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Posts Tagged ‘healthcare’

Marketing gamification & healthy rewards; learnings from Foursquare

Monday, September 5th, 2011

I am not going to wax poetic on Zygna’s successes Farmville or Mafia Wars because they annoy me to no end and I wish people would stop herding sheep on Facebook because I think there are better ways to spend your time! As my Yelp profile says “I have opinions”, and so I digress.

What I am going to highlight are a few evolving marketing theories and platforms I have become more familiar with over the last few years as they relate to applying behavioral change modeling to gamification & marketing.

As defined by Wikipedia, Gamification is the use of game play thinking 1 and mechanics to solve problems and engage audiences. Typically gamification applies to non-game applications (also known as “funware”),2 particularly consumer-oriented web and mobile sites, in order to encourage people to adopt the applications. It also strives to encourage users to engage in desired behaviors in connection with the applications.3 Gamification works by making technology more engaging,4 and by encouraging desired behaviors, taking advantage of humans’ psychological predisposition to engage in gaming.5 The technique can encourage people to perform chores that they ordinarily consider boring, such as completing surveys, shopping, or reading web sites.4

The 2nd citation in that definition is related to healthcare…. Sinanian, Michael (April 12, 2010). “The ultimate healthcare reform could be fun and games”. Venture Beat. This will come into play later in the post.

Applying gamification to marketing

A few weeks ago I watched a riveting 60 minute Google tech talk “Fun is the Future: Mastering Gamification” by Gabe Zichermann; a marketing goldmind. Theories on how gamification is currently in-progress of redefining what old loyalty programs used to be—no longer about the intrinsic product or rewards per say, but replacing them with personal status as a new type of reward. Now as a marketer, you may say “but it always has to be about my product!” True to a point, but it’s all in the delivery and shaping what the “reward” looks and feels like for the consumer. This is a must-watch for anyone in marketing thinking about, or currently re-establishing their customer relationship marketing programs to better align with customer expectations of the forms in which brand loyalty translates to them.

60 minutes of goodness- I would bookmark this for Sunday evening enjoyment, it’s worth it!

Absorbing the theories in this talk has fueled a personal fury of ideas surrounding marketing, gamification and mainstream acceptance and utilization as we have seen demonstrated with social platforms like Foursquare. Most recently there have been some newcomers to the “game” if you will applying these theories across multiple industries looking to drive behavioral change amongst their consumer targets, such as DailyFeats and Foodzy, just to name a few.


No stranger to the gaming world, Foursquare has come a long way in maturing their businesses model; no longer viewed as a “stalker” app to broadcast your daily visits around town & finding where your friends are, there’s more to it and this social game has 8M users, 2.5M check-ins everyday. They have led they way for driving behavioral change by checking into local venues earning you points, sometimes specials & discounts at participating retailers as well as badges based on the different types of places you frequent; 50% of the badges are sponsored by national brands and local brands businesses. The more brands and companies you follow, they more opportunity you have to un-lock a special badge created by them. Independent satisfaction for you whilst climbing the leaderboard vs. your friends.


Foursquaropoly has taken the API from Foursquare and building a citywide game around buying & owning properties just gives reason for more social interaction with our friends in NYC. Billed as “Monopolize Your Life.” a gaming app that uses Foursquare to make you the game piece and your city the board. They have launched some recent press surrounding their use case and are still currently in development, but this video gives a GREAT idea of what’s to come. I can see down the road all forms of monetization for this platform with local businesses as well. I can’t wait for this.

Foursquaropoly from Deanna McDonald on Vimeo.

In pursuit of behavioral change

Foursquare has effectively tied together 3 things: motivation, simplicity and triggers for acting on a check-in. They have driven behavioral change across socializing location-based marketing. How does the Foursquare gaming model translate into health?

Sometimes, gaming just isn’t about monetary or tangible rewards such as discounts, points as much as it is about personal rewards. Everyday, most of us, strive to lead a life full of satisfaction attained through the creation of personal goals and accomplishments. In the age of mobile living sometimes writing these goals down in your notebook doesn’t really fuel the effort it takes to accomplish them.

Enter mobile/portable coaching through gamification.

Myriad goals exist in the form of feeling better, being productive, eating well, complying with/being aware of drug/food interactions and allergies. Such are all examples of what an individual determines  to be a “healthy interaction” throughout their day, week or month.

