Is It Rational To Be Irrational… Or Irrational To Be Rational???

Many blog readers will mercifully be too young to remember the bygone days of pharmaceutical marketing and marketing research when “emotional drivers” were all the rage.  My marketing research colleagues from that era will remember with horror concepts like “brand personality” and “projective techniques.”  I would cringe when a client would insist that I add a question like, “If this drug were an animal, what animal would it be?” to a topical guide.   I would cringe even more under the quizzical gaze of a physician to whom I had just posed this nonsense question during the course of an individual depth interview.

While such questions have hopefully been put to rest once and for all, the spirit in which they were employed is still alive and well in some circles.  “Neuromarketing” is a concept I hear being discussed with some gravity, and I recently saw a presentation at a pharmaceutical marketing research conference that focused on the interpretation of facial expressions as indicators of emotional reactions to marketing messages.

Go to:

http://www.forbes.com/sites/rogerdooley/2012/10/04/market-research/?goback=%2Egde_31804_member_172048574

There you will see Roger Dooley hold forth on his notion that the reason that so much marketing research “sucks” is that it is too rational.  Roger, who not coincidentally earns a living in neuromarketing, makes the age old point that most consumer behavior is the result of unconscious emotional drivers, leaving any marketing research that asks people why they do things doomed to fail.

Here’s the catch!  While pharmaceutical marketing and marketing research have often “borrowed with pride” from our consumer colleagues who are often way ahead of us, 2012 is not the time for us to be borrowing such loosey-goosey lines of reasoning. Follow the emerging discussion!  The Affordable Care Act, Accountable Care Organizations, Evidence-Based Medicine and other pragmatic forces are taking the voodoo out of healthcare marketing.  I don’t hear many of my colleagues in the newly emerged marketing/research area of “Access” referring to unconscious psychological drivers.

Bottom line.  For the foreseeable future, pharmaceutical marketing and marketing research are about the rational.  Select your marketing programs and marketing research methodologies accordingly.

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