Gamification and online communities – what can pharma do?

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Gamification is the new buzzword in digital marketing and has the potential to engage consumers more than traditional strategies.


This new idea uses gaming as a vehicle to encourage people to adopt new habits or influence their behaviour. Companies are now using it to deliver their marketing messages and advertising to the wider public.


By far the biggest and well-known use of gamification comes from the Facebook game Farmville. The game’s developers Zynga use the popularity of Facebook as a platform for the game.

In Farmville players grow crops and can then sell them to their friends, or form a co-operative with other players to build a bigger and more productive farm.


Pharma has now jumped on the gamification bandwagon and is starting to use it to promote disease awareness campaigns, but it begs the question: can gamification work for pharma?


Boehringer Ingelheim is betting that it can, and is the pioneer of this idea in pharma. The firm is currently developing a new game called Syrum to promote the industry as a whole, whilst also using it for its own marketing purposes.


Syrum is currently undergoing beta testing and is the brainchild of John Pugh, Boehringer’s director of digital communications. Pugh is a well-known trailblazer in pharma’s digital world, launching Boehringer’s Twitter feed in 2007, and making it a true online conversation with followers.


In January this year, Pugh won the PM Society’s Digital Pioneer Award for pushing the digital boundaries within the industry. His new project works much the same way as Farmville does, but just swaps farms and crops for laboratories and molecules.


Syrum will be available on Facebook where gamers play as an R&D pharma company that has to develop drugs and put them into clinical trials, mimicking the real industry process.


And there are social media aspects to it, as players can link up with their Facebook friends and give them gifts – these can then be used to customise their offices and laboratories. Players can also trade and collaborate to help create better compounds, but on the flipside they also have the option to steal their competitors’ staff and compounds to get ahead.

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