Let me begin with a cliché. Happy New Year! Here is another. After 2020, you bet any new year will be happier! Here is a third, and I promise the last one. When life gives you lemons …
I did not know that opportunities presented by lemons extended well beyond the l‘ade. My friends Mark and Carol showed me. During that very year, we shall not name. Before I accidentally let slip yet another cliché, let me tell you about those two friends.
Let me tell you Mark’s story first.
To know infection, play with it
As the marketing manager of a pharma major, Mark had set out on a difficult mission. He wanted to develop a game to teach and ensure infection control. Another time, he might have reached his goal sooner, yet he did not let the Year of the Infection lock his pursuit down. He simply went about his task systematically.
His target audience comprised medical personnel (from doctors to support staff) in hospitals. His task was to educate them about the prevention of the notorious hospital-acquired infections.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), healthcare-associated infections (HAI) are caused by the many types of invasive devices and procedures modern medicine uses to treat patients and to help them recover. These include central line-associated bloodstream infections, catheter-associated urinary tract infections, ventilator-associated pneumonia and surgical site infections.
In other words, the very devices and procedures employed by hospitals to save your life can also give you a deadly infection. Yes, it is avoidable if the hospital professionals take sufficient care and Mark wanted to teach them how. And for that, he invited them to play a game.
Making his mark
Mark’s target audience list included surgeons, physicians, nurses, etc. These were but labels that denoted what they did for a living. Beneath the labels were people like you and me. Mark wanted to design a solution that would appeal to the person and yet be relevant to the professional the label identified. So, Mark said, “Game on!”
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Everyone knows where to find the information to prevent HAI, but where is the fun in reading books and guidelines, right? Mark decided to keep it simple and deliver boring but essential education through an exciting gaming interface.
How would they access the game? Mark decided to make it a web-based game so that anyone could access it on any device at any time.
How would they know about the game? Mark deployed his sales team to create enough excitement. They talked about it all the time. Every channel of communication appeared to be excited about it. Soon, everyone knew about it. He roped in some early adopters and their testimonials added substance to the buzz.
Just the right opportunity to go to town with your brand, right? Maybe I would have been tempted to splash my brand all over the place. Mark had other ideas.
He kept the branding to the minimum. Just a mention in the launch screen under “Supported by” section and on the certificates and awards for the winners. And the deliberate underplaying worked. Everyone knew who had made the game—the game that helped with the important job of preventing deadly infections and saving lives.
Like every good leader, Mark knew one cannot manage what one cannot measure. Mark kept a close eye on the metrics. Was there a justifiable return on investment? Where was it a hit? Why? Where was it a laggard? Why?
Mark decided to use our team for his job but did not sit back after delegating the job to us. He knew precisely how to channelize the right resources and for all practical purposes, he was a true partner right through the design and development. He kept his leaders posted after every milestone so that there was no need to backtrack or rework at any point.
We assign a subject matter expert (SME) to every project and for Mark, we had a doctor on call. During the ideation phase, Mark provided his inputs to this doctor, who could immediately identify with what Mark was after. After all, he had been in the shoes of Mark’s target audience and could, therefore, quickly arrive at the messages to be delivered. That took care of the scientific content.
Then the technical team comprising our coders, developers and designers started on the fun part. Mark was all for fun, but he knew he had to strike the right balance. It would have been easy to go overboard and lose sight of the context and purpose. While the user interface had to be logical and exciting, Mark had to be doubly sure that it would pass regulatory scrutiny at every stage. There was no running away from data-based evidence.
It would have been easy to ram the right answers down the throat of the player. But to be credible and successful, there had to be enough room for the player to think and make honest errors. Every answer option had to have a valid reference to pass the regulatory check. It was not just a shoot-and-run game.
For all members of the development team, including Mark, it was an experience that yielded many learnings. There are not many fun games out there carrying serious, life-saving medical messages. We had to find our way and often make new trails. Finally, technology, science and gaming were blended in a healthy smoothie—energizing to the users and lethal to infections!
Spot opportunity, tap rewards
After we completed the project for Mark, I asked him once: had there been no virus-induced disruption, would he have done anything differently?
“I knew for sure, it had to be a game and an interesting game which did not dumb anything down,” Mark replied. As Mark saw it, the people who use it, the medical personnel, were already overworked. It was unfair to expect them to go back to textbooks and to plod through circulars. At the same time, they needed to stay current. So, why not make the exercise more enjoyable?
“The timing could not have been more perfect. Everyone was ultra-conscious of infections,” Mark observed. It was a great time to remind and educate everyone about the problem that had been around long before the virus arrived. And was not likely to go away unless we put in some extra effort. This was Mark’s bit for the cause.
Mark pointed out:
In terms of the design and the launch, I do not think I would have done anything differently. And I am grateful for the restrictions on account of the pandemic. There were less distractions and hardly any parallel project.
Mark was kind enough to add:
Most importantly for me, it was great fun to work with your Ethosh team. To be honest, when the project was completed, I felt a little disappointed. We were having so much fun through all the Eureka moments and the heated arguments!
Next up: Pandemic or not, lockdown or not, Carol must go ahead with her launch.