SXSW POV: Gamification: Providing a Holistic Experience in Creating a Better, Healthier World

Ilana Scholl, Head of Digital Strategy, Caudex

What is gamification? Playing games to motivate and engage users is at the core of "gamification's" strategic intent to enhance systems, services, organizations and activities to create interactive experiences.  

Today, 3 billion people play games all over the world. People are playing everything from Wordle to FIFA, from Roblox to Minecraft, with friends or solo. For many, especially during the pandemic, games have been more than a pastime – they’ve been a lifeline and a way to connect with others. Games are powerful. They have a unique ability to break barriers, spark imagination and create empathy. Gaming is the only activity where strangers can come together and work as a team to achieve a goal, even if they don’t speak the same language, have never met, live in different parts of the world, or have different abilities. All of this is thanks to the power of play and imagination, and those who craft these amazing worlds. So, you may be wondering how does this translate to Healthcare Practitioners (HCPs)? 

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, it was still difficult to convince clients that HCPs are “digital.” However, as a result of the pandemic, the pharma mindset has changed. Since 2021, more than 70% of HCPs are digital natives (Pharmafile)1, and, because of the pandemic restrictions, the pharma industry was forced to rely on digital and virtual channels for most HCP promotions and communications. With the growing use of digital in the pharma space, pharma companies have a wealth of analytics on HCP behavior they can utilize as they include gamification in their multi-channel marketing campaigns with HCPs. 

What are the latest gaming stats? 72% of gamers are adults 18+ with 38% of those between 18-34. The average gamer is 34 years old. 60% of gamers play daily. 56% of the most frequent gamers play multiplayer games. Mobile gaming revenue accounted for 57% of total gaming revenue in 2021. And more than 50% of gaming was through smartphones and smartwatches.2

Gaming is about creating a holistic experience. There are daily apps most of us use that we may not think of as gamification but are. Can pharma follow the same mindset when it is trying to deliver education containing credible scientific data, speaker training, peer-to-peer, and within clinical trials? Starbucks, Nike Run Club, and Wordle are just a few examples that pharma can follow. 

Are you addicted to the Starbucks app? More than 60% of Starbucks guests use the app to order ahead. You may think of the Starbucks app as a tool to order coffee that saves you time. However, Starbucks has created an addiction factor through earning stars tied to your order size, by playing bonus star challenges, and other in-app and online challenges, and being awarded or earning free products. 

Nike Run Club is an exercise app that uses gamification to encourage engagement and retention while making exercise fun. It can be used from both your mobile device or watch.  The app encourages users to log sessions, take part in organized challenges with other run buddies, while offering prizes for completion. 

And the latest craze that we are all familiar with is Wordle. You can only spend a handful of minutes a day with the game, but it is a family affair. From kids to parents and seniors, pretty much everyone has jumped on the bandwagon, and it lends itself to daily dinner conversation. 

Similar to how pharma pivoted from live congresses to virtual congresses with the help of their agency partners due to the pandemic restrictions, agencies can work with clients to provide different options for the pharma company or brands around gamification.  

WHAT IF we took the Starbucks model and applied a star system to the competitiveness of HCPs for how they interact digitally with speaker training, peer-to-peer programs, congresses, and online? WHAT IF we use similar elements and concepts like those in Nike Run where people can encourage their peers to log on and review a poster or participate in an advisory session? WHAT IF we helped brands activate their HCPs in a new way through gamification? WHAT IF instead of pushing everything a brand creates to the HCP, we use analytics and understanding HCP behavior to let the HCP engage with the brand content how they choose, while allowing the competitiveness of HCPs and addictiveness of games to encourage the HCP to raise their hand and ask for more? WHAT IF through gaming we help foster stronger HCP bonds with the brand, ultimately driving better care for patients? 

Pharma has been slow to adapt to gamification. With pharma more ready than ever to utilize new digital and virtual technologies, now is the time. Gaming is a universal pursuit, triggering not only our competitive instinct but also our desires for achievement, recognition and community. 

  1. Using advanced digital capabilities to unlock hard-to-see HCPs access | Pharmafile
  2. Video Game Demographics -Who Plays Games in 2022 (