There is a method to the madness behind cultivating healthy behavioral change, or any behavioral change for that matter. No one covers this more in-depth than BJ Fogg, founder of the Persuasive Technology Lab at Stanford University, my personal go-to for all things behaviorally related on his blog Behavior Model. His research focuses on designing for behavioral change using today’s technology via the FBM model. The FBM highlights three principal elements, each of which has subcomponents.

  • 3 Core Motivators (Motivation)
  • 6 Simplicity Factors (Ability)
  • 3 types of Triggers (Action)

The takeaway: “while motivation is very high, ability can still be low.” You have to establish the triggers of change and participatory adoption.

In marketing speak— you need market traction, you need your audience to participate (acquisition/compliance), and keep participating (retention/persistency). They key building blocks to any successful business plan or individual tactical objective and/or strategy.

Marketing healthy rewards

There are a plethora of mobile coaching programs, apps and services in market today to help people make healthier choices. But again- when it comes to marketing, your biggest competition is what and how the rest of the world is accustomed to responding and actively participating in something. WIFM? What’s in it for me mentality? Everyone wants to be incentivized these days- that’s where gaming comes into play and there are 2 standout “healthy” startups who I think are doing this very well.

An online check-in system that turns healthy eating into a gaming, Foodzy has been covered by Fast Company in July and their new mobile app was recently covered by TechCrunch this morning. By introducing game and social elements in your eating habits, Foodzy encourages peoples to maintain a healthy lifestyle over long term, and bring back the fun in enjoying food with friends.

As noted by Fast Company “Sure, there are other apps out there that track your calories, and Weight Watchers has been gamifiying watching what you eat since before the Internet existed. What might set Foodzy apart, other than it’s cute Web 2.0 design, is twofold: the social connections and the crowdsourced database of food items.”

Foodzy is not pitching themselves as a weight-loss site. The app makes this more fun than other food tracking apps by giving calories a fun new name (bits. 1= 20 calories) and earning badges for certain good foods or fun eating habits. An upgrade to Foodzy Pro ($15 month) gives you access to the mobile app and allows you to start a personal diet plan that advises you how many bits you should eat per day if you want to lose, gain or keep your weight and offers a personalized dashboard to analyze your food habits.

Note to readers: the online system is currently set up in height (cm) and weight (kg) I had to bust out my calculator for this. (side effect from having an Amsterdam origin for the startup)
1 Inch = 2.54 Centimeters
lbs / 2.2 = kilograms

Foodzy currently has a database of 90,000 foods, for different countries. This is still very new, it was just released to the public in July so only time and traction will tell, but I like the idea behind it. I see a lot of marketing opportunity for additional monetization through brand/product sponsorships that all ties back to indirect brand loyalty. I also personally wish someone would create this for the gluten intolerant/food allergy community. Huge opportunity there!



Certain social wellness gaming programs such as DailyFeats takes these measures into consideration through their mantra of “Doing good should be rewarding”; DailyFeats guides you in doing small but significant actions — or “feats” — that add up to big change. Along the way, you earn points, share with friends, and treat yourself to real-life rewards, motivating you to go do good — every day for health and happiness.

Whenever someone has completed a meaningful, positive action — like enjoying a piece of fresh fruit, tutoring a kid, or taking a brisk walk after a stressful day –they can check in that feat or accept a challenge which is a group of feats that person can plan to accomplish over a period of time. Users will earn points to redeem for discounts at neighborhood businesses or savings from national brands. DailyFeats has most recently partnered with MTV,,, Cigna and Charity: Water.


Go on, earn yourself a healthy badge

Health is something we ALL take seriously; it’s part of our everyday. I think those in the health and wellness arena, including the government and health plans, can learn a lot from the consumer realm of social gamification. As I stated earlier, when it comes to marketing anything, a product or a service, your biggest competition is what and how the rest of the world is accustomed to responding and actively participating in something; know the drivers whether it be marketing effort or support program.

Incentivizing positive behavioral change through utilization of gaming mechanics as the core structure within marketing ideas and personalized support programs definitely has some relevant and worthwhile points to go after.

Additional suggested reading: The ultimate healthcare reform could be fun and games Venture Beat


References via Wikipedia:

  1. Popkin, Helen (June 1, 2010). “FarmVille invades the real world”. MSNBC.
  2. Sinanian, Michael (April 12, 2010). “The ultimate healthcare reform could be fun and games”. Venture Beat.
  3. Stuart, Keith (19 September 2010). The Observer.
  4. Takahashi, Dean (September 30, 2010). “Gamification gets its own conference”. Venture Beat.
  5. Radoff, Jon (2011). Game On: Energize Your Business with Social Media Games. Wiley. pp. xxxii. ISBN 9780470936269.


