Digital Strategies For Revving The Metabolic Market

Every week, it seems, I run across a new Web site, program or initiative focused on hypertension, high cholesterol, diabetes or obesity. While the number of digital applications, trackers and support efforts may keep pace with the rapid growth of these "metabolic diseases," are they truly helping consumers manage real-world problems? Or are they just dressed-up digital clutter?

The numbers don't lie. Despite medical advances and the plethora of tools to support people with metabolic diseases -- more than a third of Americans are obese and 4 of the top 10 causes of death are obesity-related. Sadly, we're becoming numb to the situation. Our perceptions of overweight are skewed. This "fat gap" means we fail to see a portion of people who are clinically overweight as being overweight because of what society is accustomed to.

In the marketing world, we're in our own state of inertia. In an effort to connect to people who have metabolic diseases, we have created hundreds of "more of the same" offerings, each with a slightly different marketing spin in hopes of expanding reach and share of voice.



While digital technology enables us to reach people in innovative and convenient ways, it's not enough to cut through the crowded marketplace. To make meaningful, lasting connections, we have to also connect with consumers psychologically.

The challenge in metabolic diseases is that people are distracted by all the lifestyle changes needed to improve their health. Harder still for pharma marketers is the fact that medication ranks 8th on a scale of 10 for consumers. So, how can we reach them when change is so difficult even for engaged consumers?

Two solutions fit any digital app. First, make lifestyle support part of your brand, rather than being simply product-centric. Second, connect "mentally" with your consumers. That means no matter how flashy your new digital app, it won't have impact unless it meets real consumer needs.

There is some common ground when it comes to what motivates behavior change in people with metabolic conditions. Recent research we did in this population found four distinct consumer profiles -- Taking Charge, Disengaged, Overwhelmed, and Cruise Control -- that offer strategic insights into how marketers can better engage and affect their customers -- even those who seem unreachable.

Example: For those "Taking Charge," think model patient. Sophisticated information seekers, they take an active role in their health. They are convinced treatment can help, but also switch brands often. You won't attract or keep these consumers with basic disease education Web sites and product-centric emails. Feed their sense of control with more advanced applications -- perhaps a "tool box" and dashboard that equip them to monitor and manage multiple conditions/behaviors simultaneously. Tap into their role model behavior by engaging them as advocates for your brand by offering easy-to-share tools.

Another example: While those we call "Overwhelmed" are concerned about their metabolic health, they don't know where to begin to change. Their days are about survival, instant gratification and convenience. Highly mobile-oriented, when online, it's usually family-oriented information they seek over anything health-related. Because they have passive mindsets and behaviors when it comes to their health, they need easy, automatic digital messaging and tools to simplify their hectic lives. Think mobile apps with shortcuts to healthier family behaviors or tools like the iKyp that take them directly to what's of interest.

As we explore the pharmaceutical digital marketing frontier of unlimited creativity and innovation, it's also important to remember who it serves. Without meaningful mental and psychological connections, your digital message, no matter how cleverly crafted, may just turn into cyber-space junk.

1 comment about "Digital Strategies For Revving The Metabolic Market ".
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  1. David Grueneberg from Independent Consultant/Freelancer, November 5, 2010 at 11:48 a.m.

    Even with the strongest tools, the most controlled may experience help with smart electronic tools, the picture is not that bright for 3/4 or more who are the most in need!

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