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  • TikTok, It’s Health Retail O’Clock

    Will Walmart Defeat Amazon? It might have been a surprise to some when Walmart sold their VOD service, Vudu, to Fandango earlier this year, but as soon as Walmart announced their advertising business, I could see their logic from switching from content distributor to content playmaker. Walmart saw that great content was necessary, but retail is zooming past the boundaries of entertainment and integrating into something new. We’re close to the day when we’ll watch our favorite Amazon Prime show, tap on the screen and order Mrs. Maisel’s outfit through Amazon. Soon we will pause a podcast and ask Alexa to order the product that the host is raving about. Having made retail frictionless, Amazon knows that it’s maybe less than two years from when retail and entertainment become one and the same. And Walmart knows that it has to bolster the Walmart experience to make a stand against Amazon. TikTok is the answer. But not in the way we’ve been anticipating. Yes, e-commerce is becoming more content driven, interactive and virtual (hello AR!), but the real battleground of e-commerce will take place in the hottest retail trend yet: Health. Yes, health. Health retail will be where Walmart might yet out-smart, out-maneuver and (dare we say) out-deliver Amazon. Already a trusted source for OTC health products, Walmart health super centers are providing low cost-high quality care to Americans who have famously been left behind by health tech’s advances. While Amazon’s PillPack, Alexa medication integrations, and tech infrastructure are marvels to behold, they lack the trust and transparency American consumers have come to know as the retail experience. And while Amazon may wise up and start offering in-person care services, perhaps at Whole Foods (Whole Health?) or Prime Doctors on Demand (only after launching a telehealth service through Chime, Amazon’s version of Zoom), they will still struggle to cultivate trust and sustain engagement. Why? Because Big Tech, no matter their expertise in innovation and logistics, still treats consumers like products, not humans; data, not people. And even though Amazon has award-winning TV and movies, they are not a content platform that is powered by their users. Rather, they are a monolith powered by tech executives who have a baked in focus on data, not the human experience. Unlike TikTok. TikTok is the ideal location for content creators, with content that is generated by the very people it entertains. Powered by their own creativity, desires and agency, TikTokkers are able to cultivate community and a network effect you can’t find on Amazon Prime. TikTok has built a global community of humans who interact directly with their followers, collaborate with each other, and foster relationships that deliver enduring engagement. And with a global community of real relationships amplified by content, TikTok’s ability to transform e-commerce into a social, entertaining experience will be unparalleled to any other. Which brings us back to health retail. How will Walmart use TikTok to deliver a transformative health retail experience? While health remains a disengaging, alienating topic for most, TikTok has unlocked a socially driven health experience that has astronomical user engagement and stickiness that would make any health care company green with envy. Walmart could leverage TikTok’s creator-owned relationships to promote their health services and products, outshining Big Tech’s attempts to better the health experience. Creator owned narratives will drive e-commerce activity to brick and mortar services, such as Walmart health super centers. What’s more socially validating than posting a TikTok challenge video of getting your flu shot at Walmart? Yes, there will be advertising opportunities galore within TikTok, but what’s even more exciting is Walmart’s opportunity to create health content that aligns with the values and stories of today’s Screen-first Consumer™ . There will be no divide between health, retail and entertainment; It will all be one social experience that is rewarding and enduring. And, if done right, Walmart could leverage TikTok to create Health Entertainment: entertainment that just so happens to improve health. So as Amazon releases its Halo Ban fitness device, continuing its foray into health, while relying on data and technology to solve health engagement, I will be carefully watching Walmart’s content creator strategy shift health retail….hopefully for the better.

