What would Steve Jobs have said about your eDetail campaign?

I recently saw a Steve Jobs YouTube clip from the 1997 Apple worldwide developer conference. There he was, in his trademark black polo neck, perched casually on a bar stool, taking questions from the floor. There’s a good chance you might have seen it too as it’s been watched by over 6 million people.

One man in the audience stood up and said: “Mr. Jobs; you are a bright and influential man” (so far so good) but then he added, “…it’s sad and clear that, on several counts, you don’t know what you are talking about. I would like you, to express in clear terms, how, say, Java addresses the ideas embodied in OpenDoc…”

Essentially, what this man was saying to Steve Jobs was: “you don’t understand the technology”.

This reminded me of a recent discussion we witnessed at a meeting with one of our clients.

It centered around one of their recent eDetail campaigns. Apparently, less than 10% of reps were using the tablets the company had supplied to them.

As you can imagine, such a disappointing usage figure quickly prompted a heated debate. On one side, it was argued that “the reps clearly did not understand the platform”. Similarly, a counterpoint was made that “the marketing department weren’t developing solutions that made best use of the platform”.

The truth is that the eDetail simply wasn’t addressing the fundamental needs of the reps. They weren’t using it because it added absolutely zero value to their sales calls. Much worse, what transpired was that the eDetail was actually making their calls much more difficult than they had previously been with a print detail aid.

Unfortunately, this is an issue we’ve seen played out at a number of pharma companies. And it isn’t the fault of the marketeers or reps.

Closed Loop Marketing (CLM) platforms were conceived at a time when the internet was in its infancy. They were originally set up to realise the opportunity of the laptop computer. Companies would simply take their paper detail aid and put it onto the laptop, and, later tablets.

Now, nearly every CLM platform is really just a locally-hosted web solution which captures data and uses it to deliver a semi-personalised experience.

But ultimately, it is a restrictive, and obsolete technology. Website user experience, and supporting technologies already deliver personalised experiences that far outpace any CLM. But too many organisations have invested too much in CLM to simply admit any shortcomings and “pull out”. (The observant will have recognized this as classic loss aversion in action.)

Which brings me back to Steve Jobs.  His answer to the challenge was: “You’ve got to start with customer experience and work backwards to the technology. You can’t start with the technology.” And everyone knows how well Apple grew under Steve Jobs.

Maybe it’s time more of us in healthcare marketing followed Steve Jobs’ example and paid more attention to the customer than the technology.

Applying neuroscience to improve your marketing effectiveness – No.1 Gamification v Gaming

Gamification: are you making this fundamental error?

Confusing gamification with gaming is a classic marketing error. But recognising the differences between the two, and the neuroscience that underpins them, could be your first step to using gamification to your advantage.

It’s funny how often gamification and games are still mixed up. It happened in one of our client meetings recently. It’s particularly interesting as the definition of gamification is “the application of game principles in a non-game environment”.

It comes from the gaming industry’s expertise in the harnessing of principles that use the reward centres in the brain to make what is, in many cases, an extremely repetitive activity interesting enough that people will actually pay to continue doing it. By any measure, this is a high level of engagement.

This has been necessitated by the move away from highly immersive, high development cost games played by expert gamers on dedicated platforms to more or less repetitive games with limited immersive content played by non experts on mobile devices. Tellingly, many of the masters of the former are not the major players in the latter.
It should already be pretty clear why this should be an exciting area for the healthcare industry. What could be better than substituting immediate rewards for, what are often, repetitive activities whose actual rewards lie in some far off future? The principles are applicable in many situations from rewarding positive adherence behaviour to more interesting medical education approaches.

We’ve seen how these principles have already become well harnessed in many fitness apps. They’re starting to emerge in smoking cessation apps too. However, the truth remains that their adoption has been limited in mainstream pharma as they are often seen not to be serious enough. But that’s a classic example of people confusing games with gamification, which is where we started.

Digital disruption or a clever tweak?

I’ve been seeing this slide a lot recently. Each time it gets posted the list has got a bit longer. It rarely seems to get posted with any real message other than “oooh, digital disruption”. But what is its actual point? The ever growing list of facts, on the face of it, looks interesting. The facts appear paradoxical, but aren’t really. They are, in fact, statements of the obvious, but dressed in intrigue. Let’s take a closer look.

Taxis: Many of the world’s smaller taxi companies don’t own many taxis either. The drivers are self employed, owner drivers – same as Uber. The taxi company owns the booking infrastructure and controls how the customer books a ride. Same as Uber. It’s an intermediary model. The web is fantastic as an intermediary, it allows efficiency and vastly increased scale. It means that Uber can offer the same cheap fares as (or even cheaper than) your local taxi company on a massive scale. Ignore that fact and your intermediary business is dead.

