Restriction forces us to innovate

Innovation: the name of the game for Boehringer

Restriction forces us to innovate — Jack Black

By dint of the sheer weight of evidence that has accrued over the past three years alone, Boehringer Ingelheim may reasonably be identified as the pharma company that sets the pace for the industry in digital environments.

However, this is not because of Boehringer’s having led the way on facebook with regard to its handling of comments, nor its conversational disposition on Twitter, nor its experiments in the gamification of clinical research, nor the way it used social to raise awareness around atrial fibrillation, nor its experiments with outré humour.

It is not even because later this week Boehringer will become the first pharma company to launch a game which has been designed first and foremost to be fun and perhaps to convey some indirect benefits along the way, rather than as a vehicle built for the primary purpose of delivering a direct message:

[Syrum] wasn’t built with a view to being an educational platform or anything like that. It’s very much a game which is meant to be engaging and entertaining to play. In the same way that Farmville doesn’t just appeal to people who like farms, Syrum isn’t just for people who like the pharmaceutical industry. It’s for anyone to play.  John Pugh, Director of Digital, Boehringer Ingelheim

In the last instance, Boehringer merits recognition as the digital leader in the pharma industry not because of what it has achieved, but because of what its activities say about the cultural evolution that has taken place within the company.

Boehringer’s every action speaks of its commitment to embodying what ‘being innovative’ means.

Not its just giving lip-service to innovation.

Not its hoping to be seen to be innovative whilst doing little of real merit.

Not spending its time considering which ride to take next on the platform carousel.

The course that Boehringer has steered over the past three years marks it out as a company that aspires to being a leading company in digital environments, not just the leading pharma company in digital.

This is a clear signifier of Boehringer’s understanding of the fact that in order to thrive in the future, healthcare concerns have to break out of the perceptual stockade and be viewed not as ‘big pharma’, but rather as a company whose health-related propositions can integrate seamlessly into the lifestyle-driven eternal present of the digital landscape, in much the same way as Nike has repositioned itself as a healthcare technology company rather than the manufacturer of sporting attire.

It must be frustrating for Boehringer that industry commentators have been so slow to acknowledge its transformation. However, a lack of perspicacity is inevitable in a cohort of observers and agencies that have built businesses around elevating insignificant minutiae to the status of epic philosophical disputes requiring interminable (and billable) analysis.

However, when a commercial pharma events organiser concedes that it is entirely appropriate that Boehringer should be launching Syrum at a cross-industry innovation showcase rather than a digital pharma event, they aren’t just taking a clumsy swing at their competitors.

They are acknowledging that something has changed.

3 thoughts on “Innovation: the name of the game for Boehringer

  1. Regarding the outré humour, you neglected to mention that the link you provide is NOT to the official BI YouTube site, which no longer hosts the video in question (or the questionable video, as I like to call it; see “BI’s Famously Unpronounceable Video Lives On!”; BI yanked it because of negative comments from industry commentators such as myself who are “slow to acknowledge its transformation.”

    With regard to Syrum, BI has been milking that for almost a year making it one of the more spectacular examples of “vaporware.” It would have been much better off sticking with a real world exhibits, IMHO (see “A Drug is Developed:” Easier than Launching an Educational Facebook Game about Drug Development?;

    Before you label me solely as a negative commentator, I offer you this: “Boehringer Ingelheim Shows How to Support Patients via Twitter and Beyond”;

    Just like every pharma company, BI has its social media triumphs and failures – or “Trials & Tribulations” as I like to call them. See

  2. Pingback: Mirror Mirror on the Wall, Who’s the Most Innovative of Them All? Pharma, Social Media Wise, That Is. | Healthcare

  3. Pingback: Boehringer’s ‘Thanks to our 50K facebook likes’ video: a review | STweM

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