19 Apr / Why did it have to be Zombies?
by Mike Tinney
We get asked a lot… Why Zombies? Why did you guys make a zombie challenge instead of something else?
It’s a fair question. You can’t throw a stick without hitting some kind of online gamified walking challenge where your steps take you on a virtual tour of some real world place, and in exchange for your hard work you unlock… a picture. Our decision to make a zombie walking challenge stretches all the way back to 2014.
It was Summer of 2014 and the Affordable Care Act had been live for half of a year. All of the market channels we had negotiated for our then flagship product UtiliFIT (hourly gamified exercises) were on hold while employers figured out what Obamacare actually meant to their bottom line.
The net effect on us was $0 coming in the door when we thought we were going to market with an innovative product. UtiliFIT was a fine game, but it really needed to be a part of something bigger and more complete. So we did what any start up would do. We had a big argument about why we were in the place we were, and what we should be doing.
“That argument lead to a suggestion that we pivot to walking challenges, which some of us thought were dumb. “Who wants to log in steps and unlock a picture of the Eiffel Tower?” Then someone asked, “well, what kind of walking challenge would we be excited about doing?”
That argument lead to a suggestion that we pivot to walking challenges, which some of us thought were dumb. “Who wants to log in steps and unlock a picture of the Eiffel Tower?” Then someone asked, “well, what kind of walking challenge would we be excited about doing?” Just like that, we were brainstorming.
We came up with all kinds of ideas for interactive walking challenges: pirates, shopping sprees, aliens, Mad Max road battles, rocket ships, Oregon Trail/westward expansion, and… zombies. Collectively, we grokked zombies a little faster/easier than some of the others. The flywheel of the experience was pretty clear: walk to stay ahead of the zombies… or else!
Then we went to work validating that someone would pay us to chase them with zombies. We sent out an email to our mailing list advertising a challenge that didn’t exist yet… and sold 3 of them within a week. We looked at each other and realized we were going to be the zombie walking company.
We prototyped a basic challenge running on our UtiliFIT web platform. In fact, back in that day, you were playing the zombie challenge on utilifit.com. It worked, but it was strung together with bailing wire. It did it’s job, though. It validated the concept and we began to collect user data and refine the experience.
We were regularly asked for more content than just zombies. Being eager to please, we obliged. We made an Aliens challenge, we made a Champions (sports stars) challenge and we made a holiday-themed challenge. We had a chase mode: you were being chased by X (Zombies or Aliens) and we had a follow mode: you were following Y (Champions or Santa). We ran these challenges on our Version 1 platform (utilifit.com) for 2 ½ years. Jan 2015 – July 2017.
In July of 2017 we launched The Outbreak, our 2.0 Health Entertainment challenge. The Outbreak harvested a “metric crap ton” of usability and technical implementation lessons from the utilifit.com A Step Ahead challenges. One of the biggest lessons, however, was “stick with zombies.” Looking at the data, it was clear. All Y’all like being chased by Zombies. You like it way more than being chased by Aliens. You like it more than racing against the Champions, and… you like zombies more than Santa. Oh snap, I said it. You like zombies more than Santa, but I have the data to back it up!
|AVG. STEPS PER PARTICIPANT||17,496||12,772|
|RETENTION IN PROGRAM||88%||79%|
So, it’s Zombies for the win and we’re doubling down and delivering Netflix-binge-worthy volumes of zombie challenge content. With 2 challenges live, 2 more launching in the next 8 weeks and 3 modes per challenge, there is plenty to experience in The Outbreak, with more to come.Until next time,
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