Gamification takes careful planning and a willingness to take risks, according to the nonprofit Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA) Educational Foundation, but brands can really benefit by engaging audiences in play.
In a talk on best practices for mobile gaming at ClickZ Live New York, Richard Guest, president of North American operations for Tribal Worldwide, interviewed Emily Skor, who leads the communications department for the CHPA. With the help of Tribal, the CHPA has recently created a mobile game called DXM Labworks that shows teenagers the effects of dextromethorphan, or DXM, the active ingredient in cough medicine that teenagers sometimes abuse as an intoxicant.
The mobile game puts teenagers in control of a robot and offers 12 scenarios that mimic the effects of “robo-tripping,” or being high on DXM. Each time the user loses control of his robot, which results in vomiting, falling down, or other dire consequences, the player loses a friend. When the player loses all three friends, the game is over and a message warns players about robo-tripping.
Throughout the creation, testing, and launch of the game, CHPA has pioneered a few best practices for brands looking to gamify.
“To create the game, we started to follow the data: teens are fickle, and they’re constantly evolving,” Skor said. The CHPA noticed that teens were no longer responding to their Facebook campaign in the way that they once did, and the organization figured out that teens were moving away from the social media platform as their parents joined. Instead, teens were moving to mobile to search topics they didn’t feel comfortable looking up on the family desktop, especially information on DXM.
“Creating a game is not like creating a typical advertising message,” Guest said. And testing a game’s efficacy is more like running a focus group than testing a Twitter campaign. To make sure that young people were engaged with the game without getting the message that “robo-tripping” is fun, Skor tested it on her own children, among other teens. “We had to factor in user experience,” Skor said. “We had to watch teens play. The loved the fact that the robot would puke onscreen, but even my 5-year-old could get that if he couldn’t get the robot to function, he lost friends.”
KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE
The CHPA knew that teens were looking online for videos of others getting high, so the organization monitored the online conversation around DXM to develop a game that answered users’ questions while showing them the negative consequences of the drug. “We talked about the game ‘Dumb Ways to Die,’ but we had to deliver our message in a way that didn’t disrupt the user experience,” Skor said. In the game ‘Dumb Ways to Die,’ every scenario has a dire outcome, and the focus isn’t to live through the game, it’s to explore every scenario.
Once the game passed through beta and appeared in the app store, Tribal used search data to target teens at risk for abusing DXM online through paid social. “We targeted teens who were searching for info on DXM through social,” Skor said. Guest added that Tribal was careful to buy paid social on a cost per download basis. “We were heavily focused on mobile platforms that link to apps on a cost per download basis,” Guest said.
Creating a mobile game around a sensitive topic was a risk, Skor said, but ultimately the risk paid off. The app was downloaded 68,000 times in just three months and also helped to substantially reduce the number of teens trying DXM. “This was pushing the envelope for our industry,” Skor said. “Digital is very tough in health care, but that’s how to meet the audience, and ultimately an app is a way to control your message with less of a risk.”
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