Pharma Marketing

Top 3 Key Lessons on Social Media in the Pharmaceutical Industry

On 22nd and 23rd of January in London I was honored to be a speaker at the Social Media in the Pharmaceutical Industry conference. Now back in Swiss Pharma capital city – Basel, let me summarize the key lessons on the social media in pharma industry I took back from the United Kingdom.

Social Network Analysis book cover [social media in pharmaceutical industry]
Social Network Analysis book cover (Photo credit: Matthew Burpee)
First of all, the event itself was really worth to attend. If you heard alarm bells buzzing on the bullshit bingo sequence of social media in pharma, this time it would be a false alarm. Not because of my humble presence, but because of the other participants and the content of their presentations. The chairwoman of the event, my ex-colleague at Roche, now enjoying freedoms of the external consultant, Alexandra Fulford (@pharmaguapa) made sure that we were not lost on the way. Having said that, let us digest the content of the conference.

Social Media in Pharmaceutical Industry Key Learning #1: Social Media is not a marketer’s toy, but a source of powerful intelligence data. A Big Data!

A diagram of a social network [social media in pharmaceutical industry]
A diagram of a social network (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
My senior colleague from Roche, Dr. Alfred R. Steinhardt now in the hat of PA Consulting Group and his own Alfred Steinhardt Consulting, showed us an incredible power of the Social Media used not for standard “what they said about us”. Dr. Steinhardt provided example of social media used by pharmaceutical industry for recruitment to clinical trials (social patient). We could also see social media as a tool to identify and engage with Key Opinion Leaders (in this new world, aren’t they rather Influencers?) who do not necessarily recruit from academia as in the past. Maybe most striking, even if not the most common usage of Social Media was tracking origin of counterfeit drugs sold online.
As we discussed after the presentation, Social Media is not such a big revolution as some pundits say and it will not replace scientific method with statistical analysis of huge amounts of data. Still it is an extremely useful tool that should be looked at out of plain pharma marketing perspective. Which was further confirmed by Dr. Sherri Matis-Mitchell, an Associate Principal Information Scientist R&D Information at AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals. Dr. Matis showed us how Social Media, when properly used, can provide important answers to R&D teams in pharma industry and help identify unmet needs of patients.

Social Media in Pharmaceutical Industry Key Learning #2: Legal Team is not a threat (and can be a savior) for social media in pharma.

Let's Make It Legal [social media in pharmaceutical industry]
Let’s Make It Legal (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
An eye opening presentation of Audrey Hagege, a Legal Manager and Todd Kolm (@toddkolm), VP and Head of Global Digital Strategy from Sanofi showed us not only what Legal Teams think about Social Media. Even more important was how distorted is an image of legal teams in the eyes of us, digital marketers working on social media in pharma. At the end it is easy – just let your legal or compliance officer know what you are going to do. They are in the organization to help and protect, and not to stop any activities.
On the other hand, while social media in pharma is becoming more and more regulated, I had an impression that some of our colleagues are going dangerously close to the line. Ms. Müge Gizem Bıçakçı Akalın (@MGizemBA), a New Promotional Models Manager at Boehringer Ingelheim’s Turkish affiliate shared with us plans to promote a Facebook page of a feminine avatar with a name very closely resembling a brand of prescribed drug for menstrual pains. Is it already promotion and communication DTC, or still just a disease awareness campaign? Let’s hope Gizem has very good friends in her legal team and they are crystal clear about their legal framework.

Social Media in Pharmaceutical Industry Key Learning #3: Social media in pharma can be measured and data driven (but not always is).

Gary Monk (@Garymonk) from Havas Lynx and John Pugh (@JohnPugh) from BI shared similar thoughts on how to measure efficiency of pharma activities in social media. As we were sitting in the UK, for obvious reasons there were not much about direct impact on sales. However, we could see important metrics on the engagement. Both speakers provided some hints on what can be improved in Facebook and Twitter presence of the analysed brands, but it is not what is the most interesting from my point of view.  
What is more important is just an attempt to step back and look at those activities and try to measure them against each other. Then track what works and what is not. How your facebook page welcomes user? How fast do you respond (do you)? How often do you tweet? Do you follow others and do you retweet or share their posts? What makes Eli Lilly or Boehringer more successful in Social Media than in the market? We can find those answers, and we should as we are no longer pioneers in the social media. It is time to treat it as a serious communication channel with real budget and real targets to meet.
The lessons on social media in pharma listed above are not a comprehensive list. I have learnt much more, and I am going to share those lessons soon on K-message in other posts. There were great examples of social media and digital in action. Mobile app helping patients to fight against depression (Claire Perrin), Catz against Asthma (Ben Furber @BenFurber), Knowledge database available online to HCPs thanks to Merck and their Univadis (Thibaud Guymard @thibaudguymard), I will not be able to mention them all now. But I can now say thank you to all participants, speakers, and SMi for making this event so inspiring. Thank you!

