Behavior and the Bottom Line - Pharmaceutical Executive

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Behavior and the Bottom Line

Pharmaceutical Executive


As a result of the research, the brand was able to deliver a multi-pronged, behavioral science-based program that provided techniques, tools, and resources to assist women in coping with stress and encourage them to seek social support. Program communications addressed both specific behavioral drivers and barriers to adherence and support. Tools for positive coping strategies ranged from educational materials to patient support groups. These communications converted leads and helped establish new and ongoing patient relationships, allowing women with breast cancer to better cope with the disease.

A very different challenge faced the makers of a brand designed to treat ADHD. Behavioral research showed that the attitudes of parents or other caregivers were influencing treatment, resulting in low compliance and persistence. Further research revealed that parents of children with ADHD not only often have a negative perception of the impact of the condition on their child's quality of life, but also experience daily stress.

To address these issues, the marketing team looked to a proven behavioral model. The Social Cognitive Theory model shows how responses and actions, environmental factors and beliefs, and attitudes impact compliance behavior in the ADHD category; it served as a guide for the entire communications program. Therefore, the communications stream, in this case newsletters, offered coping techniques for addressing environmental barriers and reducing stress, while other components focused on overcoming the reluctance of parents to administer medication to their children. In an unusual comparison study, the pharmaceutical company retained two agencies for the ADHD brand. One agency used traditional marketing methods, while the other applied a behavioral science-based approach. Patients and caregivers receiving relationship-marketing materials based on behavioral science generated a 13 percent increase in length of therapy, according to match-back data.

The Four Focal Points

An effective behavioral science–based plan should:

1. Identify which customers to spend money on based on predictions of what future actions they are likely to take. A good plan defines customer segments and separates them into groups based on their likelihood to respond, then determines which message will resonate with each group.

2. Create a conversational platform that engages each customer segment emotionally, making a behavioral connection while continuing to support and enhance the core brand proposition. A "one size fits all" approach is unlikely to engage the patient in a meaningful dialogue. Marketers need to understand the patients' mindset and develop communications materials that speak to their immediate needs.

3. Provide a cost-justified engagement plan that reveals which touch points are likely to yield the greatest returns. How many communications will it take to get the desired result? How can the team leverage other brand assets to maximize the return on spending?

4. Facilitate a measure of success. This is perhaps the most important attribute of a good plan. Brand managers should ask themselves: What are the key performance metrics? What is the allowable amount to spend and what is the acceptable break-even point and ROI? A well-designed behavioral science–based, relationship-marketing program can focus resources on people the brand is most likely to move. Because the goal is to engage in a dialogue, built-in measurement points such as levels of engagement, satisfaction or click-throughs can be used. Since relationship marketing is an ongoing strategy, current and year-to-date results can be tracked.

Behavioral science-based relationship marketing is not a replacement for traditional marketing. It's a way of doing more with less. As a strategy, it is particularly effective for the pharmaceutical industry, where decisions—such as visiting the doctor, writing or filling a prescription, and continuing to take a medication in the prescribed manner—are often based on emotional and psychological factors.

By using behavioral science to predict and understand behavior, which is a prelude to changing it, pharmaceutical manufacturers can tailor a brand experience to those who are most likely to respond. In this day and age, when it is the enlightened customers themselves who decide what they want to know, when they want to know it, and how they want to experience it, this approach might be far more appropriate.

Jay Bigelow is president of MicroMass Communications. He can be reached at


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