  • Health Entertainment's Prime Time

    As we all know, Content is King in today’s consumer market. Content floods our senses via every outlet, overwhelming our limited attention as we try to navigate our lives. Every brand has content that helps potential customers learn about their products and services. Some are even bold enough to create content that entertains their audiences. The most compelling content delivers the best returns, yet there is one industry that is sorely missing out on the content revolution: Health care. Beyond informational videos or educational blocks of text, truly competitive digital health and telehealth companies will deliver value through health entertainment. As more and more health customers use their screens to access care, the better the opportunity becomes for digital health care companies to provide content for their users. I am most excited by the surging telemedicine market, with companies like Amwell teaming up with Cisco to deliver healthcare through TV, Comcast and Independence Blue Cross working together for at home care and monitoring, and of course the telehealth providers fighting for consumers’ attention in today’s crowded COVID-19 market. Yet if everyone has access to care through their screens, how will health consumers make their telehealth choices? Would it be based on price? Convenience? Privacy? Yes, these will all be determining factors, but I bet in the long haul the telehealth services who cater to our content hungry population will find the greatest ROI from their customers Just like everyone has a screen (be it stationary, mobile etc.), the engagement is dependent on the content, not the hardware. But what makes health content compelling? How can telehealth health companies captivate consumers while also delivering health value? Health Entertainment What’s the difference between an informative video on diabetes management versus an entertaining video that features a compelling character navigating diabetes? Narrative. In particular, character-driven narrative. While much of today’s health content distills health information into sterile blocks of texts or tedious monologues, true health entertainment uses character-driven narrative to contextualize information and engage the viewer in the story-as an observer, participant or even creator. Character driven narrative is a story that follows the experiences of the protagonist. The Hero’s Journey is one of the most recognizable character- driven narrative structures and I find it particularly effective in health entertainment. Health Entertainment uses character-driven narrative to reframe the health care experience as one of empowerment and agency. By re-centering the health journey to focus on the patient’s individual desires and needs, health entertainment is able to make health behaviors and interventions relatable and compelling. Patients are invited to be a part of the health care story, rather than passive bystanders. The Telehealth Entertainment Opportunity Health entertainment is coming to telehealth providers. We see this already in digital mental health and physical fitness companies such as Calm, Gaia, Fitbit and Mirror — all using forms of character driven narrative to engage customers in health exercises, while following similar subscription-based models such as Netflix. While mental and physical wellness may be easier to engage with through a screen than more acute health issues, the swell of telehealth providers treating common ailments and managing disease will provide a unique touch point for patients to better engage with their health beyond meditation and cardio. To truly leverage healthcare delivery through our screens, telehealth companies will need to deliver health entertainment that complements their virtual care. And potentially beyond complementary content, health entertainment could directly improve health outcomes and allow the continuation of care beyond the screen. Just as television distribution has evolved from broadcast/cable to OTT , telehealth has the chance to join the content revolution and use health entertainment to deliver value that redefines the healthcare experience. I call this Over The Top Telehealth™ or O3T: an internet based service that provides health care through our screens that is engaging and enduring — a healthcare experience suited for today’s Zoomers and Boomers who crave entertainment just as much as value based care. But What Does This Look Like? Imagine you’re having a telemedicine appointment with your doctor to discuss your asthma. After the 10-minute consultation, you have the option to watch a 2 minute video. It features your favorite character from one of those shows you’re always binge watching, let’s say David Rose from Schitt’s Creek. Over the course of 2 minutes, you watch a quick story unfold of David learning how to use an inhaler, his sister Alexis refusing to assist him, and finally David successfully using the inhaler after a series of unfortunate false starts. With a little bit of humor and character driven narrative, you’ve seen how to use an inhaler in a more compelling context through your trusty screen. You’ve received both health and entertainment value over the course of 2 minutes. You now look forward to using the telehealth platform again if it means you will get more exclusive content featuring your favorite characters. And for the telehealth provider, you just spent 2 more minutes on that platform and their health experience stands out in the crowded field. Content will continue to dominate our lives and the smartest digital health and telehealth companies will recognize the opportunity to be a part of our content driven society and make their mark in health entertainment.

