Let me start with a cliché. Happy New Year! Here’s another one. After 2020 every new year will be happier! Here’s a third one, and I promise the last. When life gives you lemons …
Little did I know that the possibilities of lemons went way beyond their limits. My friends Mark and Carol showed me. This year we won’t name a name. Before I accidentally drop a cliché, let me tell you about these two friends.
Let me tell you Mark’s story first.
To detect infection, play with it
As the marketing manager of a pharmaceutical major, Mark had embarked on a difficult mission. He wanted to develop a game to teach and ensure infection control. Another time, he might have achieved his goal sooner, but he didn’t let the year of infection stop him. He just went about his job systematically.
Its target audience consisted of medical staff (from doctors to support staff) in hospitals. It was his job to educate them about the prevention of the notorious hospital infections.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), health-associated infections (HAIs) are caused by the many types of invasive devices and procedures modern medicine uses to treat patients and help them recover. These include central bloodstream infections, catheter-associated urinary tract infections, ventilator-associated pneumonia, and surgical site infections.
In other words, the devices and procedures that hospitals use to save your life can also lead to a fatal infection. Yes, it can be avoided if the hospital staff were careful and Mark wanted to teach them how. And for that he invited her to play a game.
Make your mark
Mark’s audience list included surgeons, doctors, nurses, etc. These were just labels that said what they did for a living. Under the labels were people like you and me. Mark wanted to design a solution that would appeal to the person, yet be relevant to the professional that the label identified. So Mark said, “Keep playing!”
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Everyone knows where to find the information to help prevent HAIs, but where is the fun reading books and guidelines, right? Mark decided to keep it simple and provide boring but essential information through an exciting game interface.
How would you access the game? Mark decided to make it a web-based game so that anyone could access it on any device, anytime.
How would they know about the game? Mark used his sales team to create enough excitement. They talked about it all the time. Every communication channel seemed enthusiastic. Soon everyone knew about it. He hired some early adopters and their testimonials gave substance to the buzz.
Just the right opportunity to go town with your brand, isn’t it? Maybe I would have been tempted to get my brand anywhere. Mark had other ideas.
He kept branding to a minimum. Just one mention on the home screen under “Sponsored by” and on the certificates and awards for the winners. And the deliberate underplay worked. Everyone knew who made the game – the game that helped in the important task of preventing deadly infections and saving lives.
Like any good leader, Mark knew that you can’t manage what you can’t measure. Mark kept an eye on the metrics. Was there a reasonable return on investment? Where was it a hit? Why? Where was it a straggler? Why?
Optimal use of resources
Mark decided to use our team for his job, but didn’t sit back after delegating the job to us. He knew exactly how to channel the right resources and for all practical purposes he was a real partner through design and development. He kept his guides updated after each milestone so there was no need to step back or revise at any point.
We assign a technical expert (SME) to each project and we had a doctor on call for Mark. During the brainstorming phase, Mark passed on his input to this doctor, who could immediately identify with what Mark was looking for. After all, he had followed in the footsteps of Mark’s target audience and was therefore able to get to the messages to be delivered quickly. That took care of the scientific content.
Then the technical team made up of our programmers, developers and designers started the fun part. Mark was all for fun, but he knew he had to find the right balance. It would have been easy to go overboard and lose sight of context and purpose. While the user interface had to be logical and exciting, Mark had to be doubly sure that it would pass government control at every stage. There was no escaping data-based evidence.
It would have been easy to jam the right answers down the back of the player’s throat. But to be believable and successful, the player had to have enough space to reflect and make honest mistakes. Each answer option had to have a valid reference in order to pass the regulatory exam. It wasn’t just a shoot-and-run game.
For everyone on the development team, including Mark, it was an experience that brought much insight. There aren’t many fun games that contain serious, life-saving medical messages. We had to find our way around and often break new ground. Finally, technology, science and games have been combined in a healthy smoothie – energizing for users and deadly to infection!
Recognize opportunity, tap rewards
After we finished the project for Mark, I asked him once: If it hadn’t been for a virus-related disruption, would he have done something else?
“I knew for sure it had to be a game, an interesting game that didn’t make anything stupid,” replied Mark. As Mark saw it, the people using it, the medical staff, were already overworked. It was unfair to expect them to return to textbooks and flip through newsletters. At the same time, they had to stay up to date. So why not make the exercise more enjoyable?
“The timing couldn’t have been more perfect. Everyone was very aware of the infections, ”remarked Mark. It was a great time to remind and educate everyone about the problem that had arisen long before the virus arrived. And we were unlikely to leave unless we made extra efforts. This was Mark’s contribution to the cause.
Mark pointed out:
In terms of design and launch, I don’t think I would have done anything differently. And I’m grateful for the restrictions due to the pandemic. There were fewer distractions and hardly any parallel project.
Mark was kind enough to add:
Especially for me, it was great fun working with your Ethosh team. To be honest, I felt a bit disappointed after the project was finished. We had so much fun through all the Eureka moments and heated arguments!
Next up: pandemic or not, lockdown or not, Carol needs to get on with her start.