Engaging Millennials: Why Does Gamification Work?

/ 28 October 2021

Gamification has become a bit of a buzzword in recent years. Leading corporations such as Nike and McDonald’s have brought it to widespread attention. They have demonstrated the way it can be used in a wider marketing strategy, with popular interactive experiences such as McDonald’s Monopoly and Nike+Fuel.

It’s thought that the technique is particularly effective with younger demographics such as Millennials. But just why does gamification work so well for this specific age group?

What is Gamification – and Millennials?


Gamification simply means using game-like elements in non-game applications. It’s used in lots of different ways, both for marketing and in the workplace to engage employees. Very simple examples include loyalty cards, points, and bonuses. It’s just the same as ‘leveling up’ in a regular game and triggers the same emotions. Humans have a natural curiosity and drive to compete, which is one of the reasons gamification works so well. 

And Millennials

For the uninitiated, ‘Millennial’ is a term used to describe people born during the 1980s and 1990s. While definitions vary, the set period is typically between 1981 and 1997 – owing to them growing up through the turn of the millennium. The term has a number of similar predecessors and one current successor based on other periods:

  • Baby Boomers – Born in the two decades following World War II, when there was a “boom” in babies
  • Generation X – Born between 1965 and 1980, and so called because of their rejection (X) of the establishment and many other norms
  • Generation Z – This name is simply down to Generation Y being another name for Millennials. Generation Z were born from the mid-90s onwards, and will likely pick up a new name once we get to know them properly!

Both Millennials and Generation Z are often associated with instant gratification. That’s down to them becoming accustomed to having information at their fingertips. But rather than being a negative, it’s time Generation Z and Millennials’ instant gratification preference was seen as a useful starting point for engagement…

The Importance of Engaging Millennials

Millennials is another word that gets thrown around a lot – but have you ever stopped to wonder why? Given the timeframe above, most are in their 20s and 30s today. In many places, they make up a majority of the workforce and are the largest cohort in history when compared with previous generations. Now, Millennials are entering their prime spending years.

With this in mind, engaging Millennials has never been more important. This is the case for businesses hoping to target this demographic, as well as companies looking to retain young talent. But things have moved on apace since the baby boomers were in their 30s. This generation has grown up through a rapid digital evolution. Thought of as the first ‘digital natives’, they are tech-savvy, rely heavily on their devices, and prioritize experience over ownership.

In research undertaken by Goldman Sachs, it was found 50% of Millennials play video games, compared with 27% of Generation X, and a mere 16% of Baby Boomers. Meanwhile, another study found that the group spends up to 18 hours per day consuming content. So, it’s NOT hard to see why Millennials and gamification go hand in hand.

Why Does Gamification Work So Well?

Gamification works for Millennials (and beyond) because it is fulfilling. It provides a clear incentive or reward, and draws on our natural ambition. In addition, it provides a challenge – a small hurdle to overcome, which ultimately provides gratification once completed. It triggers real, visceral emotions. Just consider the last time you played Monopoly. Despite friendly intentions, did you feel compelled to beat your opponents and experience a rush of victory if you did win?

On a scientific level, receiving a reward or overcoming a hurdle triggers a release of dopamine, which helps us feel pleasure. It can even be released in the anticipation of a reward, further fuelling motivation. Gamification techniques attempt to replicate this model by engaging the brain with reward and challenge-based elements. As you gain competence in an activity, you’re also more likely to continue seeking out that activity. This is how gamification keeps users coming back for more.

A successful pairing of Millennials and gamification is determined by a number of factors. The content must be compelling, and it is best used over a certain timeframe to allow users to build competence over time.

Do Millennials Like Gamification?

In short, yes. While gamification’s benefits stretch across different age groups (and their names), Millennials and gamification is a match made in heaven. That’s down to their affinity with technology, gaming and the prioritisation of experiences over possessions.

Firstly, Millennials are drawn to interactive digital concepts because it’s what they’ve grown up around. They’re the first generation that see digital technology as the norm, meaning they’ve basically learnt it like a language from birth. Practically all of them (nearly 100%) use the internet and 93% own a smart phone.

They’re also far more interested in meaningful experiences than they are in superficial possessions. This means gamification also taps into their desire to interact and achieve, rather than simply buy and own.

Finally – and perhaps most obvious – Millennials are gamers. Similar to the technology point above, they’ve grown up around video games. As a result, a massive 77% of Millennials play some form of video games – whether it’s on a console, PC or mobile device.

Millennials and Gamification In the Real World

The concept of engaging Millennials with gamification is all very well in theory, but how does it play out in the real world?

Mediacorp, Singapore’s national media network, recently demonstrated how gamification and Millennials can be combined to gain real results. In celebration of the 20th anniversary of TODAY, their digital newsroom, Mediacorp wanted to drive more Millennials to the site. As well as increased traffic, the goal was to better understand readership preferences and earn loyal engagement amongst the age group. To do so, they launched a four-week gamified campaign using 3radical’s Voco platform.

Launched on the Today Online website, users were invited to play a variety of classic games including Sudoku, Word Search, Trivia Quiz and Pairs Matching. Promoted through the newsroom’s social channels, game play was available three times a day from Monday to Friday, with a new game each week. The first 20 winners each day were rewarded with redemption codes for prize vouchers.

The results of this campaign speak for themselves. Every single unique user of the game willingly provided their email address, while 24% of winners provided additional details in order to redeem prizes. Using this additional data, Mediacorp was able to analyze and engage with their Millennial readers on a more personal level. In addition, the campaign proved just how popular gamification is amongst this age group. An incredible 63.77% of users played at least one game, with nearly half coming back for more.

Engaging Millennials with Gamification: How To Do It

So now you know it definitely works, you may be wondering how to put gamification into practice in your business. Creating brand new software in-house is likely to be a time-consuming and costly endeavor. That’s why we have created an innovative customer engagement software using game science and techniques to create interactive digital experiences that encourage sharing of personal data. It can help you quickly and easily deploy gamified experiences that drive engagement, motivate potential buyers, and generate brand advocacy.

If you want to find out how the software can help you engage more Millennials with gamification, get in touch today. We’d love to hear more about your project. You can even request a no-obligation demo to find out if the platform is right for you. Contact us online or email info@3radical.com.

Our website uses cookies to help us to understand how you use it. By continuing to use our website you consent to our use of such cookies. For more information please read our privacy policy.