  • Making Digital Health Stick

    Consumer digital health products have utterly failed to reach the same level of user engagement that we see in social media, gaming and entertainment. Let’s look at today’s most popular digital products: TikTok: 800 million monthly users Fortnite: 350 Million players Netflix : 182 Million subscribers While there’s been an increase in demand for digital health products and services during the COVID-19 lockdown, consumer facing digital health companies struggle to attract and retain users, especially as the market becomes more saturated. How can consumer digital health companies create products that users actually want to use, over and over again? It's time to stop thinking like Steve Jobs and start creating like Steven Spielberg. In today's content obsessed world, consumer digital health companies continue to ignore what consumers really want: We want character driven narratives, not shiny, new wearables. We want user generated content, not another digital health service with “better” UX/UI. We want socially active platforms, not another mobile health app with a novel gamification feature. But more than anything, we want a new narrative for the healthcare experience. And right now, consumer digital health has the perfect opportunity to co-create with users a new healthcare narrative for the mobile-first generation. A new health narrative that empowers users, activates their agency and reframes health as a community driven experience. I’m reminded of the recent success of TikTok’s mental health content. TikTok provides a platform for user generated videos that are simultaneously personal and communal. Anyone struggling with their own mental wellbeing can find personal anecdotes, useful tips and resources in an easy to digest format by simply searching #MentalHealthAwareness. There, mental health advocates share their experiences and learning with their viewers, providing users with opportunities to take their first steps on their personal mental health journey. By creating their own content, TikTok allows individuals to reclaim their autonomy, re-center themselves as the protagonists of their health journey and re-establish the universal experience of being human. As of June 11th, with a quick glance at my TikTok discovery page, there are 1.4 billion views of the #mentalhealthawareness hashtag. Can you imagine the same consumer engagement for digital health products that manage diabetes or improve medication adherence? In fact, with a quick search for #diabetes, I found over a half a billion views of user generated diabetes related content on TikTok. To say TikTok is doing something right, is an understatement. Moving Forward As digital health companies develop their user engagement strategies for a crowded market, it’s time they re-evaluate their user experiences and product designs to see how they can best serve consumers that crave autonomy, self-expression and content. Only then will digital health care companies succeed in attracting and retaining users. Only then will we be able to see the full potential of consumer digital health.

