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Smart Thinking blog

Insights and expert advice on the key issues facing today’s pharma marketer

Kitchener’s Moustache and the Importance of Contextualisation

Before all else, giving your brand language contextualisation will help make its relationship with your audience – professional or patient – that much more valid

What are your thoughts about Lord Kitchener's iconic military recruitment campaign poster, 'Your Country Needs YOU'? 

The poster was created in 1914, soon after the outbreak of World War I. Sporting a large handlebar moustache; Kitchener is shown pointing his index directly at your face, holding you in his steely gaze. His challenge is clear and personal: “Are you a shirker, Winters, or are you going to enlist?” 

Like me, you might think the poster has a very powerful call-to-action, yet also think that Kitchener's moustache makes him appear quite eccentric!

Or that was my impression until I read recently about Kitchener's time in India during the period 1902-1905, when he was battling the Viceroy, Lord Curzon. In the book The Viceroy's Fall: How Kitchener Destroyed Curzon, there are photos of Kitchener with his staff, and it is striking that everyone had moustaches! 

On further investigation, I discovered that it was not so much de rigeur as a requirement for British soldiers to have a moustache at that time. Indeed, Kitchener's moustache looks quite sensible compared to some of his peers – such as the Salvador Dali-style moustache of Colonel Sir Claude MacDonald, the British ambassador to China and Japan. Non-military figures were not obliged to have a moustache and Curzon's face looks much more modern and hair-free. Kitchener died in June 1916 – four months later the army moustache regulation was abolished.

Using the metaphor of Kitchener's moustache, I would argue that contextualisation is a vital, and often not sufficiently well understood, part of the marketing process. Let me give you three examples.

My first example is with understanding loyalty measurements, where sometimes we might see data to describe the knowledge and attachment of doctors to pharmaceutical brands individually. Yet it makes a difference whether or not doctors form strong attachments with multiple brands within a therapy area. 

A few years ago at a BHBIA conference, I presented a paper with Tom Hargroves of Novartis where we categorised the nature of doctors' relationships with ARB brands as either being 'married', 'polygamous', 'a bit on the side', 'casual' or 'no relationship' to each one (see diagram). This involved a contextual analysis of respondent data across all competing brands.


A second example is to do with intention-to-buy data. The predictive power of the commonly used Juster scale was tested in a published study by Brennan and Esslemont, which found that “although the accuracy of the predictions of purchase rates was disappointing, the predictions of brand share were more accurate”. The inference is that if you want to estimate likely consumer uptake of your test product, it is a good idea to include some comparator products within your questionnaire.

My final example is about making cross-cultural comparisons, where particularly with international studies, it can be difficult to differentiate between different cultural norms from real differences in attitudes. It is for this reason that the pharmaceutical body EphMRA is currently sponsoring a study to generate contextual norm data from doctors for frequently-used scales in BRIC countries.

A couple more questions for you to ponder:

How much do you agree with the viewpoint of Didier Truchot CEO at Ipsos, as expressed in a recent ESOMAR article, that market researchers will need to provide a more contextualised and holistic service in future? They will need to bring together different sources of information and that this is a fundamental change from the traditional way of producing, analysing and delivering data.As regards Lord Curzon, he was forced to resign as Viceroy of India in August 1905 through Kitchener's shenanigans. Could it all have been so different if Curzon had stopped shaving his upper lip; helping him to be more chummy with Kitchener?

Article by
Peter Winters

founding director of Virtual Pharma Research and associate consultant at Moor Consulting

21st June 2012


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