At the DTC National Conference 2010 in Washington, DC, in March, Ogilvy (Chicago) and online community research leader CommuniSpace presented findings from joint research on shifting American attitudes. Their white paper, titled “Eyes Wide Open, Wallet Half Shut,” served up 10 key themes shaping America’s “new” mind-set as the country emerges from recession. It also presented significant implications and posed a serious warning for marketers: don't overlook fundamental shifts in consumer thinking.
In this vein, HealthEd explores how these general shifts might play out in more specific attitudes toward the pharmaceutical industry, healthcare, and the broader issue of health itself. This blog, the first in a series, reflects on 2 of the broader consumer trends. In hopes that our perspective on these trends spurs deeper thinking among industry leaders, we welcome your comments.
Trust Lost in Recession
The research presented in the white paper found that in the wake of the recession, trust of large institutions has plummeted. In fact, consumers' circle of trust has narrowed and includes few outside self and close family, with the local community being the furthest it extends. Sadly, pharmaceutical companies count among the large institutions that fall outside the diminished circle of trust, deepening the underlying distrust of the industry that was already a challenge. Further, the wrenching healthcare debate caught up almost everyone and joined the recession-fueled distrust of big institutions to intensify previous attitudes toward the pharmaceutical industry.
As an industry, we must do more, and do better, to make a positive impression. Give Humana’s Horsepower Challenge a try in your local community to demonstrate for yourself how we can build goodwill and trust for our industry. While you’re at it, think about how your patient communications help your brand and help lift the industry. How are you helping the cause?
The flip side of narrowing trust, self-reliance is on a significant upswing. And we take the white paper’s observations one step further here as well. In our view, the Internet has liberated the self-reliance trend, especially when it comes to making decisions about health. Patients know about the Internet, they look there more and more for their own answers, and they fill in the gaps—ironically with the industry notably absent from the direct discourse. In the vacuum, patients have turned to one another, having formed communities (Twit2Fit, dLife, or cancercompass.com) around broad health topics, as well as more specific conditions (www.abc-survivors.net/stories/chondrosarcoma, transplantcafe.com, www.epilepsy.com).
Invariably, patients discuss pharmaceutical products they are using. How many of us in the industry care what they are saying? We should. Although few will give credence to the one patient who tells us her medication made her see ghosts, most patients make significantly less fantastical statements that others will (and do) pay attention to.
While these communities are not “local” in the traditional sense, they do provide common ground where people with common health experiences can feel at home with one another. Think of these comunities as pseudo-local, formed by consumers relying on themselves. And oh, by the way, that puts these communities inside the circle of trust.
Implication for the Pharmaceutical Industry
Our industry must find ways to speak through more trusted channels like these. Over the past few years, we've all heard how pharmaceutical leaders have developed “patient strategy” as an important driver of business results for their brands. By now, most recognize a concept known as the “empowered patient” and have given that patient more mind space and focus in their marketing efforts.
As we think it through, this does not necessarily lead to DTC marketing. In fact, it mostly takes the form of very specific, often personal or intimate, communications driven by deep insights about condition, treatment, and the clinical setting where patients interact with the healthcare system.
Director, Strategic Services - CRM