  • WellPlay’s Virus Hunters: Entertainment for Pandemic Prevention

    Problem: As COVID-19 spreads fear world-wide, the panic stricken public is increasingly wary of information and mis-information from health authorities and others. Few people are consistently washing their hands, the only recommended safeguard against viral spread. Solution: Virus Hunters is our first mobile game that uses augmented reality (AR) and character driven narrative to deliver reliable, entertaining health information and modify behavior. Players are on a hero’s quest to defeat disease, searching their surroundings in augmented reality for Coronavirus and other dangerous contagions, while learning how to defeat the virus through game play. WellPlay is the first entertainment company that empowers audiences with pandemic prevention action steps. Using our signature Fan Feedback Loop, character driven narrative and augmented reality gaming, we are able to increase health engagement, empower individuals with health literacy and be apart of the COVID-19 solution. In today’s entertainment-driven society, can games and other web based media be a better pandemic prevention tool than traditional health information campaigns? Let’s look at the data: Ndemic Creations, creators of the video game Plague Inc have issued a statement directing players to seek Corona virus information from health authorities, rather than the game itself. Plague Inc’s 130Million+ players managed to crash the website recently as concerns about the Corona Virus Epidemic continued to grow. ““[W]henever there is an outbreak of disease we see an increase in players, as people seek to find out more about how diseases spread and to understand the complexities of viral outbreaks” wrote Ndemic Creations. Plague Inc has been praised by the CDC and other health organizations for its ability to raise awareness of infectious disease, while remaining realistic and informative. The 2011 pandemic thriller, Contagion, by Steven Soderbergh has surged to the top of google searches, Twitter mentions and iTunes downloads recently. Many cite the uncanny similarities between the current Corona Virus and the film’s fictional “MEV1” virus to explain the renewed interest in the film. Yet I believe there is something more profound happening in response to the Corona virus; people are more trusting of entertainment than institutions when it comes to health emergencies. While the CDC and WHO try to make authoritative health information go viral (pun intended), millions are turning their attention to entertainment for a source of guidance. In our entertainment-driven society, I’m not surprised that audiences are more trusting of movies and games than they are of actual health authorities. No matter how many forms of shareable content the CDC or WHO creates, they still struggle to engage audiences—even in times of global crisis. But why? Traditional health information media lacks the compelling character driven narrative that our story-hungry society craves. It’s impossible to pay attention to hand washing directions when the information is as sterile and dehumanizing as a cadaver. The health industry remains disempowering, intangible and inaccessible, while the entertainment industry provides audiences with opportunities to be a part of the story and therefore a part of the solution. Contagion is not a movie about a viral outbreak—it’s a movie about group of individuals’ quest to stop a disease. Soderberg’s Contagion centers the narrative around the human condition—the needs, wants and desires of individuals, which is more relatable to audiences than patronizing infographics. Plague Inc. focuses on the choices of the player. In Plague Inc. players are presented with opportunities to create a pandemic within game play. Plague Inc activates the player’s agency to make decisions that affect the story and final outcome of their game. Plague Inc. is the ultimate power trip for players. If entertainment manages to capture the attention of audiences – engaging them in stories of health and providing opportunities for individuals to learn about pandemics, is it possible that entertainment can mobilize individuals to stop the spread of infectious disease? Yes. WellPlay is the first entertainment company that changes behaviors. Our first game is Virus Hunters, an augmented reality (AR) mobile game that allows users to detect disease, build immunity and save the world from infectious disease. In Virus Hunters, we bring to life the microscopic concepts of biology with our AR characters. Players learn how viruses spread by scanning their environment for contagions and battling them in AR. Much like Pokemon GO, Virus Hunters encourages real world exploration but goes one step further by rewarding players in game play for healthy behaviors. Virus Hunters allows players to level up in game play when they reach certain milestones such as 10,000 steps walked, or visits to health providers. Virus Hunters blends the AR adventure of a hero’s quest with the real time health interventions that improves lives. At WellPlay, we believe that entertainment can improve health outcomes. We know that the pandemic prevention community struggles with engagement and we want to fix that, starting with our game Virus Hunters. As the COVID-19 crisis continues and health information campaigns continue to fail, we need new, innovative solutions for public health. Why not try entertainment? Why not Virus Hunters?

  • When Content is Your Savior

    It’s no surprise that Proctor and Gamble is creating their own streaming content. As content morphs from half hour slots on the TV set to unending entertainment at the tip of your finger, non-traditional Hollywood players are finding themselves forced to walk off Wall Street, exchange their Mad Men hats for directors’ chairs and join the great content race. Proctor and Gamble (P&G) is embracing the streaming TV wars by creating their own content, pushing the boundary of the brand beyond supermarket shelves to something more fan worthy: entertainment. I’m not talking about sponsored content, product placement or slightly more novel advertising methods. I’m talking about consumer product brands producing entertainment that speaks to their brand’s’ values, vision and leadership. Although I haven’t seen Proctor and Gamble’s newest series, I am excited by consumer product companies that embrace the opportunity to create their own content in order to navigate the challenges of a cord-cutting world. I predict that consumer product companies won’t be the only ones dipping their toes into Hollywood’s waters. In fact, as entertainment becomes the driving force of engagement and, dare I say, society, we will see companies who have never considered entertaining the masses seeking a chance to live their Hollywood dreams. Perhaps there will be a miniseries set amongst the backdrop of aeronautic manufacturing. The characters in the series would embody the themes of aerospace engineering, manufacturing and design. (I’m looking at you, Boeing—now’s your chance to redeem the 737 MAX!) Or maybe a heartfelt romantic comedy produced by will stream during the holidays, targeting Netflix-binging singles who need a push to get back into the game. But most importantly, we are going to see companies create content that directs the narrative of their brand and the customer experience. No longer will companies rely on traditional marketing to increase sales. Companies must think a lot more like Disney to meet their quarterly goals. At WellPlay, we are already applying the very best of entertainment to industries outside of Hollywood. We know that it’s not enough for companies and industries to have consumers; they have to have fans. WellPlay is creating a fandom for health; changing the health narrative and providing an opportunity for patients to become fans of better health. We know how powerful fandoms develop like Trekkies, Little Monsters (Lady Gaga), or Whovians (Dr. Who) and how to generate fan worthy content, products and experiences with our signature Fan Feedback Loop™. We are betting big on entertainment to solve some of healthcare’s most complicated challenges. As entertainment takes center stage, companies must reevaluate their company-consumer relationships, and navigate a population that craves character-driven entertainment. Will P&G succeed at transforming audiences into fans of their brand? The jury is still out on that one, but I think it’s safe to say we’ll start seeing consumer products companies starting to take a point or two from Disney and Netflix as they navigate our content-crazed world.

