Ask any parent and they will likely agree: getting their kids to brush their teeth tops the list of most stressful moments of their day. Epic battles of parent vs. child have permeated bathroom routines, morning and night, for decades. For this reason alone, our challenge was not only to make the connected experience work technically, but also making it compelling enough to get kids proactively asking to brush their teeth. Once we got them there, we needed to coach them into brushing correctly. Many had learned poor habits early, and without correction could result in significant dental problems in the future.
Since Philips Sonicare for Kids is an F.D.A. regulated medical device, the product couldn’t just claim to work. As all Philips Sonicare toothbrushes have strong clinical claims, we needed to provide supporting evidence that our companion application would add meaningful value regarding engagement levels. A robust research plan, including per-user analytics, was required to provide the proof and traceability for their marketing claims.
We partnered with the Philips Sonicare team to identify, design, and build the best product experience possible. This started with identifying what would truly motivate our audience, which we identified through several rounds of contextual interviews in participants’ homes, early prototypes, and concept tests, real-time data analytics, and even visits to multiple dentist offices, to ensure professional feedback was incorporated product’s value proposition.
Through this, we were able to identify a very powerful insight. It turns out that while most kids turn brushing into a battle, they actually don’t dislike it. In fact, the feeling of a clean mouth is extremely motivating to them. They simply don’t like to stop what they are doing, or don’t want to do what follows brushing teeth (going to bed, for example), so it becomes a stall tactic.
With this in mind, it was clear this connected experience needed to be more than just a glorified toothbrush timer or a game. We needed kids to feel empowered to brush on their own, while still providing significant education around how and why to brush. This strategic direction set the stage for our creative team to create an original character that would draw kids into a playful experience so engaging kids would pester their parents to brush.
Creating connection for kids.
Enter Sparkly, a cute fur-ball in desperate need of brushing help. Sparkly was designed to trigger care and nurturing impulses in kids, which sparks a strong emotional connection with the character. Because Sparkly has tiny arms, it’s impossible for Sparkly to care for its own teeth… and those teeth are dirty! The only way to help him is to follow along with the guidance on-screen twice a day. The application showcases the desired movement of the toothbrush, providing real-time coaching for proper technique, as instructed by dental professionals. When they finish, kids receive a present from their furry friend. This variable reward completes the engagement loop (a critical component of Motivational UX™) when they finish a full 2 minutes of brushing, and triggers the desire to return again. They can play with Sparkly for a little bit, but he gets tired and needs to sleep. This helps kids wind down and get ready for bed.
As we tested Philips Sonicare for Kids and the companion application, we used real-time analytics and A/B testing to pivot the direction of the product and experience. We heavily measured and analyzed user engagement, which informed the design of features like the Parent Dashboard. It also allowed us to incorporate motivational factors that kids resonated best with, based on hard data, not general self-reporting which can be unreliable.
Teaching holistic health.
Taking this a step further, we received critical input from dental professionals relating the oral health and hygiene habits of kids with healthy eating habits. We wanted to create a holistic health approach, so we incorporated this information into educational sections of the experience, so kids can learn which foods positively and negatively impact their oral health. While this won’t stop kids from eating their favorites – ice cream, candy, chocolate, etc. – kids learn the impact it has on their teeth and what they can do to combat the negative effects.
Kids can customize their experience, with everything from the color of fur to accessories. They can also feed their Sparkly and learn tips about healthy eating. Our research showed that these customization and interaction features are critical components for long-term engagement, with 98% of kids agreeing that unlocking presents for their Sparkly made them excited to brush the following day!