Pharma Marketing

Gamification in Pharma Marketing Explained with Examples

Gamification in pharma marketing is one of the hot topics of recent years. In this article you will learn what is gamification, see the examples of gamification used in pharma business (both marketing gamification and education gamification). We will also show the potential of social gamification, and try to show how to insert gamification into your app, website and other digital activities.

What is Gamification? Definition not only for Pharma Marketing.

One of the simplest and most appealing definition of gamification is: 
[box type=”info” align=”aligncenter” ]”Gamification is the use of game design elements in non-game contexts” [Source: Deterding, S., Dixon D., Khaled, R., and Nacke, L. From game design elements to gamefulness: defining “gamification” (2011). Proceedings of the 15th International Academic MindTrek Conference: Envisioning Future Media Environments, ACM, New York.].[/box]

What does it mean?
“Gamification” refers to

  • the use (rather than the extension) of
  • design (rather than game-based technology or other game-related practices)
  • elements (rather than full-fledged games)
  • characteristic for games (rather than play or playfulness)
  • in non-game contexts (regardless of specific usage intentions, contexts, or media of implementation).

Game design elements can be divided by the level of abstraction, starting from using game interface patterns (ie. using badges or leaderboards), to game design methods (ie. value conscious game design).

game design patterns

game mechanics

game principles and heuristics

game models

game design methods

badge, leaderboard

time or resource limitation, player turns

clear goals, recognition of different game styles

Mechanics-Dynamics-Aesthetics (MDA), Core elements of gaming experience (CEGE )

Playcentric design, value conscious game design

Most applications of gamification in pharma marketing nowadays limits use of  game design elements to the first three levels. It is relatively easy and a no-brainer to add some badge or status to the user profile in hope that it would increase activity or completeness of the data provided. On the other hand, using game models and designing user journey with conscious application of game theory may bring the highest level of engagement and the best conversion rates.
As we mentioned “game theory” it is worth to explain this term as well. Basically, game theory is a study of how people make strategic decisions. The foundation of modern game theory is a classic 1944 work Theory of Games and Economic Behavior by mathematician John von Neumann and economist Oskar Morgenstern. Game theory tries to explain and provide mathematical models for decision making process. Using game theory in real life is difficult as the world does not provide to players full information, and “utility” or the prize in the game does not have to be considered equally by players. Still for the digital marketer game theory provides useful models to make some actions more attractive for users than others.

How to Apply Gamification in Pharma Marketing Campaign?

There are six essential elements of gamification that you can use to improve your key message delivery.

  1. Playful design. Going through your campaign should be attributed to the world of play, not work. Your audience should be attracted to the message because it is enjoyable for them, not because you paid them or they were ordered to participate. It is easier said than done, but you should make an effort to provide user with the environment that is not connected with daily work routine, use positive stimuli or feedback whenever possible etc.
  2. Clear rules. Every game has its rules, and going through your message delivery should have it too. There has to be clear logic in how user goes through it
  3. Defined objectives and intermediate goals to meet. Put within the message some smaller tasks that can be quick-wins for users, as well as a  big hairy goal to be rewarded for at the end of the journey.
  4. Competition. It does not have to be based on other players, it can be competition against time. Still leaderboards, badges and points are one of the easiest tricks that encourage participation and accomplishing tasks. On the other hand, this competition should not be too hard, unless you want players to drop-off frustrated early in the game.
  5.  Rewards. Provide a constant feedback in form of the rewards for accomplishment of the task (to encourage progress) or just staying in the game (to maintain user-retention).
  6. Continuous challenge.  Achieving each next step in the game should be bit harder. Otherwise the game would be boring. You do not want to make the tasks too hard either. Thus the best option is to make sure that level one prepares user for level two. If you properly match achieved skill with the next challenge the game will have a “flow” that will keep your users fully engaged.

Looking at the list above, you probably noticed, that gamification as a concept must be embedded in the campaign even before the content is created or the channels and technologies of content delivery are selected.

Gamification in Pharma Marketing: Can We Do It?

Pharma marketing approach to gamification is somehow ambivalent. On the one side, gamification is a buzz word that flies around industry conference rooms. We see some examples of gamification in pharma marketing that worked or not, we also tend to call gamification activities that were just games, and we are bombed by the agencies who can name every product gamification as long as Big Pharma is going to pay for that.
But when we flip the coin, there is this other side. In general it is not very inline with regulatory compliance to even think about “games” or “playfulness” in the context of life and death. Which is the usual context of pharma marketing. Even if you think about CME – your patient does not have three lives to lose in case his pathologist did not score well a cancer on the tissue sample.
The questions remains: “Can we do gamification in pharma marketing? And shall we?
At K-message we believe, that pharma marketing not only should implement gamification, but it has an obligation to do so. This is especially because of the purpose of the pharma marketing job – we work to deliver the best possible treatment to the suffering patients. And if we have any means that can possibly help us in this task, ignoring it is equal to negligence.
There is only one thing to keep in mind, the gamification, as every other marketing tactic in our toolbox, has to be implemented by in a professional way. It means it has to be done by a specialist, after careful consideration of all the campaign elements that we are going to gamify,  and with a solid smart objective behind it.
While researching for this piece we encountered many examples of pharma marketers being misguided. It is very important to remember
[box type=”warning” align=”aligncenter” ]Gamification is not “making a game”. Yes, even if this game is an application for the iPad.[/box]
Gamification is use of game design elements in non-game contexts. If it is a game only, it is not gamification. It is just a game.
This common mistake makes plenty of examples of apparently successful gamification in pharma marketing just a gimmick.