  • The Coming Convergence of Healthcare and Entertainment

    Healthcare is failing. Consumers are increasingly alienated from big insurers, big pharma and the consolidation of providers. Tech is moving to solve these problems, but trust in tech, especially for sensitive health information, is at an all-time low. Our company, WellPlay, overcomes this alienation by applying our entertainment expertise to solve some of the complex challenges of healthcare: patient engagement, treatment adherence and behavior change. In simple terms, we use the “Disneyfication” of healthcare to transform patients into fans. Healthcare and entertainment are converging. As the silos between health, tech and entertainment breakdown, consumer experiences are becoming more interactive and content driven. We see these silos start to break down at companies like Amazon. With the recent announcements of Alexa’s  medication management and their leap forward into interactive audio entertainment, we anticipate that Amazon’s Alexa – which has been HIPPA complaint since April 2019 – will soon be tackling the longstanding healthcare issues of patient engagement and treatment adherence with a novel strategy: interactive entertainment. Yet Amazon will falter. While Amazon’s strong digital engagement and robust content and consumer offerings seem like an easy solution for the healthcare industry, Amazon – like other Big Tech companies who have been keen to dominate healthcare – will still struggle with the alienating, disempowering narrative of healthcare. No matter how many gizmos, gadgets, and shiny new things Amazon and its contemporaries bring to market, the general public – who aren’t fitness enthusiasts or health zealots—will still lack engagement and adoption of these new health offerings. Unless of course we change the narrative of healthcare. But how? Introducing WellPlay At WellPlay we are transforming patients into fans of health. With our signature Fan Feedback Loop™ and our first consumer entertainment product, Virus Hunters™, WellPlay uses AR mobile gaming to cultivate fans of health with a new, empowering narrative. Players are on hero’s quest to defeat disease. We activate a player’s agency to make their own health care decisions in game play; emboldening players with health literacy and new health behaviors  (read more on the new narrative of health here). WellPlay is the first consumer entertainment company that improves health outcomes. As tech companies continue to apply their product and user experience expertise to the tricky beast that is US healthcare, we at WellPlay believe that reframing the narrative of health and producing fan worthy health content, products, and experiences, will result in better health outcomes. Why? Because we’re entertainment professionals who know what it takes to reframe disengaging, not-so-fun topics into interactive, engaging and fan worthy content, products and experiences. While technologists and doctors continue to struggle with engagement and adoption, we are using the principles of entertainment and play to increase engagement and change behaviors for healthier outcomes. We’re WellPlay and it’s a pleasure to meet you.* *And yes, we were Zamarra LLC before we incorporated. New name, same great company!

