Let’s face it: advertising is going digital – slowly, but firmly. Although TV stays the leading advertising platform even in the developed countries, the internet grinds its gears more and more with each passing year.

Recent forecasts suggest that digital marketing budgets of the Top-20 U.S. companies are likely to surpass the TV advertising budgets in 2017, and by 2020 the internet will become the major marketing channel for virtually every field of business.

Frankly speaking, we all know why this is happening, why the ads go online. They go there because they follow the new consumer, who, over the last two decades, has developed immunity to big boards, city lights, flyers, and catchy tunes from the TV commercials. Moreover, this new consumer refuses to even watch television in its traditional sense!

So, what is the way to advertise and sell to this type of consumer? Gamification might just be the answer to that.

Most people have heard the term by now, and one would think that it is pretty self-explanatory. Gamification is the implementation of game-like features and experiences into traditional marketing instruments. One of the oldest gamified marketing examples would be Frequent Flyer Programs offered by airline companies. As a Frequent Flyer, a client gains points (“miles”) for every flight with the company and is able to use these points for various rewards.

However, the classic gamification paradigm happens to quickly go out-of-date. Now gamification becomes more about calling the target audiences to certain actions, which would be impossible without the gamified approach.

Have a look at Fitocracy – a service which promotes a healthy lifestyle through the mobile app. Or is it the app that is designed to sell the fitness service? It is really hard to tell. The user just downloads the app and gets access to personalized daily workouts, either free or paid, with personal coaching. How many people do you think would have bought the coaching service just by seeing it in an ad? And how many more are likely to make such purchase from a game-like mobile application?

I have heard a lot of opinions against gaming. Many wonder why it works so effectively, if the game is basically just a routine. Launched in 2006, World of Warcraft remains the #1 online multiplayer till today. How can one play the same game for 10 years in a row?

Well, it turns out that it’s not all about playing as much as achievements. Levels, medals, badges, leaderboards – the sense of unaccomplished achievement makes us stay and keep on playing. And while playing, we invest our time in earning the in-game valuables. But if it works so well for in-game sales, why would it not work just as well for products and services in the real world?

Released in 2012, Ingress by Nantic Labs had everything to draw the consumer to the desired real-world locations, and attract them to stores and restaurants directly, and not by chance of a banner or advertisement. However, what Ingress appeared to lack was the charisma for broad casual audiences. It was missing that one zest that would get it into everyone’s phones.

Four years later, this zest was introduced by Nintendo who presented the concept, which stimulated the sense of unaccomplished achievement. “Catch them all!” The stars aligned. No matter how many you’ve caught already, there will always be more to hunt and add to your collection. In Pokemon: GO, your goal is not to complete the game but to keep playing.

So, will Pikachu boost the sales of a local grocery store, and Charizard – drive the number of clients at a gas station? This is already happening, although not to full potential yet. Disney has announced a Star Wars gaming title which will take the user on various “Jedi” missions to real-world locations, with their phone acting as a lightsaber. Microsoft’s Language Quality game invited users to translate their resources into various languages, and as a result, 4,500 people edited more than 50,000 web pages within a month. Samsung used Badgeville gamification platform to boost the quantity of user product reviews by 500%. Even the U.S. Army did not hesitate to embrace gamification. Since 2002, it has invested into the “America’s Army” gaming series, which eventually surpassed all other recruiting methods, and improved the overall public attitude to the military by 30% across the U.S.

All of a sudden, marketers have realized how to get to the hearts - and wallets - of the new kind of consumers who drifted away into the virtual. The key was so obvious all along, and all you had to do was reach out and grab it. So, without a doubt, we are likely to see more gamified marketing tools and practices in the years to come.

Where would this trend take us, eventually? Earning the virtual money with bicycling dynamo machines 9 to 5, as shown in one of the episodes of Black Mirror? Or simply scoring some kind of “universal points” for everyday activities, which would then be exchanged for goods and services? Hard to say. But one thing is for sure – anything becomes a lot more fun to do when it is being done with a purpose.