media, uses it to amplify its mysterious narrative, engaging a community of sleuths.

Both show that whether you’re going for laughs or gasps, social media is a fertile ground for user engagement.

Community and Connection

This is where Duolingo truly shines with its language clubs and forums, creating a global classroom vibe.

Merge Mansion’s narrative intrigue sparks discussions and theories, fostering a different kind of community — one of mystery and discovery.

Both strategies highlight the importance of building a community around your app, not just within it.

Innovative Monetisation strategies

Duolingo’s in-app purchases are about enhancing the learning experience, whereas Merge Mansion’s monetisation feels like buying the next chapter of your favourite book.

Both approaches seamlessly integrate monetisation into the user experience, making spending money feel like a natural, even essential, part of the journey.

Implementing Successful Engagement Strategies

For app marketers and growth gurus, the lessons are clear:

  • Embrace your app’s unique identity. Whether it’s a game, a learning tool, or something entirely different, own it and build your engagement strategies around it.
  • Don’t just focus on the app; focus on the experience. Make it rewarding, make it immersive, and make it something users want to talk about.
  • Be bold in your monetisation. Integrate it into the user experience so seamlessly that users see value in every transaction.
  • Use social media not just to promote, but to engage. Be it humour, intrigue, or community building, make your social media strategy an extension of your app’s personality.


In the end, whether you’re crafting linguistic journeys like Duolingo or weaving intricate tales like Merge Mansion, the goal remains the same: to create an app that’s more than just a tool or a game — it’s part of the user’s daily life.

Create an experience that users don’t just enjoy, but one they want to return to, talk about, and share. For app marketers and growth teams, the journeys of Duolingo and Merge Mansion are blueprints for building engaging, dynamic, and successful apps in a world where user attention is the ultimate prize.

Looking to increase your app’s user engagement?

We, at House of Marketers, help businesses and brands boost their reach and user engagement to new heights with our App Marketing Services. Our team of experts helps you create customised app marketing strategies that truly connect with your audience, ensuring your app doesn’t just blend into the digital landscape but stands out.

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Gain valuable insights from these detailed case studies to enhance your app’s marketing strategy.

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