mHealth Monthly Mashup: release 15.0 – how Nike fuel band paves the way for the mobile health revolution

Michael Spitz


In our latest installment of the mHealth Monthly Mashup, Michael Spitz explores the Nike fuel band.

Mobile is the uncontested technological and communications channel of the millennium, and health is a two trillion dollar per annum and counting industry that will only increase in depth and breadth as populations worldwide continue to grow older, smoke, and gorge themselves on fatty, carbohydrate-laden, processed foods.

The good news is tens of thousands of mobile health apps have been created to help diagnose and treat, administer drugs, measure blood, improve compliance, guide exercise and diet, respond to emergencies, and mimic and frequently supplant entrenched medical tools and resources hundreds if not thousands of times their cost.

The bad news is the current mobile health landscape is fragmented, confusing, and chaotic. Thousands of apps do pretty much the same things, most do these things poorly, and users have no objective way to judge their quality or even safety aside from a very limited number of governmentally approved apps, all of them engineered explicitly for professionals.

So what mobile health needs is a flagship product with the critical mass to set a commercial and technological precedent, an integrated application that’s part of an entrenched, proven, branded infrastructure, an economically viable, consumer-focused tool that applies the principles of #mhealth in a manner that drives toward the quantified self.

Consider that need satisfied: consider the Nike+ FuelBand. (No, Spitz is not a sponsor, and didn’t even get one for free to review for this article. He truly thinks it’s a game changer.)


“What mobile health needs is a flagship product with the critical mass to set a commercial and technological precedent…”


Figure 1

From “Just Do It” to “Making It Count”

Nike marketers have been brilliant at elevating a brand from mere physical product to the living, breathing projection of the aspirational self. A running shoe is nothing but synthetic rubber and plastic, no matter how advanced, but competitive success and personal glory realized through athletic genius is unquantifiable and an archetypal, universal goal.

Better still, Nike has understood that self-identification with celebrity athletes is only the beginning. More significantly we are all stars with limitless potential. Their running shoe isn’t a vanity purchase or status symbol, but a sophisticated tool for achieving athletic — and ultimately personal and holistic — excellence in everything we set out to accomplish.


Figure 2

The sheer simplicity and empowering call to action of “Just Do It” electrified the industry and taught marketers important lessons. “Making It Count” has now taken that bold challenge and translated it into, amazingly enough, the quantified language of mobile health. The double- and triple-entendre of “count” brings new meaning and vitality to measurement.

Bob Greenberg, CEO of R/GA who helped build and launch FuelBand has noted that the logical culmination of Nike brand strategy is going beyond horizontal and vertical product integration to a new model where the consumer is the center of a seamless technological and social ecosystem. In a sense the product vanishes, leaving only the health goals and benefits.


“…a new model where the consumer is the center of a seamless technological and social ecosystem.”


Nike+ FuelBand as Mobile Health App

FuelBand is a three-axis accelerometer pedometer in the form of a bracelet worn all day that measures, analyzes, and shares body movement, including everything from walking to running to strenuous sports activities. The device comes with a USB connector for recharging and uploading data to a computer or smartphone app, all integrated into a dynamic website.


Figure 3

As repeatedly demonstrated in this column, successful consumer #mhealth apps share salient characteristics: Simple and intuitive interface, feedback via basic metrics, compliance through goal setting, a rewards system, peer-to-peer reinforcement, and most importantly, the device is but part of a multichannel, self-reinforcing relationship with the user.

The FuelBand system does all these things, and impressively well. The device itself is simple enough to require almost no instructions, and seamlessly integrates into a full digital experience at There users can set goals, get advice, track progress, personalize plans, review history, and get positively reinforced through gamification and sharing.



At the center is the unit of measure “NikeFuel,” calculated for each user based on individual height and weight. The metric is therefore comparable and sharable, the universal standard around which common goals can be set, bragging rights can be tendered, and users can compete against themselves and each other to progressively improve and get healthier.

Why this Gizmo is Important

The feedback mechanism between brands and consumer behavior is fascinating, creating and destroying whole industries, and transforming how society shops and even understands itself. Nowhere is that more true than in digital, where fluidly evolving platforms educate and empower users who in turn make or break the experiences they helped create.

I think FuelBand is significant for mobile health for many reasons. Topline the product and its digital ecosystem are a natural extension of Nike’s strategy, simultaneously elevating the brand and propelling mobile health into the mainstream. No longer is #mhealth risky and emerging, instead well on its way to becoming as cool and common as running shoes.

Smart execution is equally important. Simple, intuitive, integrated into a self-referential, self-reinforcing, peer-connected network, FuelBand represents a compendium of best practices that the industry can learn from. Most mobile apps have limited play because they are redundant and live in isolation, FuelBand gets behavioral modification right.



Perhaps most importantly, FuelBand is a sign that mobile health has come of age. From geeky gadgetry and fringe medicine to the centerpiece of consumerism, #mhealth has not only become the cornerstone of a global brand, but seems destined to bridge the gap between digital and analog, our bodies and our minds in ways we’re only beginning to understand.


“Nike+ FuelBand is a sign that mobile health has come of age.”


Fuel the Future

At the end of the day — today, at least — FuelBand is basically just a pedometer hooked into a cool website. But the sky’s the limit in terms of how this core concept can be expanded to encompass diet, nutrition, physical therapy, mental health, preventive medicine, treatment administration and compliance, and virtually every aspect of the healthcare system.Figure-6With Nike+ FuelBand the bridge has finally been crossed, the milestone reached, the tipping point pushed: Mobile health has not only proven itself a vibrant and viable channel, but has amazingly enough become the flagship of a global brand, embodying and bringing to life the aspiration of millions across the planet who truly want to make things count.




About the author:

Michael Spitz is SVP, Managing Director of the Healthcare and LifeSciences division of ZEMOGA. Spitz combines his passion for technology with more than 15 years of clinical content expertise to help engineer digital healthcare solutions. Follow @SpitzStrategy on Twitter for his daily – often hourly – updates on all things digital for the ultimate benefit of patients worldwide.

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