Prediction: “Habit” Will Replace “Decision” As The Focus Of Healthcare Marketing In 2019!!!

Huh??? Check this out. What you will find is a book that you should download to your Kindle and read. Right away! Why? Because!

I’ve just spent the month of August pondering Behavioral Economics. I read all of the major books on BE and have written a white paper that “demystifies” the topic. You can find the white paper on the ThinkGen website. In a nutshell, Behavioral Economics helps us to better understand decisions by realizing that decision making is not nearly as rational as classical economists would have us believe. Decision makers typically don’t have all of the information about the choices that they make, and don’t have unlimited time and computing power to make the optimizing decisions that classical economists always took for granted. Instead, they rely on biases and heuristics (decision-making short cuts) to satisfice. That is, they quickly make decisions that are OK, but not optimal.

Interestingly, I found buried in some of these Behavioral Economics books little chapters on “habit.” Basically, Behavioral Economists point out in passing that if the decisions being made involve habit, let alone addiction, it is sort of a whole different ball game. But they spend virtually no time describing that ball game.

WHOA! A little light bulb went off in my head when it occurred to me that most of the prescribing and treatment “decisions” we see our HCP customers make are really only “actions” based on habit. Yikes!

Off I went to research “habit,” and came up with the seminal book I have referred you to, above. In it, you will find the Hook model of habit formation. According to this model, the formation of a habit has four steps:

  • Trigger:  Every habit has to have a trigger, i.e., the clue that it is time to activate the habit. First triggers are external, then they become internal.
  • Action:  The second step in habit development is actually taking an action. This action, since it is observable, is what most people focus on when they think of the habit.
  • Reward:  In order to keep a habit going, there needs to be a reward for taking the action. Not necessarily each and every time. “Variable Reinforcement,” (Sometimes you get a reward, sometimes you don’t. Like in casino gambling!) actually forms the strongest habits.
  • Investment:  At the final stage of habit development, one does things like share the habit with others, thus making an investment of self in the habit.

Next light bulb. Each of these habit formation stages requires a different kind of marketing support. Simply pushing product features and benefits, if it is appropriate at all, would only have any impact as the decision is made by the customer to begin the habit formation process. After that, other mechanisms take over. For example, in Trigger, most habits in their formational stage rely on external triggers, and then transition to internal triggers. Marketers need to provide support for both stages of trigger development.

Bottom Line. Professionals who are designing and marketing apps and online services have figured out that getting people to form the habit of using their offerings is what will make or break their businesses, not one time “decision making.” Pharmaceutical marketers have not reached this insight. 

Prediction:  In 2019, they will!

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