Category: Habit Engineering

How to Break Your Bad Pandemic Habits

Check this out. What you will see is a physician’s tips on how to break the bad habits that you developed during the pandemic. Overeating is a major one of these habits. 42% of the respondents to one survey reported that they had gained weight during the pandemic, with an increased poundage of an amazing 29 pounds.  Increased alcohol consumption, smoking and vaping were also high on the list of bad habits that flourished.  Anxiety, depression and sleep disorders also raised their ugly heads during these hellacious months. Many people, of course, manifested more than one of these newly formed bad habits, and this blogging physician wisely recommends not trying to jettison them all at once.

Bottom Line. Perhaps the saddest part of these negative outcomes is the promise we made to ourselves when “lockdowns” began. Remember? We were going to use this newly found isolation to do something really special. Learn a new language. Catch up on books that have long been on our reading list. Etc. Well, for most of us, things simply didn’t work out that way, and now we need to scramble to get back to our healthier, pre-pandemic status quo.

The best guidance offered in this piece is that we be “intentional” with our time. Be mindful of metering out time for good activities, thus allowing less time for bad habitual behaviors to manifest themselves.

That’s good advice! I’m working on it myself!!!

Multifactorial Obesity

Check this out. What you will see is a reminder to physicians of the variety of psychological, social, and environmental factors that cannot only contribute to patients developing obesity, but as importantly, to their failure to comply with a treatment plan. 

And the explanation here is very well worded. The factors listed above don’t, at the most fundamental level, really cause obesity and treatment failure. Rather, they “…can trigger existing genetic substrates to promote obesity.” That’s different. Evolutionary Psychology (Go read this book!) teaches us that thousands of years ago, our ancestors on the savannah who learned to “calorie pack” were more likely to survive in a food-scarce environment, and thus more likely to pass those genes down to us today. When triggered, the behavior caused by these genes can cause obesity that is extremely unhealthy and difficult to modify.

Bottom Line. As I continue to ply my trade of marketing research, I have become increasingly convinced of the importance of learning to understand the layers of what I call the Behavior Pyramid. For example, most pharmaceutical marketing research focuses on physician prescribing “decisions.” But very few behaviors are actually based on decisions. Dig a little deeper, and you will find that most behavior is the result of habits. Look one more layer down, as in obesity, and you will find the impact of genetics.

Yup. Understanding these layers is important to physicians treating obesity, and to those of us who study these doctors!

Behavioral Science In Marketing

Better late than never? Throughout my five-decade career as a Psychologist consulting on matters related to pharmaceutical marketing, I have always believed that the body of knowledge comprising the “behavioral sciences” was essential to understand if a drug company is going to market effectively. For example, ThinkGen’s Habit EngineeringSM paradigm, which focuses on marketing by developing physician habits rather than on influencing their decisions, takes me right back to graduate school and B.F. Skinner. You know, the “press the bar, get the pellet” guy who founded Behaviorism.

But check out this article. What you will see being put forth is the idea that now, in an era empowered by digital media, it is suddenly really important to rely on the behavioral sciences to make the new media really sing and dance.  

Bottom Line. You know what? I think that the experts commenting in this article are correct. The behavioral sciences have been around for a long time, but they are taking on new roles. With digital media, we can use the behavioral sciences as the basis for customizing messages in ways heretofore impossible. We’re even starting to see behavioral science based apps being used for therapeutic purposes like curbing drug addiction, facilitating  weight loss, etc.  

BUT. At a public health level, we are seeing an important failure to utilize the principles of psychology to influence people to socially distance, wash their hands, etc.

My prediction? As set forth very well in this article, one of the most important learnings from the pandemic will be that the people who are making health policy decisions will need to read a book on Health Psychology (there are plenty of really good texts with that title), or at least consult with a member of Division 38, Health Psychology, of which I am a proud card carrying member.

Should be good for business!

Marketing To The Moment

Check this out.  Read the free introduction “inside.” It gives you most of the important points of this book. BUT. If you get intrigued, do what I did. Download the whole book to your Kindle. Trust me. It is a quick read.  

