As smart phones and tablets flood the market, a quickly emerging trend is the use of apps and social gaming to encourage healthy eating and exercise habits.

Brands that are focused on improving health have seen this as an opportunity to drive healthy behavior changes and build lasting relationships with customers.

Why does gaming work?

The theory is games satisfy some of our fundamental desires such as reward, competition, status, achievement, and selflessness. BJ Fogg and his team at the Stanford University have developed a behavior model to help designers and developers identify what stops people from performing desired behaviors. They outline three factors that must happen together in order to get a change in behavior – motivation, ability, and trigger. 

Fogg Behavior Model

Examples of apps that support diet and exercise

There are many apps available to consumers to help them on their weight loss journey. These applications can be so sophisticated that they could be considered a personal trainer. 

Some apps are simply designed to allow users to track and share. Worksmart Labs and MapMyFITNESS, Inc. both provide smartphone apps that allow users to record workouts, track eating habits and share their accomplishments with friends. Both of these apps use built-in GPS technology to enable users to record and chart their daily fitness activities.

Other apps such as MeYou Health utilize gaming triggers. Their product, Daily Challenge, is an application that encourages users to take small, achievable steps toward healthy living every day. Once the task is accomplished, the user can choose to share with their network.

Rapidly growing in popularity are the applications that also leverage virtual economies and customer rewards. Examples include:

  • Nike+: users earn NikeFuel to unlock awards, trophies, and surprises. Users can also use a number of different mobile devices and gadgets to automatically track their activities.
  • Healthper: a social game that regularly rewards its members with unique gifts and merchant deals for accomplishing tasks and challenges. 
  • Fitocracy: users are encouraged to participate in activities and challenges to earn points. Once a certain number of points are earned the user has the option to level up. Leveling up unlocks new accomplishments and quests. 
  • Zamzee: an online rewards program for teens that is powered by their physical activity. The amount of movement powers the online rewards account, where a virtual currency can be used to purchase both virtual and real goods.

Marketers can capture the attention of social gamers multiple times a day with these apps. Econsultancy’s Social Gaming Smart Pack highlights various business models and monetization techniques used in social gaming including:

  • Branded content
  • Virtual goods
  • In-game advertising
  • Display advertising
  • Lead generation offers

Brands that can offer services or products that support a consumer’s journey to achieving a healthy weight can benefits from exposure and brand recognition by incorporating social gaming into their marketing campaigns. 

What’s next?

The question is not what, but when and who.  Social gaming is still in its infancy and is rapidly growing. Social games and applications can be created for any industry with the intent of making the lives of its users easier. The question we should be asking is who will come up with the next big idea first.

You can learn more about social gaming, location-based marketing, and mobile advertising in Econsultancy’s Social Gaming Smart Pack.