Category: Marketing Research

Insight Capsule #1: ODM “The Psychology of Engagement”

–Calibrating Promotional Spend–

Many of our clients are uncertain how to calibrate their promotional spend in the new, personalized / omnichannel paradigm of pharmaceutical promotion.

Discussions held with many of our client partners prior to the beginning of our first quarter 2022 conversations with physicians revealed substantial amounts of confusion and concern about the future of pharmaceutical promotion under a new and developing paradigm. For example, one practical issue on clients’ minds is what plans they should be making for the return of in-person promotion when the future impact of COVID variants remains uncertain.

Additionally, clients aren’t sure which Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) they should be chasing. Surveys have found that while most physicians still favor in-person detailing, a sizable minority prefer virtual details or a hybrid combination. Should physician “preference” be the driving factor here? Are we trying to optimize the increasingly popular concept of “CX” (customer experience), or maybe even trying to develop “customer loyalty?” Does customer loyalty even exist in pharmaceutical marketing, and what does it buy you? Clients are bandying about terminology like “corporate image” and “share of mind.” Where do they fit in? Clearly, clarity on these and related issues needs to be achieved for a company to get full value out of the new promotional paradigm. 

Upcoming Insight Capsules will begin to clarify physicians’ thinking on these important issues. 

The Changing “Patient Journey”

“Patient Journey” studies in the pharmaceutical industry used to be rather predictable and formulaic. They were conducted with patients with particular diseases or conditions and typically focused very specifically on clinical events that unfolded from diagnosis through treatment. 

In this very informative piece, you will see that is changing. Many forces are at work that, as the title of the piece says, require us to use data to understand “patients as humans.” The events of the last 18 months have been pivotal here. With the COVID-19 pandemic, people (not just patients!) have become increasingly concerned with health issues, and are decreasingly willing and able to seek out information through personal visits to physicians’ offices. The result? A significant shift to a greater reliance on digital information sources. And the result of that? An increased ability of marketers to collect and utilize data to custom tailor messaging.

AND. Increasingly marketers using patient journeys are expanding their purview beyond disease. Traditionally, a patient journey study of cancer patients would track the steps in medical care from diagnosis forward. Radiation, chemotherapy, role of various specialists, etc. But a cancer patient is a person. A person that has anxiety, that wants to go to weddings, that has interests, priorities, obligations. Key here is the author’s comment that increasingly, marketers are coming to recognize that “the disease does not define the person.”

Bottom Line. Interesting stuff! Complicated stuff. This more holistic approach, empowered by digital data, suggests to me that we may need to develop some new terminology. Conatively, “Patient Journey” focuses us so much on disease that it may be too limiting.

Any ideas for replacement verbiage???


Check this out. What you will see is an interesting piece on “How to Choose an Agile Market Research Healthcare Vendor”.

I’m not going to comment too much on this piece. I just want you to think about the concept of “agile,” and where and when it might be important. And how important it might be in choosing a marketing research “vendor.” Focus in especially on the first criterion offered up. i.e., “speed-to-insight.” I have thought a lot about the definition presented here, i.e., speed to project completion, which is sort of the underlying theme of the whole piece. 

Bottom Line. Are there times when it is important to get a project done mach schnell? Hell, yes! BUT.  In an increasingly complex world, how important is speed in comparison to accuracy? Or brilliance? Or actionability? Or…..?

Think about it!

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!

Understanding Black Americans

Check this out. What you will see is a piece on the importance of gaining a better understanding of the 13% of Americans who are black. You will also see the author observe that many brands and companies have not done a very good job in gaining this understanding, or even in trying to do so, and are increasingly being called out for their ignorance.  

This got me to thinking as usual. Three thoughts come to mind. First, having been actively involved in pharmaceutical marketing research for the last 40 (or more!!) years, I can’t recall ever being asked to conduct a study related to understanding Black Americans. That’s not a good thing.

Next thought. It is generally understood that in order to break down healthcare disparity, we need to do three things. First, we need to understand medical differences across segments of the population. For example, our gastroenterologist at Volunteers In Medicine on Hilton Head Island recently explained to our board that H. pylori is present in about 33% of Caucasians, 66% of African Americans and about 77% of Latinx patients. Given that 90% of our 10,000 patients are of color, that’s pretty important stuff for him, and for us, to know to ensure proper testing protocols for GI cases.

Second, and this is where marketing researchers come in, we need to understand the cultural differences alluded to in this article. Blacks’ hesitancy to get vaccinated for COVID, and the relationship of this reluctance to the Tuskegee experiment and numerous other situations in which Blacks were medically abused, has significant explanatory power if we take the time to understand such issues. 

And finally, mindful of the above, we need to find creative ways to actually deliver health care to the underserved. VIM is a clear example of such a delivery mechanism.

Bottom Line. Things are changing. Health care companies are mounting significant programs to reduce health care disparity. J&J’s “Race to Equity”, The Novartis “Beyond Words” program, etc.  AND.  The ThinkGen team is starting to research relevant issues. Like doing ethnographic research with “free clinics” to find out how they work, learn about their patient segments, etc. Such knowledge is clearly necessary to guide the disparity reduction programs that pharmaceutical companies are mounting.

Exciting new times!!!

Hospital CEO “Cut!” After Participating In Surgery

Yes, you read that title correctly! And no, the CEO was not an MD!!! Check this out.  What you will see is one of the more bizarre stories you will encounter this week. Guaranteed!

Here’s the deal. For some inexplicable reason, the CEO of a hospital in Bristol, TN entered an operating room to “observe” a surgical procedure. What he expected to learn from this observation process remains unclear. What is clear is that, for some other inexplicable reason, the surgeon in charge of the case asked the CEO if he would like to make the first incision on the anesthetized patient. He did!  

