Emotional marketing appeals to clinicians more

March 6, 2020 0 By FM

Clinicians respond more favourably to emotional, personal advertising than to rational, science-based communications that are the industry norm, according to new research. 

The findings have been revealed in the third annual Wunderman Thompson Health Inertia Study. e First and second studies of Wunderman Thompson Health focused on consumer health behaviours.

Relative to physicians who were shown rational ads that were generalised, the study found that 34% more doctors were likely to take action after seeing emotional ads that addressed them on a personal level.

The new study explored why doctors don’t always follow the recommendations of the US Preventive Services Task Force for ordering bone density screenings for patients at risk of osteoporosis, and how marketers can better inspire doctors to take action.

“Year after year, we see that the rational messaging common in the healthcare industry is effective only to a degree,” said Becky Chidester, CEO of Wunderman Thompson Health, in a statement. 

While physicians are generally viewed as motivated by facts and data, they are people too, and the research finds that they respond even better to human appeals. This is a clear indication that use of a more modern toolkit of targeted, emotionally relevant messaging is needed to motivate both physicians and patients and ultimately achieve better health outcomes, Chidester added.

Four scenarios

The study started with a survey of 500 doctors that revealed four prevailing attitudes that clinicians have about ordering osteoporosis screenings for at-risk patients. Three were emotional and one was rational: a desire to feel they have done their best work professionally; a fear of the downward health spiral bone fractures can cause; greater confidence in their clinical judgement than in professional guidelines; and the obvious rational benefits of ordering screenings (eg, tests are painless, easy to do, and generally covered by insurance).

The researchers built four ads, one for each attitude. The doctors who participated in the first phase were then divided into groups and two scenarios were tested: 1) doctors received an ad tailored to their primary attitude (ie, personalized) and 2) they received an ad designed to evoke either an emotional or a rational response. 

In the second scenario, the emotional ads were randomised.

Non-personalised, rational content motivated only 56% of the doctors to order more bone density tests—roughly the same amount as already do. 

On the other hand, emotional approaches resulted in a 23% increase in motivation over rational content; a personalised, rational appeal increased motivation by 21%.

The most dramatic improvement came from the personalised, emotional approach: 75% of the doctors who viewed an emotional appeal targeted to the feeling that overwhelmingly motivates them said that they were inclined to follow the guidelines, a 34% increase over the baseline, rational approach.

It is now possible to craft and deliver personalised messaging based on psychographics and motivational triggers, in addition to the demographics and prescribing behaviours used in traditional marketing. These new approaches greatly increase the effectiveness of campaigns and break the cycle of health inertia seen in healthcare, says Wunderman Thompson Health.

The third edition included two rounds of quantitative and qualitative research with 500 primary care physicians in the United States. 

Headquartered in New York, Wunderman Thompson Health conducts the Inertia Study annually in an effort to understand why so many people fail to make positive healthcare choices despite having ample information about why they should do so—a phenomenon the agency calls “health inertia.”