Happy Father’s Day. Here’s a Fitbit.

June 11, 2014 at 5:49 pm 1 comment

Father’s Day ads, cards, and store displays are everyplace. Now many retailers are pushing activity trackers as the perfect present, such as the Fitbit, the Nike+ Fuelband, and other device. They track number of steps taken per day and more. But, is there any stigma associated with gifting an activity tracker with the implication that the recipient is out of shape? Is there any difference in usage patterns between activity trackers purchased for oneself or given as gifts?

The Mobile Health Design class at Tufts University School of Medicine investigated the question: How do we market these gifts so they are meaningful, cherished, and used? They found three theory-based categories to help market fitness trackers for dads:

Emotional Appeal: Dads are especially sentimental around Father’s Day. There is an opportunity to show a father how valuable they are in their family’s life. Just like they kept their children safe and active while they were young, it is time for them to remain safe and active with a fitness tracker.

Social Support: Have bundled trackers so child and father can both participate together. People are much more likely to engage in a behavior if others around them are participating – especially when it is competitive, like between a father and child!

Instrumental Support: Purchase an activity tracker with equipment for an activity that the father enjoys – golf clubs, a new bowling ball, or new running shoes. It will reduce the barriers for engaging in activity and both tools will reinforce each other’s use.

Bradley Moore, MPH, co-course director for Mobile Health Design, culled these from the responses to the “challenge” we gave students in class. (Thanks, Bradley!)

My idea was to bundle activity trackers with Father’s Day cards: Remember when we used to _ (hike, go to the playground, …) Dad? Let’s go for a walk together!

Overall, activity trackers are like many products where the manufacturer’s goal is to sell as many as possible. What we like to think about is behavior change, how people will respond to the gift and what they might do with it the first time they use it – if they get to that point. One student told us about a Fitbit that was about to be regifted, collecting dust in the unopened package. That’s what our challenge – and the great ideas students had – hopes to avoid.

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Jerry Matczak  |  June 11, 2014 at 6:06 pm

    Nice post, Lisa! As a founder of the Indianapolis based Quantified Self group, it’s easy to forget that the real market for trackers and devices like FitBit is beyond than we data geeks /citizen scientists in a QS group. Thinking about dads, moms, kids et al is what’s needed, and the emotional, social and instrument support framework is really useful to identify how to bring these devices to the mainstream.


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Lisa Gualtieri, PhD, ScM

Lisa GualtieriLisa Gualtieri is Assistant Professor at Tufts University School of Medicine in the Department of Public Health and Community Medicine. She is Director of the Certificate Program in Digital Health Communication. Lisa teaches Designing Health Campaigns using Social Media, Social Media and Health, Mobile Health Design, and Digital Strategies for Health Communication. Contact Lisa: lisa.gualtieri@tufts.edu

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