We have blogged in the past about the Ryan TrueHealth Patient Power Study. To recap, the PPS was a very large study of which influences and sources had the most impact on how people made healthcare decisions. Or, to put it a little differently, when patients are deciding what to do about their health, who do they listen to? Not surprisingly, experts were at the top of the list. But a little more surprisingly, also ranked very high were family and friends. When looking for good advice, sheer trust counts for at least as much as knowing what you’re talking about. If you want a copy, email me.

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A couple of recent interesting blog posts shed some additional light on this topic. The first is by Fard Johnmar in his Envisioning 2.0 blog. Fard discusses the vaccine debate. A growing number of parents are insisting that various vaccines cause various awful side effects, such as autism, despite the complete lack of scientific evidence. As a result, there has been an explosion in the number of children who have come down with measles, in large part because their parents refused to vaccinate them, according to the CDC.

As Fard goes on to discuss, this kind of thing is the down side of the trust people tend to place in peers when thinking about healthcare. No matter how well-intentioned, intelligent or anything else someone may be, the bottom line is that when it comes to medical matters, they may also have no idea what they’re talking about.

A lot of our RM work is focused on peers and influenceers. In addition to being just plain smart marketing, this approach can also be perceived as a kind of antidote. By making sure peers have accurate information, our clients can presumably forestall the possibility of people spreading nonsense about their products.

Interestingly, the impact of peers in pharmaceutical marketing is the rule rather than the exception. In another post, this one in Jeremiah Owyang’s Web Strategy blog, Owyang, a Forrester Research Social Media analyst, did some extensive digging into who consumers trust for information about products or services. Surprise! "So who do people trust?  Three research studies indicate it’s peers, or people they know." Pharma patients, particularly given the impact of DTC, behave much more like any other kind of consumer than marketers had previously guessed. They take their cues from their immediate social environment. Unfortunately, as Johnmar demonstrates, without a reasonable, expert voice injected into the discussion, there can be serious consequences.

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