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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.

Why apps that fail to reward ultimately end up failing

I was in a client meeting the other day when I was asked a very blunt question. We were talking about behaviour change, gamification and apps. His question was simple. “Why do many apps, gamified or not, suck and fail?”

From a fail point of view, probably the main cause of failure is that no one ever sees them. All the money went on dev with nothing left for promotion, the cause of death for many an app.

The second reason is that the usage opportunities are so narrow there’s little point in having an app. Staying at a hotel chain the other day I was invited to download their app “to chat live with a host”. Really? I can’t just ring room service or talk to the concierge? I’m sure that it does other stuff but if this is their lead functionality, unless I am mainlining this chain’s loyalty programme, that download is never going to happen.

These two are pretty obvious, as are their solution. Don’t spend all the cash on dev, have a plan to promote your app. Don’t develop an app that only you need…

Another fail is the experience itself. This is more subtle…

The experience, particularly in health, may well not be all fun but could be challenging, interesting or even plain hard work at times. The key is that it must be rewarding. This too is a concept clearly understood by the mobile gaming industry. Many games contain an element of the “grind”. This is when, at points during the game, you have to carry out repetitive tasks in order to achieve a better level/equipment/skills which allows more interesting stuff to happen.

The way that this is handled should be of enormous interest to anyone wanting to harness gamification techniques to drive behaviour change. It is well documented that our brains release dopamine – a key reward neurotransmitter – both when we get a reward and/or achieve an objective and in anticipation of that reward or achievement.

It’s easy to see how this could work from a health behaviour change perspective. Starting with simple day-to-day objectives and tiny changes which are rewarded, then building harder to complete multiple missions around diet, smoking, activity, health education etc. with each carrying increasing perceived rewards. The piece about perceived rewards is key. The rewards experienced via dopamine can be triggered virtually as effectively as in reality.  This explains why so many millions of hours have been eaten by Candy Crush Saga™…

So the three main answers to my client’s question are as follows:

  1. they’re invisible
  2. they’re not useful
  3. they’re not rewarding

You might just survive getting one wrong (as long as it’s not the first one) but good luck surviving two!