What Is the Matter With Dr. Smith?

Written by
Mads Krogh Petersen
What Is the Matter With Dr. Smith?

Meet Dr. Smith!

Dr. Smith has been identified as representative of a key target segment to help the pharmaceutical company achieve its business objective by prescribing a given drug. The drug is "objectively" more efficacious than competitors, with a superior safety profile, is reimbursed and included as part of the Standard of Care by the health authority.

This is Dr. Smith.

So, let’s tell Dr. Smith how good we are ...

Dr. Smith does not respond favorably.

Dr. Smith has now been exposed to our message.
Let’s tell Dr. Smith again…

Dr. Smith has now been exposed to our message again. It did not work. Let us tell Dr. Smith in a new and exciting way!

Will augmented reality make the difference?

It didn’t work.

Still not reacting. Is Dr. Smith not a professional?

Why? Dr. Smith's colleague, the neuroscientist, "Dr. Ley", would say that Dr. Smith made a negative prediction of the situation* (or none at all) and because he feels threatened.** Say what? In simple terms, based on Dr. Smith's past experiences his instinct directs him to not listen in. Also, the “push” communication form he is exposed to by the pharmaceutical company challenges his need for self-determination in terms of Autonomy, feeling of Competence and Relationship. Concretely, the following chatter (as opposed to conscious thought) is prolific in Dr. Smith’s brain.  

"I am tired. A new drug is not going to help with that"

“This company is not more intelligent that I am”

“Definitely exaggerating the efficacy and safety”

“It is probably a waste of time. And I have scarce time already”

“Yet again, intrusive marketing from pharma with unwarranted claims about superiority”

“Such companies and people do not have my best interest in mind”

“I cannot relate. They do not talk about the most pressing problems that I have”

“Seen this before. A company suggesting my disease management is suboptimal. Invariably I know more about this.”

Marketing influence: the function for change of behavior

In other words, in the situation where the pharmaceutical company exposes Dr. Smith to marketing messages in order to trigger a given desired behavior - i.e, start prescribing the given drug - his behavior is determined by the following function:

P(B|S) = P(S) x ∑(C + A + R)

P(B|S) represents the probability of the desired behavior given the situation, where B is the behavior, S is the situation and “|” symbol indicates “given”. P(S) represents the doctor’s prediction of the situation and  ∑(C + A+ R) represents the level of fulfilment as regards Competence, Autonomy and Relatedness*.

What will make Dr. Smith start prescribing the new, superior drug?

Dr. Smith is ignoring obvious benefits (or so, we think). To influence Dr. Smith, the pharmaceutical company needs to recognize that marketing and communication is not about telling people things, it’s about behavior change. And behavior change is hard. Just ask the one third of kidney transplant patients who don’t take their anti-rejection medications.*** If people would rather not change their behavior than stay alive, what hope do we have bringing about a much less impactful change in Dr. Smith? As per the above function, we need to trigger a positive prediction and support Dr. Smith’s sense of self determination. How to do this is described by Vertic's approach to design behavior Share of Life®. Reach out for more info.

* Clark, A. (2013). Whatever next? Predictive brains, situated agents, and the future of cognitive science. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 36(3), 181-204. doi:10.1017/S0140525X12000477&

*Kleckner, I., Zhang, J., Touroutoglou, A. et al. (2017). Evidence for a large-scale brain system supporting allostasis and interoception in humans. Nat Hum Behav1, 0069 https://www.nature.com/articles/s41562-017-0069

** Edward Deci and Richard Ryan(1985*), “Self-Determination and Intrinsic Motivation in Human Behavior”

*** Rachel E. Patzer et al. (2016) Medication understanding, non-adherence, and clinical outcomes among adult kidney transplant recipients, https://www.scholars.northwestern.edu/en/publications/medication-understanding-non-adherence-and-clinical-outcomes-amon-2

Written by

Mads Krogh Petersen

President and Co-Founder

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