  • Transforming Audiences Into Fans - Part 1

    originally published July 2nd 2019 A Story That Inspires “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance."- Title IX 1972 The Hunting Ground was a 2015 documentary about sexual assault on US college campuses. It bear witness to the Title IX survivor rights movement and documented survivor-activists fighting for an education free of sexual violence. The documentary explores the stories of survivors, and uses 1st person narratives to put the viewer in the survivor’s shoes. These are stories of unfathomable pain and betrayal, but also of unprecedented determination and advocacy. For me, it was more than just a movie. It was my story. As a survivor activist, I was included in The Hunting Ground and watched as my story and that of hundreds of others motivated audiences around the globe to speak out and demand change. This begs the question then: How did a story about sexual violence break through the barriers of taboo, shame and judgement to cultivate a community of change makers? The Hunting Ground was a documentary that inspired. It shared stories that allowed the audience to recognize themselves in the survivors on screen. It was able to generate recognition and compassion between the audience and the documentary subjects, inspiring them to go beyond passive consumption of the film and do more. Recognizing The Other A great story inspires us to recognize ourselves in others. To be able to relate to the emotional content of other people that we would never consider worth our attention. As the famed Swedish film-maker Ingmar Berman puts it “"No form of art goes beyond ordinary consciousness as film does, straight to our emotions, deep into the twilight room of the soul." An inspirational story humanizes ourselves and others. It reaches into our core existence as emotional creatures and unites us behind the shared emotions that we all experience: joy and sorrow, love and hate, delight and pain; the full lexicon of emotions we experience as human beings. Inspiration Leads To Fans An inspirational story is the very first stage of cultivating a community. It’s the first step in fostering fans of a cause, character, or world. For The Hunting Ground, we were able to take the principles of entertainment fandoms and reconfigure them to amplify the message of survivor activists. We activated the agency in audience members to be a part of the solution, rather than perpetuating the problem. But we were only able to do so by examining these stories and reframing them into a context that was empowering. We had to equip viewers with opportunities to become involved. We needed the audience to be a part of the story. We needed them to become fans. To cultivate fans, you need a story that inspires. But beyond that, the story needs to turn intent into action and action into co-creation. Only then will the community of fans be able to achieve what the story has inspired them to do in the first place.

  • Healthy Fans Part 2

    Originally Published June 14th 2019 Healthcare Must Be Fan Worthy I was intrigued by the joint-venture announcement from Comcast and Independent Blue Cross to bring healthcare into the home through traditional entertainment devices such as TV and smartphones. This unlikely duo may seem odd at first, but I suggest it’s actually a sneak peek into the future of Direct To Consumer (DTC) healthcare. As consumers, we have more options in healthcare than ever as technology continues to become increasingly more enmeshed in our daily lives.Health care must evolve into an experience worth repeating. It must become fan worthy. It must become entertainment. Big Tech’s Bet Comcast is not alone in its pursuit of healthcare. Big tech companies, with established consumer products, are applying the principles of digital engagement and user-friendly tech, to the overwhelming nightmare that is US healthcare. Some of these companies Apple Watch’s new advance health and fitness capabilities, Facebook’s recent launch of health support groups, Amazon’s Alexa’s recent HIPPA compliance. These companies have succeeded at engaging consumers with their tech and content offerings, yet will that engagement transfer to health? Can they turn patients into fans? As DTC healthcare continues to provide consumer products, the opportunities to build fans of healthcare enormous.  But what would this look like? It will look a lot like entertainment consumer products. Exercise While Being Entertained For instance, Pokemon GO has made headlines for increasing activityand contributing to public health amongst a variety of populations. Did Pokemon Go’s publisher, Niantic Inc., intend to create a health product? Probably not. Instead they created an interactive, character-driven entertainment property; a game that allowed players to immerse themselves in the story and world of Pokemon. The healthy outcomes were a fortuitous byproduct of great entertainment. Since then, Niantinc Inc. has seized the opportunityof healthy entertainment by creating integrations for Apple Health and Google Fit. But Niantinc’s initial success did not come from the health tech; it comes from the characters, stories and fans of Pokemon.  The value is in the entertainment. As Niantic extends its entertainment offerings, their mission has expanded to include “exercise” as a key requisite of their games. I am eager to see how players react to their newest release Harry Potter: Wizards Unite!I believe Niantic will continue to create character-driven experiences that encourage players to explore their world and effortlessly stay fit. I am deeply energized by the great work done by Niantic, but I know that we can do much more. DTC healthcare’s user-friendly technology and digital engagement will surely improve health outcomes. Yet the full potential for DTC health cannot be realized until we start creating experiences worth repeating, until we create entertainment with health as a core by-product.

