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5 health behavioural factors to incorporate in your marketing

Achieve real health behaviour change by including these elements in your pharmaceutical marketing.

Human beings are complicated creatures when it comes to health, particularly if their wellbeing involves a change in either their approach or their behaviour. Persuading an individual of the need to adopt a healthy lifestyle isn’t hard. But leading that same individual to the point where they’re willing and able to undertake a change in behaviour is a tougher call.  

This presents pharma and healthcare with a difficult marketing task. Procedures, health products, and treatments are available to those who need them, as are preventive health regimes and dietary advice, but it’s not enough to simply tell patients they exist. In order to bring about permanent changes in health behaviour, marketers need to delve beneath the surface, right into the workings of the human mind.

Health behaviour change - needed elements

An intriguing report written by consultation with senior NHS figures reveal the three elements need to come together in order to effect permanent health behaviour change. These elements exist in all areas concerning emotional or physical change, but especially in health, which is often taken for granted:

  • The necessary skills and knowledge that make a person believe change is possible.
  • The opportunity to make the change, and this can include demographics such as location, income, employment, and other external factors.
  • The motivation to change habits, deal with negative emotional responses, set personal goals, and make positive decisions.   
Buried within those three principles are five behavioural factors that pharma and healthcare marketing should speak to, which are:  

1. Social and peer elements

We’re not referring to your social media presence, but rather the important, motivational role that social and peer pressures play in influencing health decisions. Accountability is a strong mechanism in the goal-setting and achievement mix, so encouraging patients to form or join groups or take personal pledges regarding their health behaviour within their own social networks can prove a cost effective and efficient marketing strategy.  

2. The need for intrinsic motivation

When the motivation to change is intrinsic (coming from within the individual because the change is personally satisfying), people are more likely to continue implementing that change, regardless of external motivations such as avoiding punishment or receiving praise or rewards from others.  

Understanding what motivates people to undertake health behaviour change guides the creation of marketing messages by encouraging positive values and boosting self-esteem among patients. Both states of mind are vital for patients to find their intrinsic motivation for change.  

3. Removing barriers

Support, education, learning materials, websites, social media networks, leaflets… the list of ways in which healthcare and pharma present information to patients is almost endless. But that information needs to be available in a multiple of formats and accessible at all times.  

Even very small barriers, such as not being able to find the answer to a question, can disrupt a patient’s determination to build new, healthy behaviours.  

4. Making change stick
Making a start on changing unhealthy behaviour is relatively easy when compared with continuing a new regime or building a new habit. Once the novelty factor has worn off, the temptation to slip back into old ways is strong. In recognising this behavioural factor, the introduction of reward schemes, feedback or incentives are marketing approaches that promote continued healthy behaviour.  

5. Self-belief
Before any health behaviour change can take place, patients need to believe that they can do it, especially when dealing with ingrained habits or addictions, or when learning new ways of living such as self-managing treatments for chronic conditions. Showing patients how to recognise and celebrate small personal achievements helps build confidence in their capabilities, and the inner strength to continue.  

Understanding why we behave in the ways we do is key to reaching patients on the emotional level that triggers a positive response, and promotes an inner desire for personal health behaviour change. Approaching marketing from this angle opens mental doors that otherwise stay shut when patients hear your message.

This blog was first featured here:

23rd June 2017



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