Dear pharma: Ad Age wants to know if you’re listening?

Monday, June 20th, 2011

Ad Ageand Infegy just tracked the top brands ad spending by category and their associated social media ranking.

Not shocking, pharma led the bottom 10 brands as seen below in stats from the Ad Age post.
























Everyone from Chris Brogan to Jonathan Richman has been waxing on for years now about how message control in “marketing” a brand has shifted to the consumer . It’s not a 1 way street anymore. Irrespective of what you are marketing your brand as, your message may not resonate with your audience and quiet frankly may be redefined by them.

Scary thought, yes. But this isn’t new, this consumer led phonomena is here to stay. Take a card from the consumer world and bet on that success. If you are not addressing this as part of one of your strategic imperatives, you are missing the boat on the entire universe of PEOPLE deciding and influencing the worth of your brands, not the brand itself. (more…)

Mobile engagement POV: Use of QR Codes in Healthcare

Sunday, March 13th, 2011

Chances are your brand objective/strategies include a critical success factor such as: “Gaining SOV across emerging digital channels”. One channel you might be expanding into is mobile. Mobile channel engagement offers many ways to leverage a mobile device to deliver customized information requested by a consumer.

QR Codes/2-D Bar codes

One tactical aspect of mobile engagement that has been gaining momentum within consumer marketing efforts over the last year are the use of QR Codes /2-D Bar Codes. (QR= Quick response) This is not new technology. QR Codes/2-D bar codes have been around for decades. You may know them as or refer to them as “UPC symbols” most consumers are familiar with those bar codes since they exist on almost every CPG they purchase.

QR codes are commonly used in Japan. They offer much higher density encoding than standard bar codes and allow for higher amounts of data to be stored, with error correction in cases where parts of the bar codes get damaged/blocked.

When understanding technologies, it’s sometimes best to use a real-world reference to garner the “ah ha…” moment of figuring how to apply that to your own marketing efforts. How have you, a consumer (yes, we are all consumers) used this technology so far?

Ever go to a concert and get your ticket scanned? Board an airplane? Build a registry at Williams Sonoma for your bridal shower? Those are all unique identifiers, to you. Key word= unique, which equates to trackable and measurable.

Did you also know that many hospitals use scanners to register/track medicine from their in-house pharmacies to patients at POC (Point of Care)?

What makes QR Code utilization different now?

For the consumer: The world moves fast, and immediacy has become commonplace in the world of digital tools. Now, virtually every mobile device built on the iOS, Android or RIM platform not only has a camera built into it (including the new iPad2) BUT also have app stores which offer scanning apps like, ScanLife, Bakodo, Red Laser and StickyBits, which offer consumers a direct ON DEMAND connection to information they want.


Venture Capitalists Say Health IT Investments are Poised To Grow in 2011. Predictions?

Monday, January 3rd, 2011

Last week, the National Venture Capital Association (NVCA) and Dow Jones VentureSource released a recent survey representing more than 400 U.S. venture capitalists and 180 CEOs of U.S.-based venture-backed companies. NVCA’s mission is to foster greater understanding of the importance of venture capital to the U.S. economy and support entrepreneurial activity and innovation.

The survey has prompted a lot of discussion surrounding 2011 predictions surrounding VC funding for tech/ innovation sectors.

Venture capitalists predict investments:

51% to rise
24% to remain the same
24% to decrease

Optimism prevails across predicting stage of development investment as well:

51% later-stage investment
49% expansion and seed investment
46% percent in early-stage investment

The upside for VC investments sat with technology in particular. (more…)

Manhattan Research’s latest…and scariest “E-Empowered Consumers”

Wednesday, November 10th, 2010

Manhattan Research released a press release today. Insights into how patients make decisions and how the internet MAY replace HCPs…

In this year’s tenth edition of the Cybercitizen Health® U.S. study, pharmaceutical and healthcare market research company Manhattan Research sought to quantify the impact the Internet was having on how consumers manage their health by identifying a population of  “E-Empowered Consumers.”

What did they find?

99 Million E-Empowered Consumers are Using Online Information and Tools to Take a More Active Role in Their Healthcare (more…)

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