  • Healthy Fans Part 1

    Originally published May 6th 2019 Health lacks trust. Direct To Consumer (DTC) health care is revolutionizing the way people engage with their health. Rather than being limited to the boundaries of a doctor-patient relationship – where patients are rendered nearly powerless in their healthcare decisions due to lack of knowledge, information and choices– patients are now becoming empowered consumers. Consumers who are engaged, informed and able to exercise their own choices about health. Yet as consumers navigate a new world of DTC health services there is still one key ingredient missing from this industry: trust. As a health literacy and bodily integrity advocate, I am committed to fostering agency and empowering people with information and choice when it comes to their bodies. I am determined to cultivate (well earned) trust between people and their healthcare providers. Yet still I find the DTC health industry is struggling with this basic principle of trust. How can DTC health businesses create trust between themselves and consumers? I believe we can find our answer in an unlikely place: the entertainment industry. Entertainment cultivates trust and builds fans. As an entertainment professional, I have witnessed how studios rely on their audiences’ trust for survival. They either cultivate it into something remarkable, like Disney’s timeless franchises (Marvel, Star Wars, Disney Princesses, take your pick), or demolish it into something unforgiveable (See the recent upset over Paramount’s Sonic the Hedgehog movie). Trust in its best form is seen as the cultivation and culmination of fans. Fans are not passive consumers. They are engaged contributors. They are zealous for the characters of their favorite stories– eager to not just watch but be a part of the story themselves. Fans want to be valued and able to engage with their favorite characters and stories. Fans have a two-way relationship with characters and story. It’s not just a product being pedaled one way from business to consumer. It’s a dialogue, an experience, a relationship. It’s a feedback loop of trust, regenerating the same great experiences and sensations that made people fans in the first place. [Read more on fans here] Fans Thrive In today’s entertainment industry that is oversaturated with content, entertainment companies that cultivate fans are the ones that thrive. One particular entertainment property that surprised studio executives and audiences alike with its fanbase was Deadpool. A foul mouthed, 4th wall breaking comic book character brought to life by die-hard fan Ryan Reynolds, Deadpool broke barriers in content ratings and audience appeal, relying heavily on its relationship with the viewers and allowing them to be a part of the story as well. I think of the cheeky yet interactive commercials that ran prior to the release of Deadpool 2 which crystallize the collaborative, fan-driven spirit of Deadpool. [More on Deadpool’s fans here] A New Type of Fan Now imagine if a DTC health company had characters and stories—entertainment properties—as fan driven as Deadpool? Not only would that DTC health company create a sustainable, lasting relationship with their consumers, they will be able to stand out in a crowded marketplace where consumers have the upper hand. In a rapidly changing world of endless choices, health companies must cultivate fans. The best service or best quality product won’t stand out when consumers are bombarded by choice. What stands out is the experience. The story. The entertainment. If we cultivate fans of health, patients would be more than just consumers. They’d be involved in their own healthcare and well-being with the same zeal, dedication and energy as your local trekkie. From passive patient to conscious consumer to now fearless fan, we could shift the paradigm of healthcare from a one-way relationship to a collaborative experience worth repeating. A collaboration fostered by trust and respect between all-parties involved. An experience that is creative, innovative and open to new perspectives to fight disease and increase wellness. A new way for people and healthcare providers to work together and thrive. Stay tune for part 2 of Healthy Fans where we explore fan-worthy, entertainment for health products.

