Unconscious Adherence: The Tootsie Roll Effect

By December 10, 2008Uncategorized

Tootsie up
This is really itneresting. A post on the Neuromarketing blog, and an NPR interview with Martin Lindstrom, author of a new book entitled Buyology, has us thinking.

Buyology is the report, basically, on a colossal ($7 million) study of how consumers’ brains actually work when they’re being marketed to. Using fMRI and EEG imaging — i.e., brain studies — Lindstrom turned over a lot of conventional-wisdom rocks, and reports on what’s actually going on in there. Our two big takeaways:

1) Brands are irrational, and very powerful. They can completely outdo logic., and sometimes literally approach a religion-like level of influence.
2) Brands sometimes can incorporate a degree of ritual — companies encourage consumers to build rituals into their use of a product in order to integrate them into their lives. Think of people who realize, and care, that they always eat the filling first in an Oreo. Or drink Corona with a lime. Or make a prolonged, detailed project out of washing the car every Sunday. Even, way back when, eating a Tootsie Pop.

Hmmmm. How does this apply to pharmaceuticals? And particularly for adherence?

What could be more ritualized and intimate than taking a medication that, because of a chronic condition, you take every day, and will for the rest of your life. Do you store it in the same place? Open the bottle the same way? Is there a way to make it comforting? Symbolic? Reassuring? Can you imbue a simple action with some of the qualities of the brand itself?

This has been done. to a limited extent, in pharma, by brands that identify the product itself with attributes, like Nexxium’s purple pill.

The point of this is that the attributes of the brand move. Rather than remaining connected with the product itself, they expand to include the different parts of using the product. The very act of opening a bottle of beer becomes imbued with meaning. The day we are able to do that with pharma — the day we can get patients to associate the rituals of using a glucose meter to the attributes of health, vitality and freedom — we have taken an enormous step towards adherence.