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Boehringer beta launches Syrum on Facebook

Published on 17/09/12 at 09:44am
Syrum game
The Syrum game is now in 'beta' testing, with the final version still a few months away

Boehringer Ingelheim has announced the beta launch of its first social game on Facebook, the eagerly-awaited Syrum.

Other sectors have embraced games online for some years but Syrum represents the first time pharma has sought to use gamification as a marketing tool.

Built solely on Facebook, the game allows people to experience what it is like to be a pharma company developing drugs, taking them to clinical trial and, finally, to market.

Different ‘chapters’ of the game bring new challenges, with players having to solve problems such as a disease or a pandemic by creating stable medicines.

Gamers can link up with their Facebook friends and give them gifts which can then be used to customise offices and laboratories.

Players can also trade molecular formulae and collaborate to help create better compounds - but they can also steal competitors’ staff and drugs to steal a march.

The popular Facebook game Farmville does something similar with farms and crops, but Boehringer says the aim of Syrum is ‘to inspire and educate’ people about what pharma does.

The manufacturer has developed it as a vehicle to deliver disease awareness and marketing campaigns to users - notably for COPD, an area in which its drug Spiriva is positioned - although the game cannot be used as a blatant plug for products.

Boehringer says it will use the beta format to encourage feedback from players which will help the game evolve.

Getting this far has been a complex process, with the game pencilled in for launch late last year. The official global launch of Syrum is planned for 2013.

“The research-driven pharmaceutical industry is immersed in education - whether aimed at medical or pharmaceutical professionals or providing information directly to the public,” explains John Pugh, Boehringer’s director of digital.

“Gaming is an experimental way for Boehringer Ingelheim to do this. The challenge is to do this in a truly engaging, educational and entertaining way that immerses the player,” he added.

Pugh has an enviable reputation in this realm, launching Boehringer’s Twitter feed in 2007 and winning the PM Society’s Digital Pioneer Award in January this year.

The logic behind using games is that people will find greater motivation for something if they learn about it in an interactive, fun environment: Boehringer says more than 1,000 people have signed up to play in advance of the launch via www.syrum-game.com.

Although Syrum has already generated great interest, the trick for Boehringer will be to build a loyal online community who are interested enough in what they see to keep coming back. 

Adam Hill

 

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