Accommodation: The world’s largest providers of business accommodation and travel own no hotels or airplanes. Amex Corporate travel has been doing it for years. It’s an intermediary model. AirBnB have brought new providers onto the market place who can offer accommodation way below the price of the existing providers.

Inventory: Alibaba don’t have inventory. Neither does ebay. For that matter the largest “retailer” of fine art doesn’t own the paintings it sells. Sotheby’s have been at it for a long time. It’s an intermediary model. They connect buyers and sellers.

Telco infra structure. Why would a company based on web comms own telco infrastructure? The web is great at transmitting data, although an awful lot of it gets transmitted on other “Telcos” infrastructure. If it weren’t for them, Skype wouldn’t have a business. The lesson here is that if your business is about transporting large quantities of data in any form for your customers, and you are too wedded to the way you’ve always done it, someone will use technology to walk around you.

Content: Most popular bookshops didn’t write any books. Most record shops didn’t make music. People have been providing content produced by other people forever. Sheet music sellers were doing it in the 19th century. The way it is done has changed beyond recognition. One of the big differences is that much of the ‘content’ provided by Facebook used to be provided directly from one person to another for free, when they met. Or talked. It was free then and it still is. The means of delivery means that we can give away our free ‘content’ on a colossal scale. The internet is good at that.

Money. Most banks don’t have much money either. It’s their customers’ money. People deposit cash which the bank then lends to others. SocietyOne is interesting. It finds people who want to lend money and puts them in touch with people who want to borrow it. They call themselves a peer-to-peer lending company, not a bank. People have been lending people money for as long as there has been money. Digital makes it easier to do on a massive scale.

Movies: Blockbuster Video were the largest supplier of movies back in the day. They didn’t own cinemas either, because they provided movies for people to watch at home. Just like Netflix do now.

Software: The biggest sellers of software don’t write the apps. Supermarkets are the biggest suppliers of milk but they don’t dairy farm. Of course they don’t, they’re a store. They sell stuff made by other people. So do Google and Apple. Maybe that’s why they call their points of sale “Stores”.

There is, of course, a lesson here. All the businesses above existed in another form previously. They carried on happily doing what they’d always done until either (a): new competitors used the incredible ability of the web to facilitate their intermediary business and bypassed more traditional models of customer acquisition or (b): in a data provision business, books, films, conversations, xrays etc., they used the web’s incredible capacity for data transport to deliver that differently. I want it now. On demand. The web allows Uber, Netflix and the rest to deliver like that. On demand. Usually cheaper than the existing providers. Not surprisingly, customers like it.

The really interesting part is that the businesses who were in the game before aren’t the ones who made the leap. All of which tells us that we need to keep our eyes open, to look at our businesses dispassionately and think about the leap that would kill them (if there is one), then to make that leap before someone else does.

The Brand Frying Pan and the Motorbike Helmet

Imagine a land where marketers wandered around town centres armed with frying pans, embossed with their brand names, with which they smashed in the face anyone they met going about their business. Not surprisingly, the denizens of this land went and bought motorcycle helmets.

Immediately the marketers launched a campaign to have the helmet shop closed down.

Welcome to the “through the looking glass” world of ad blocking. As consumers (..people?) we are exposed to a lot of truly awful mobile ads. Ah, the cry goes up but it is advertising that pays for much of the lovely content that you ingrates consume. And this is true. 

But, it is not the great content or even good ads that has got us here. If they were all we were exposed to, no one would ever need or want  an ad blocker. 

One of the biggest drivers of this behaviour is our obsession with quantity and measurability and our neglect of what quality of experience do we wish our audience to have. There are few things in the world that you can annoy people into buying – except maybe an ad blocker.

Using hyper-rationalised approaches to marketing is very enticing. We have what we feel is predictability and control, which becomes self-reinforcing and comforting. We can base our actions on what the numbers say and, when things don’t go as expected why, we can explain that too with the numbers  – there is a self-referential certainty to it all.  It’s all under our control and we get real time feedback so that each little achievement releases a bit of dopamine in our left brain. Which makes us feel very good. For a short time. So we go back for more. Sound familiar? It should, it’s the basis for addiction.

This is not to say that measurability and scale aren’t good things, they are. In the right proportion and as part of a holistic view of what is going on they are incredibly powerful. One of the simplest things we can try is the use of empathy (not sympathy – although that may well be appropriate in some cases) – how do we really think they are feeling about their overall experience of us and our brand.

If they are over-relied upon or used alone however, well… Welcome to brand frying pan land where the helmet shop is the most successful business.