Syrum For The World, Not Just For Pharma

Boehringer Ingelheim's new marketing innovation, the game 'Syrum', is drawing a lot of interest in the pharma world and beyond- not least because it is being launched at a non pharma specific conference..

‘I want BI to stretch out beyond the traditional marketing activities because in pharmaceuticals, and particularly at Boehringer, we’re still very traditional in what we do’ says John Pugh in an interview with PSFK prior to the London conference that will see the unveiling of Boehringer Ingelheim’s new game Syrum.

And as if on cue, John Mack at Pharma Marketing News, questions the reasons behind the game’s release at the cross-disciplinary PFSK conference, rather than at a specifically ‘pharma industry conference such as DigiPharm Europe’.

Of course, perhaps Mack is correct in his assumption that Pugh’s choice of conference reflects a personal desire to move onto more ‘innovative’ industries. Nevertheless, his leap to this interpretation perhaps says more about how un-‘innovative’ pharma is than about Pugh’s personal career plans.

As Mack himself somewhat grudgingly admits, it is ‘important for pharma company employees to make connections with like-minded people in other industries to get new ideas that may be applied to pharma’. Mack is right – and this hasn’t been happening nearly enough yet. If it were, Abbott’s OneLab could hardly have made headlines in 2012 for being ‘innovative’. Headlines for being bizarrely slow on the intranet up-take, maybe.

Pharma has a long history of navel-gazing, and it has not served us well in the new digital age; we now lag far behind consumer brands in this area. And although BI’s Syrum represents an impressive leap forward for pharma, it is in actuality little more ‘innovative’ than Farmville – or should we say ‘Pharmville.’

That said, I see Syrum as a good thing in many ways. As a game in which the user actively deals with pandemics by digitally replicating the drug-creation process, it will, without a doubt, serve to educate the public on the pharma industry’s work. It also ticks interactive boxes making use of Facebook’s ‘Places’ technology and function socially, enabling users to interact with each other. Plus, the game will initially be released in a Beta version, allowing gamers to actively contribute to the creation of the game. The result being BI producing a game that appeals to the widest audience possible.

Perhaps my favourite thing about Syrum is Pugh’s claim that ‘Syrum isn’t just for people who like the pharmaceutical industry. It’s for anyone to play’. This is a crucial advance, and of a significance that seems to have passed Mack by. Yes, we can speculate as to Pugh’s career options, but releasing this game at a conference that is not exclusively populated by pharma execs is a clear statement of purpose on the part of BI. No longer content to remain locked in within the safe confines of Pharmville, AnyState, USA, BI is reaching out to the wide, wide world – where there are undoubtedly threats, but also where there are people to teach, and people to learn from.

There is little to be gained in attempts to educate and enthuse only those who are already educated and enthused. BI seems to recognise that. I wonder how long it will take for the rest of the pharma industry to catch up?

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