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Pharma insight on digital marketing, social media, mobile apps, online video, websites and interactive healthcare tools

Pharma's 2012 in ... gamification

Boehringer’s headline-grabbing Syrum wasn’t this year's only use of gaming techniques

Boehringer Ingelheim Facebook game Syrum lab

The use of games for health promotion and research, with its ungainly buzzword 'gamification', captured a lot of peoples' imagination this year, led by a certain Facebook-based game from Boehringer Ingelheim.

Syrum, which received a European public beta launch in September, challenges players to run their own pharmaceutical company and develop drugs to combat a range of deadly diseases.

Three years in the making, it combines elements of a trading card game such as Pokemon with the social interactivity of a Facebook game like Farmville.

While there was a little head-scratching as to why a pharma company would create a game, Boehringer's director of digital John Pugh told this blog that it was all about engagement, reputation management, market research and recruiting talent.

Syrum wasn't of course pharma's only use of gamification in 2012 – it wasn't even Boehringer's only use of it.

In March the company partnered with Kaggle, an online scientific research community that has solved problems for NASA and Ford, to produce predictive data models.

“This is a data set that the academic community have been bouncing around for years,” said David Thompson, a social media strategist at Boehringer, told this blog. “And it looks as if in three months people with no formal training in chemistry have developed models that are as good, if not better, than the models that the academic community are putting together.”

Later in the year Merck & Co also opted to tap into Kaggle's community for its Merck Molecular Activity Challenge – a competition with a $40,000 prize fund that launched in August.

Merck too hoped the work would assist its drug development work by predicting molecular activity, this time by identifying the best statistical technique for predicting biological activity of different molecules.

It was based on 15 molecular activity data sets, each for a biologically relevant target and each row corresponded to a molecule and contained descriptors derived from that molecule's chemical structure.

Gamification + social media

Finally, one of the other standout uses of gamification in 2012 came from GE Healthcare, whose six-week Get Fit challenge was a social media-enabled global healthy living competition.

The awareness drive aimed to promote better cancer prevention through healthier lifestyles by encouraging users of Twitter, Facebook and Sina Weibo, the leading Chinese microblogging platform, to collect points by tracking their progress against specific health challenges or posting comments about healthier lifestyles.

GE's campaign also used the company's HealthyShare Facebook tool, which was launched to coincide with the London 2012 Olympics, and allows people to share and track their health goals.

Participants competed against one another while accumulating 'healthy' points and badges and, at the close of the six-week challenge in September, the player and the team with the most points was crowned Get Fit champions.

Whether in the form of actual games, like Syrum, or game-like elements, gamification is likely be an area of further pharma activity in 2013.

17th December 2012

From: Marketing

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