This article was originally posted by Leah Swartz on the fantastic blog You can see the article on that site here.

“How do you gain millennial brand loyalty?” This simple question is one of the most debated topics in the marketing industry today. If we had the answer, we would be able to charge a lot more for our services.

Depending on whom you ask, the answer could range from social media plans, to loyalty programs, to content driven campaigns. While all of these answers are valid and carry a significant amount of truth, there is a newer tactic that has became a major motivation for millennial engagement: gamification. Gamification is a relatively new model that has millennials swarming to the most popular brands.

Let’s play

What is gamification exactly? Gamification is a process many brands are transitioning towards that brings the excitement of a game – rewards, points, trophies, badges, etc. – into the consumer experience. The game mindset creates the winner effect, which reinforces the desire to participate. High participation rates with the game typically translate into stronger brand loyalty and awareness of the game user.
While this is not a new concept (rewards programs have been around for decades) the way brand are implanting this concept is more modern and millennial friendly.

One brand that leverages the millennial desire to “play” is Zulily. This daily deal site has its fair share of competition, including Groupon, Gilt, Rue La La, and Fab. Fortunately, Zulily managed to differentiate itself in this market and appeal to a specific target: millennial moms looking for deals. The Zulily platform emails registered members every morning at 6am detailing what products are being offered and what the discounted prices will be. Some products can be as much 75 percent off! The catch is the flash sale only lasts 72 hours. Items also usually sell out quickly – and when they are gone, they are gone for good.

The drive to act fast is sort of like “playing” against other shoppers. Be the first to login and you could score big. It’s all about strategy and playing your cards right.

While this method does incorporate the traditional “gaming” strategies. It creates an environment of immediacy and competition. As a user, I might think, I need to be sure to login right at 6am to buy my niece a new pair of shoes before I miss the opportunity.

Rules of the Game

Everyone is a winner

While competition is the immediate draw to a game strategy, it is the winning that will keep a customer coming back. Frequently rewarding consumers with points or badges that can be used immediately will keep your customer interested and willing to make a purchase.

Create a game atmosphere

Half the fun in any game is playing with others. Creating a group gaming environment aligns with the millennial sharing mindset and encourages interactions not just between the consumer and the brand but also between consumers themselves.

KISS (keep it simple, stupid)

Remember that mantra we learned in business school? Well, it applies to your gamification strategy too. Your customers have their own video games filled with complicated rules, regulations and all sorts of loopholes (have you ever played Halo?). They don’t want to see that in your marketing plan.

Gaming is a huge theme among millennials and now brands are brining what was once reserved to a dark basement­ into the light. Some of the most popular millennial brands are winning because they understand one of the key insights that draw in a millennial customer – freebies, interaction and fun.

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