What will you find? An example. The author opens the book describing how he is a methodical, list the “pros and cons” for every decision kind of guy. When he and his wife found out that they were pregnant, they began an extremely methodical search for the appropriate daycare center for their soon-to-be born child. No final decision was made, and along came the baby. Prematurely. 

Immediately following delivery, a very spent mother ordered her exhausted husband to go home and take a nap. Out of the hospital he goes. On the way home, he spots one of the seven daycare centers that had been on their short list. Carpe Diem by name. (I couldn’t make that up!)

In he walks and signs his new son up on the spot. The end of the “decision making process” wasn’t really a decision at all. It was a reaction that felt right given the circumstances.

The author’s point is a simple and profound one. Most of the time we are “deciding,” we really aren’t thinking. We have heard this one before. It is the key thought of Behavioral Economics. It is the underpinning of Behavioral Marketing and Neuromarketing. And yes, it is a driving force behind ThinkGen’s Habit EngineeringSM.  

But this book focuses in more clearly, as the title would suggest, on the mindstate of the customer. The context. Where is he? Who is he with? What is his physical and emotional situation?

Bottom Line. Like Merry Christmas, “although it’s been said many times, many ways,” remember that most of what we do every is not the result of conscious thought. We make 35,000 “decisions” a day, so we can’t be doing all of that very rationally. 

A lot of consumer marketers have figured this out.  

Why haven’t most pharmaceutical marketers?

Vape Out

Who couldn’t see this one coming? Suddenly (?) vaping is being uncovered as a significant health risk. Check this out. As physicians on the national news are describing the situation, what we are facing in many vapors, now increasingly known as “patients,” is that the oil that is being burned is congealing on the lining of the lungs, significantly reducing their function. Throw some THC into the oil for good measure, and away we go!

Bottom Line. But the pathophysiology is not the real point here. Not even close. The real point is “habit.” It is estimated that at some point in their lives, about 50% of us will choose to develop a habit that will have a significant negative effect on our health and our life expectancy. What gives here?  

Recently, I have been increasingly immersing myself in a new field of endeavor, Evolutionary Psychology. While the books I have been reading in that field (more on this later!) go on for hundreds of pages, the basic premise of Evolutionary Psychology is a simple one. That is, the point of evolution is not a change in body structure a la Darwin, but a change in body function. Said another way, we don’t pop out of the womb as blank slates on which teachers and experience can write. Rather, thousands of years of evolution have us pop out pre-wired with universal predilections, all of whichare aimed at self-preservation and passing on our genes through reproduction. (Example. Research has demonstrated that people in NYC are more afraid of snakes than they are of cars. Obviously, snakes were recognized as major sources of danger by our ancestors. Cars are too new to have caused evolution-based fears.)

Given all of that, what the hell causes people to choose to pick up habits, like vaping, that are going to obviously be deleterious to their health? 

Obviously, I am going to have to read and think about this a little more ‘cuz this one has me stumped!

Habits vs. Goals

As most of you already know, I am now spending full time working with my colleague, Dr. Neale Martin, and the rest of the ThinkGen professional team on Habit EngineeringSM.  In a nutshell, we are working to train the pharmaceutical industry to focus on marketing by teaching physicians new, long term prescribing habits instead of our trying to influence short term prescribing decisions.  

More generally, habits are in fact much of the stuff of life. Check this out. As the Charles Nobel quote in this article so clearly articulates, “First we make our habits, then our habits make us.”  

Bottom Line. Today, I would like you to read this brief piece, and ponder the important role that habits play in every human endeavor. THEN. Think how important habits must be in marketing, and how silly it is that pharmaceutical marketers have ignored this truth for so long.  

How Do Marketers Bring Value To The HCP???

Go here and watch the video. The founder of Elevate Healthcare, pictured above, argues that if HCP’s are going to give us their time, we need to bring them genuine value. AND. She recommends that the best way to do so is to find areas of “intersection” between the needs of the HCP and the capabilities of the healthcare company. But how?