Good and Bad: Examples of Gamification in Pharma Marketing


It is a pharma marketing game but not a gamification!

A famous SYRUM from Boehringer Ingelheim is not a gamification. It is just a brand image campaign and way to get access to user profiles in Social Media. Game elements are not used in out of game context, it was a game used to attract users. By the way, the imagery and general tone of SYRUM makes us question whether this campaign is targeting appropriate audience.

Syrum Logo © 2012 Boehringer Ingelheim GmbH.
Syrum Logo © 2012 Boehringer Ingelheim GmbH.

Social Gamification in Pharma R&D

In the same time Boehringer Ingelheim has properly used gamification in their Predicting a Biological Response competition made with Kaggle. In the contest with a $20,000 awards poll participants were looking for a model to predict mutability of new, previously unseen compounds.

Kaggle -  Boehringer Ingelheim Study
Kaggle – Boehringer Ingelheim Study

Similarly to Predicting a Biological Response, a good example of gamification that supports pharma R&D is a Cell Slider. This application was Cancer Research UK and Zooniverse. This simple app presents a snap of a tissue, blood cell or irregular sample with cancer. Users are able to classify samples. So far game uses breast cancer samples. The yellow stain indicates levels of a protein found in cancer cells called the oestrogen receptor (ER).
Click to Cure - Cancer Research UK and Zooniverse Cell Slider
Click to Cure – Cancer Research UK and Zooniverse Cell Slider

The job that would take months or years of work of trained pathologists is now crowdsourced. So far almost 2 million images were analysed and classified. Game provides a constant feedback and challenge varies depending on the sample. If user has a profile created, elements of game design are applied, including results saving.

Gamification in Pharma Marketing DTC

Another good example of gamification in pharma marketing is GoMeals, a set of applications developed for sanofi-aventis U.S. by specialized digital pharma marketing agency Intouch Solutions. GoMeals is created for people living with diabetes and promotes Sanofi’s diabetes drug Apdira.

GoMeals® Application for Healthy Living
GoMeals® Application for Healthy Living

The app, available on the web and for smartphones encourages users to make healthy choices with features for eating healthy, staying active and tracking blood glucose levels. GoMeals allows patients to see how their daily habits impact their diabetes. It also provides HCPs with the ability to see how their patient is actually doing. GoMeals uses game design elements providing users clear reports on “burnt calories”, intake from their meals, and glucose readings.
Another example from Sanofi is a gamification of diabetes tracking targeted to younger audience. A Monster Manor is a game for children with diabetes type 1, that encourages users to track their glucose levels. It is integrated with BlueLoop glucose tracker application. The app is created for Sanofi by Ayogo Health agency.
IPhone Monster Manor -
IPhone Monster Manor –

Every time children enter their BG information into the BlueLoop app they are rewarded with a “piñata” to crack open in Monster Manor. Piñatas are items with all sorts of fun inside, from “Beanz” that will help children collect more monsters, to “Gold” that will buy their monster new pets. Note that contrary to BI’s SYRUM this game has an effect outside of the game, as we gain better tracking and insights into the patient, so the whole game design was used in the context of diabetes tracking.

Gamification for CME

In the field of CME (Continuing Medical Education) gamification is seen as one of the ways to retain interest of the HCPs. One of the examples is Septris a web-based mobile application focused on Sepsis education. Created by Stanford University School of Medicine,  Septris may be used on iOS, Android and from desktop web browser. To achieve its learning objectives it introduces a game in which user is diagnosing and treating virtual “patients” while learning about Sepsis.

Gamification in Pharma Marketing: Looking Forward

As listed above there are good examples of gamification in pharma marketing. We can all learn from them, but there is still a big room for improvement. Gamification in pharma marketing goes hand in hand with mHealth, and as mobile healthcare grows there will be more of game design elements in pharma marketing campaigns.
Current focus of pharma marketers is on gamification in direct to consumer (DTC) marketing. Indeed gamification as a tactic can be very efficient in increasing patient compliance to the prescribed treatment.  However this focal point has to change, as regulatory and compliance rules out such application outside of U.S. market for any branded activities.  Disease awareness and prevention campaigns will always be worth the effort, but our prediction is that gamification may be more and more used in self-detailing and CME. So far we could not see any good example of game design application in e-detailing.
We really hope that in 2014 we will start to see first integrated campaigns with e-detailing, self-detailing combined in one “gamified” design. At the end, if we want HCPs to self-detail themselves should not we make it a playful and rewarding experience?

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