Specialists of the same therapeutic category tend to share similar attitudes about medicine and drug therapies. Infectious
disease specialists, for example, want to know the source of an infection, whereas rheumatologists are willing to live with
more uncertainty. Cardiologists, who often make life-or-death choices, tend to favor immediate intervention, while neurologists
prefer the watch-and-wait approach. Naturally, these attitudes influence their approaches to medicine and their prescribing
behaviors. By understanding the characteristics that define each group of specialists, marketers can learn how better to communicate
with them—and engage specialists who take a clinical, detached approach to medicine.
Winning Hearts and Minds
To understand what makes specialists tick, marketers must conduct extensive research on these doctors. Borrowing from the
disciplines of cognitive psychology and cultural anthropology, marketers can identify the emotional triggers that will evoke
feeling and empathy in these specialists. If executed properly, this approach can help marketers craft messages that will
overcome a doctor's initial resistance to a new product or concept.
Breaking through a doctor's habit of immediately rejecting a product or concept can be challenging. Sanofi-Aventis set out
to overcome this challenge in its campaign geared to oncologists for the drug Taxotere (docetaxel), a treatment option for
patients in advanced stages of cancer. Because oncologists tend to be skeptical about prescribing drugs that extend lives
of cancer patients by only a few weeks or months, Sanofi-Aventis created an emotionally-charged campaign that highlights the
importance of a patient's last moments, which—as the ads suggest—might include the touch of an infant's hand, a walk in the
woods, or even a chance to retell a favorite story. With the tagline "Survival data that can lead to moments like this," the
campaign turns the familiar shape of the Kaplan-Meier graph, a standard measure of survival duration frequently used by oncologists,
into a pathway that leads to snapshots of memorable events. Combining hard science with lump-in-the-throat emotion, the ads
demonstrate that some patients do treasure a few more weeks of life.
A Human Touch
For many years, internists and infectious disease specialists—the doctors who diagnose and treat most cases of HIV—have focused
on the cold facts of the disease, such as viral load, immune function, and resistance. But Abbott Laboratories, makers of
Kaletra (lopinavir-ritonavir), a protease inhibitor that reduces HIV infection to undetectable levels, took a softer approach.
The new Abbott campaign showed doctors that patients can and deserve to lead normal lives, and can enjoy everyday pleasures
without the fear of ostracism. The campaign introduces an image of an African-American woman sporting a radiant smile and
a hat to match. The ad suggests that because of Kaletra, women like this are still smiling—still enjoying life and wearing
their favorite hats.
Sanofi-Aventis factored in an emotional component to break through to their target audience.
Both campaigns transcend science by relying on emotion. Such direct appeal may change the mindset of even the most cynical
specialists. Whether projecting the joys of normal life or the pleasures of a medically prolonged one, marketing to the "-ologist"
requires a balancing act between intellect and intuition. Because doctors are trained to suppress their emotions, it's often
a challenge to understand their points of view. Marketers who expand their traditional knowledge of specialists by studying
their feelings, motivations, and attitudes, may encourage them to take a more open-minded approach to new drug therapies.