What Healthcare Can Learn From Kim Kardashian West and Gamification

One of the major themes at Cannes Lions Health 2015 was the need to “connect” with the audience in new and innovative ways. Imagine if we as an industry could dramatically increase user engagement—it would have a profound impact not only on brand awareness and therapies, but also on overall adherence and health improvements. And this is just one of the principal topics we addressed at Cannes Lions in the “Hollywood and Trends in Digital Storytelling Session” with Kim Kardashian West and Niccolo de Masi, President, CEO, and Chairman of Glu.


Technology is disrupting how we do business. Not a single creative discipline has not been affected by the new age of second, third and fourth personal screens. Evolved forms of content delivery and audience understanding are essential for brands with stories to tell and people to engage. This year signaled a true inflection point for our industry’s future with the merging of creativity and technology.

Technology’s impact on creativity dominated the discussion at Cannes and as noted futurist Brian Solis says, “The next 10 years will be defined by those who do more than create…the future lies in the hands of those who disrupt markets and industries. The next 10 years will happen to us or because of us.” And this couldn’t be more true for the healthcare vertical—our opportunity is ripe to find new ways to engage with HCPs, patients, caregivers and health-minded individuals.

How Kim Kardashian West Changed the Game

By working on/exploring the fringe of the expected, we can impact the core of a business, industry or an individual project. Quite simply, it often opens up opportunities for broader uses. Case in point: In 2014 Kim Kardashian West shocked the world with the success of Kim Kardashian: Hollywood (KKH)—a transmedia experience that pushes gaming beyond basic storytelling. At its core is a highly engaging mobile gaming experience. Essentially, the KKH game created by Glu is a narrative RPG structure (role-playing game)—the player chooses his or her own adventure and creates an avatar that aspires to rise to success and fame in Hollywood with the help of Kim.

However, the gameplay is now just a linchpin of KKH’s larger entertainment platform. By design, KKH merges pop culture, fashion and branded experiences in a digital world. The KKH game is essentially a scientific marriage of gaming mechanics + brand integration + social graphing.

And it is here on this fringe that a number of high-level broad themes from both the KKH game and Kim’s brand are of relevance and of interest to healthcare. How can brands increase user engagement? How can user data be leveraged to drive brand decisions? What is the effect of merging the virtual and real world? Why are social media and proprietary social brand channels so important?

It is mind-blowing to think about the global impact that the KKH game has had not only on Kim’s/Glu’s brand, but even more importantly on brands as a whole. This past month was the one-year anniversary for the KKH game, and the stats are impressive (all of which Niccolo de Masi from Glu notes will have been surpassed by the time of this writing):

  • ENGAGEMENT: 22.8M+ installs, 1.2B sessions, available in 155 countries.
  • REACH:26 minutes on average spent playing per day (which is beyond mind-blowing), 5.7B+ total minutes played, 25,000 years played on this game.
  • SALES: $74M in 2014, $200M projected for 2015, in-game purchases over $90M.

What Can Healthcare Learn From Kim Kardashian West?

What can be learned here is the habit-forming principles that have evolved in digital gaming mechanics can be leveraged to induce positive behavioral changes—improving overall health and wellness, as well as selling and building unprecedented loyalty to brands. This offers tremendous opportunities not only to global health, but also to each of our individual lives and well-being. Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation techniques, including investment/reward systems, value creation, empathy-based approaches, cognitive competition, linguistics and human-focused design—all of which can be used to advance the exploration of future focused mind/body interfacing.

Merging creativity and technology to create opportunities such as Gamification Marketing to affect behavioral change is an example of what Rob Rogers, Sudler’s Co-CEO and Chief Creative Officer, calls the Modern Idea. Ideas that go beyond an “ad-like object” but show how a campaign/program is integrated and “activated” for ultimate engagement. These modern ideas are what will resonate and win in the marketplace.

Kim Kardashian West and Glu have pioneered a new form of digital storytelling that can extend and inspire any brand presence in the new media landscape by generating authentic audience connections via intertwining the virtual world with the real world.

The KKH game and Kim provide both a brave and intimate level of openness with her audience—that degree of open/constant dialogue should be viewed as a model for modern healthcare (albeit with fewer bikini-clad selfies). It’s a reflection on how modern successful brands need to connect across the new media landscape through cross-channels—in a loop of engagement combustion in which the audience is influencing the brand and the brand is influencing the audience.

Cannes Lions 2015 reflected the strong focus on the role of technology as a catalyst/driver of creativity—how the innovative use of tech has been instrumental in creativity as a force for business, for change and for good. Creative communications are more effective, creative businesses are more successful, and most importantly, creative solutions can have more of an impact on the world.

As Sir Martin Sorrell said at Cannes, “Growing the top line is more important than focusing on the bottom line.” Don’t focus on the numbers. Focus on what gets you to the numbers—Innovative Ideas!

  • Chris Duffey

    Chris is SVP Group Creative Director at Sudler New York. He is an award winning creative director, noted speaker, author and mobile & wearable technologist. For over 20 years, Chris has been a curator of mobile first solutions by converging creativity and mobile technology.


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