As tends to happen in 2020, word of this “got out.” First to the hospital’s compliance program, and then through the press. What happened next?  Exactly what you would think. The CEO and the surgeon are no longer employed at that institution.  

Is that all? Perhaps not. This blog post contains mention of possible criminal actions against the CEO, and the possibility of civil lawsuits as well!

Bottom Line. But wait. Maybe there is more going on here than meets the eye. I’m thinking that this is really a story about an “In the heat of the moment” fantasy.

Ask 5,000 surgeons on Twitter if they would let their hospital CEO’s make an incision in their patients. The answer? A resounding “Hell, NO!” Good rational thinking in response to a survey question.  

BUT. What MBA hospital administrator has not fantasized about being a doctor, you know, one of the guys who really make the hospital work? And what surgeon has not wanted to show his CEO who is really boss by letting him play with his toys, unfortunately in this case a patient’s body? 

In a world where habits, heuristics and emotions account for the vast majority of human behavior, consider this just one more reminder of how imperfectly survey responses predict actual behavior! The kind that occurs “In the heat of the moment.” 

The Longer, Broader Patient Journey

Check this out. What you will see is a post indicating that in Pediatric Oncology, as in so many specialties, we need to take a longer and broader view of the “patient journey.” We need a longer view because with pediatric cancer, as with many other conditions, the diagnosis unfortunately starts not only an acute course of therapy, but potentially triggers a lifelong series of varied complications.  We also need a broader view, since a diagnosis frequently activates responses by many of the patient’s “Life Networks,” and her “Event Network”  as described by my colleague Dr. Glenna Crooks in her most recent book.  

Bottom Line. In conducting patient journey research, we need to be thinking much “bigger” than we have been up to this point. For example, I haven’t typically thought of family bankruptcy as a part of the patient journey. As pointed out in this piece, in a sad number of cases, it can be!

Bezos On Marketing Research-Take Two

In a recent post, I sent you to listen to Bob Lederer talk about how Jeff Bezos does not rely on marketing research to come up with ideas like Amazon’s “Echo” product. In today’s offering, Bob offers a rather different take on the Amazon Wunderkind. While it is true that Jeff does not expect a focus group to design Alexa for him, Bezos does make extensive use of marketing research to guide his company.  I love the philosophy that he espouses on the importance of customer understanding, as shown above.  “Start with the customer and work backwards.”

That is very refreshing to me, since I work in the pharmaceutical industry that typically starts with its product and works forwards!!!

What kinds of MR does JB rely on? Machine learning and artificial intelligence. As any of us who get daily offerings of custom tailored “deals” knows, Amazon is the master of understanding its customers through their browsing and purchasing behavior.

Experimentation. Bezos will research the heck out of a new idea before going “all in.”  


Bottom Line. While Bezos, like Steve Jobs and Henry Ford before him, is way too smart to believe that customers will directly tell him what products he should develop, he clearly believes that “starting with the customer” should be the guiding light of his marketing efforts.

I think he is correct!

Market Research??? No Need!!!

Check this out. Based on the graphic above, you can probably guess what you are going to see and here in the latest of RFL’s great video reports. Yup, that’s Amazon’s Bezos, being quoted as saying that MR would not have contributed an iota to the Company’s wildly successful Echo product line.

You’ve heard this one before. Steve Jobs said the same thing about the Apple product line.  

Oh, and then there is the great Henry Ford line about MR. If you had asked people what their dream form of  transportation was decades ago, Ford snickered, they would have told you a faster horse!

We get it. The problem with marketing research is that it is not very good at predicting things that are discontinuous with the here and now. But. Amazon, Apple and Ford all invested a lot of money on such discontinuous offerings. How does risk get minimized? Or even managed?

Bottom Line. I am thinking that the three great marketing pundits listed above would all have the same two answers, as Bob Lederer notes in attribution to Bezos. First, make sure that you staff members  are genuinely creative visionaries, i.e., that they intuitively know what is going to work and what isn’t without asking consumers.  

Second, be prepared for some big losses. None of the three entrepreneurs were/are big on “test markets.” Each of them believe(d) that it is necessary to go “all in” if a product launch is going to be successful. That can get expensive if you are wrong. 

Is there a better way to conceptualize marketing research about futuristic products so that investing in them sounds less like a cross between faith and gambling? 

Dissatisfaction With A Satisfaction Questionnaire

Check this out.  Play the video. What you will hear is the story of customer satisfaction research gone horribly wrong. More specifically, you will hear Bob Lederer’s dismay when he responds to a customer satisfaction questionnaire with an appropriate panning of a car company that knowingly had a software glitch that was ruining engines in their own cars. Bob’s car was a victim of the glitch, and he was going to be without his car for 30 days while the dealer got a new engine block and made the repair.

Here’s the ketch. Since Bob reported on a survey that he was understandably DISsatisfied with the results of the service visit at which he got this bad news, the service manager that had previously been so helpful to him ironically wound up being denied her monthly bonus because she, rather than the car company, was perceived by the customer satisfaction researchers as the cause of Bob’s dissatisfaction. Result? She lost her monthly bonus. And was royally ticked off at Mr. Lederer!

Bottom Line. And here is the real kicker. Lederer declares at the end of the piece that as the result of this unfortunate experience, he will now feign satisfaction on subsequent surveys rather than get somebody in trouble. In a world in which I have regularly had sales and service people, knowing that I would be surveyed about their performance, ask me to make sure I give them top ratings, I think there is only one logical outcome of all of this. More specifically:

Stop this foolishness! As I reported in a previous post, it has been demonstrated that satisfaction scores don’t correlate with anything meaningful anyway.  

So, let’s just stop annoying customers with this goofy research!!!