Bottom Line. ThinkGen’s work in Habit EngineeringSM can provide us with some important guidance here. More specifically, habits grow more embedded by having the customer make “Investments” in a brand. Investments are things that make it easier to use the product and harder for a new competitor to take the customer away.  

SO. We need to look for forms of assistance we can provide to the HCP that meets some of her needs for greater practice quality and efficiency while meeting our needs to have the doctor become more invested in using the product. Lorna Weir suggests getting the doctor to “lean” on your patient educational materials as a good way to do this. Makes sense. What else?

Put your thinking caps on!

From Neuroscience To Behavioral Science

Check this out.  What you will see is a report that marketing research giant Nielsen is adding a suite of “Behavioral Science” offerings to the menu of its neuroscience unit.  

Interesting. When you think about it, you realize that neuroscience and behavioral science approaches to marketing and marketing issues are really flip sides of the same coin. In my work on habits with Dr. Neale Martin at ThinkGen, for example, I find it extremely valuable for Neale to explain to clients the difference between the Executive Mind and the Habitual Mind, AND to explain to them that these different “minds” actually live in very different areas of the brain. 

Bottom Line. Amazing. How little attention the duality of neuroscience and behavior science have gotten in pharmaceutical marketing research through the years. However. From the number of Habit EngineeringSM projects that ThinkGen’s clients currently have us working on, I think that shortfall is in the process of changing! Rapidly!!!

The Essential Nature Of Habit

Check this out What you will see is the summary of a presentation given a few weeks ago by habit expert Nir Eyal. The point of the presentation is that as we get deeper into the future, a company that is not a “habit” is going to lose. Big time. Making your product a habit is already a big deal, but Eyal sees the future as making habit even more of a necessity as apps proliferate and screens disappear (Hey, Alexa!). Bottom Line. At ThinkGen, we have stopped viewing marketing challenges as being about influencing customer decisions. In 2019 and beyond, we will be working with our new Advisory Board Member,  Neale Martin, Ph.D., on getting all of our clients to focus on making the use of their product a habit. Dr. Martin literally wrote the book on habit, and has applied his expertise across verticals, including the pharmaceutical industry, for the last two decades.  Want to get a better understanding of habit-based marketing? Go here. Now!

Emotional Context

Check this out. What you will see is the story of a doctor who gets a surprise. A patient who he actually hates seeing in the office, thanks to her complaining and dour demeanor, was witnessed actually having a good time, a very good time, in a setting outside the office where she was surrounded by her family. On a subsequent office visit, the doctor questioned “Ruth” as to why she wasn’t more joyful in the office? Her response? How could she be joyful at the office? That’s where she goes to complain about her knees! In all of the gazillion words I have laid down in these blog posts and elsewhere during my professional career,  I don’t think I have ever typed the words “emotional context.” My fellow ThinkGen Advisor and Habit author Neale Martin always stresses the importance of “context.” Habits, Dr. Martin preaches, not only require cues to set them off. Habits occur in context. When you open the refrigerator, your habits respond to a different context at breakfast time, when your hand reaches for the orange juice, vs. at dinner time when your habit likely directs you more to the bottle of chardonnay. Both habits, different context. Just so with our emotional habits, which also often respond very strongly to the context in which they occur. Bottom Line. Emotions. You know what? I don’t think I have ever typed that word before either. Funny. In his seminal book, How Doctors Think, Dr. Jerome Groopman clearly points out that “. . . few of us realize just how strongly a physician’s mood and temperament influence his medical judgment.” And heaven knows emotions influence patient compliance and clinical outcome. But even as a Psychologist who has focused his entire career on understanding the way our customers think, I haven’t really ever written about, asked about or really even thought about emotions or emotional context.  As my ThinkGen colleagues and I pursue our new Habit EngineeringSM  approach to pharmaceutical marketing and marketing research in 2019, look for all of that to change. Big time!!!