  • Fearless Fans

    Originally Published Feb 1st 2019 Building a Fandom for Global Health What Makes A Fan? I am fortunate enough to be married to a self-identified fan boy. The type of person who squeals when a new comic book is released, writes pages upon pages of fan fiction, and regularly bonds with strangers over their shared love for a character (Dr. Strange). Fans have a religious-like zeal for their favorite characters and worlds. Just look at Star Trek, Harry Potter, The Avengers...the list goes on. And yet, what is it that really makes a person a fan? Levels of Engagement and Interactivity I believe fans are the most interactive audiences of entertainment franchises. They don’t merely sit and observe. They collaborate, they build, they share and they create new experiences based upon the franchise’s characters and cannon. Rather than passively consume media, they become involved—going beyond the screen or page and continuing the story. They co-create. Using the characters, cannon and world as inspiration, fans continue to play – be it through fan fiction, community discussion, art, costumes, gatherings, merchandise – anything to capture the initial emotional and sensational experiences they had when they first fell in love with the characters and their worlds. Co-Creators for Global Health Solutions Now what if we applied the same concepts from entertainment-based fandoms to issues like global health? How could we leverage fans to co-create experiences—even solutions—for serious global issues like pandemics or cardiovascular disease? I believe that with relatable characters and compelling narratives, we can cultivate fans of global health. The type of people who no longer feel like bystanders, but rather become engaged and eager to learn, create and play. Global health doesn’t need to be an insurmountable obstacle where only a select few can rise to the challenge. It can be a community of fans—co creators—eager to interact with health at both a personal and community level. You don’t have to be a doctor to care about global health. You don’t have to have a PhD to stop the spread of disease. You can be a fan – committed to doing your part for the characters, cannon and world. We created our AR mobile game Virus Hunters using character driven narrative, health alert data and co-creative game play to foster players into fans. Fans who feels empowered and eager to participate in global health. Fans who practice bodily integrity and implement health literacy for better public health practices. Fans who advocate for their health and the health of others. If that’s not worth being a fan about…then what is?

  • From Fear To Fearless

    Published Jan 2 2019 Updated: Jun 4 2019 Cultivating Fans of Global Health and Disease Detection “Wellness” is empowering. When you think of wellness, you think of all the things you are doing right by your body, mind and spirit. You think of the power and choices you have made to be well. Wellness is wealthy, it’s abundant, it’s the haves…not the have-nots. “Disease” renders you powerless. It’s a problem, an obstacle, a consequence of something you did wrong, a wrong committed against you. You are victim to the disease, pulled down to its level of pain, hardship, hate and fear. Disease is the have-nots. Disease strips individuals of agency. Wellness allows them to make their own decisions. A New Approach to Disease But what if we could approach disease the way we approach wellness? What if we felt empowered when learning about diseases, their prevention, detection and treatment? Instead of paralyzed by fear, we were energized by possibility, by action and by choice? Let’s imagine, for a moment, that we could see disease beyond its dismal characteristics. Beyond its suffering. What is it about the disease that could allow us to no longer be victims…but rather victors? A Hero's Quest I propose that the framework for disease, like any violence against the human condition, can be an opportunity for agency. A chance to be empowered by choices. A hero’s quest to find a solution, a treatment, a cure. Wellness is about information and choice. To have choices, we must have access to information. Health literacy and bodily integrity give individuals greater bodily autonomy—decision making power over their own bodies and treatments. Yet in 2019, children are still unable to identify the parts of their bodies, access to misinformation is more readily available than accurate health literature, science and medical jargon remains elitist and hidden in ivory towers of academia. It’s no wonder that FitBit, juicing, cross fit, detox teas and new age diet trends are more popular than basic public health information. Consumer-facing wellness products offer opportunities and choices — even communities and fandoms. Disease and global health feel abysmal in comparison. Global Health Fans & Augmented Reality This is why I have made it my mission to cultivate fans of global health. I aim to flip the status quo of the fear-based approach of medicine, instead empowering communities of co-creators -- learning, engaging and making informed choices about global health. These fans are victors, not victims of disease. In 2019, we will launch our build of the AR mobile game, Virus Hunters. Players are disease detectives—identifying and battling pathogens, while also developing treatment and vaccines. (Patho)physiology is organically woven into the character driven game, as well as real time health alerts that connect learning with action. We cultivate fans of disease detection. We allow players to make their own choices for their health. We create space to play, learn and flourish. Virus Hunters is just the tip of the iceberg for co-creative solutions to global health. We look forward to seeing what we can accomplish at the intersections of interactivity, global health and agency.

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