While the news is filled with change, change and more change. While we talk at the lunch table about the changes we are going to make in our lives next year and while we walk around constantly thinking of ways to improve ourselves, most people hate change. We think about change more than we take action for change. In fact, 95% of the thoughts we’ll have today, are the exact same thoughts we had yesterday. How’s that for progress.
Ever notice when someone is going to quit smoking they might say “on February 1st, I’m going to quit” or “I’m going on my diet on Monday”. It might sound silly but what they are doing is following the Preparation Stage of a Change Model as they put a stake in the ground so they can spend some time to mentally get ready for the change. Change can happen in many categories but it happens a lot in the healthcare and wellness space, which is why January is filled with people go on diets, quit smoking, join a gym, start following a new routine. The new year has triggered and facilitated the change. It’s also why marketers in these categories want to own New Years eve or even Sunday night to capture consumers when they are ready for change. I know when I worked at Johnson and Johnson, we specifically targeted Sunday nights, as people were in a mode for change as well as in the mood for digesting information.
In healthcare, the way I’ve always modelled change is to map out whether consumers are either proactive or reactive mindset and whether they are trying to prevent or repair a problem. Proactives are driven by knowledge whereas Reactives are driven by an event. Preventers are those who connect lifestyle to the health issue and are willing to change the lifestyle. Whereas, Repair types are those who directly address the issue at hand, but may not change their overall lifestyle. Mapping this out, we see four potential types of consumers:
- Proactive Preventers do what it takes to maintain their overall health. They watch what they eat, workout, do things in moderation and maintain overall good health. Their change is usually triggered by information about new learnings in the healthcare field. They’d be early adopters to new trends. What lies in their motivation could be a combination of overall health values or something in their family history that might motivate them to maintain such a healthy lifestyle.
- Reactive Preventers change their ways and shift their life completely based on a trigger in their life. It could be an event that happened directly to them or someone close to them. The change is an awakening that makes them re-look everything in their life and then they realize they are no longer invincible. They might start connecting the lifestyle to the event and then want to make the change overall.
- Proactive Fix have the need for change triggered by knowledge. It could be a news story or a key influencers provide them with new information that makes them undertake the change before things happen. Many times people get so busy they didn’t realize what happened and then the trigger makes them re-look and fix it before things happen. The trigger could be having a baby or turning 40 or just a realization that things got out of control.
- Reactive Fix are usually those who experience something bad and then they feel forced to make a change. It could be the first major health scare. The change is isolated to the cause of the event.
- Pre-Contemplation where they are not ready or willing to change. They likely know the health risks, but they remain at the denial or invincible stage.
- Contemplation usually triggered by something they might consider and even start to get ready. This is where they may dig in and find out information about what a potential change would entail and judge whether they are capable of such a change.
- Preparation where they declare to themselves that they are ready for the change. Here’s where they set a date, decide on what steps they may need for the change and look into tools that can help them.
- Action which is the early stages of the change. Most people need to see some early results as motivation to keep going. People are continuously quitting smoking or going on diets–whether that’s every year or even monthly.
- Maintenance where they try to keep going with the change. One of the biggest issues in the healthcare world is compliance. People relapse back to their old ways, starting to smoke again or re-gain the lost weight. They say it takes 21 days to form a habit, but with the degree of change it could take even a year. And relapses have been known to happen years later.
How the Marketing can Match up to the Change Model
At the early stages, you need to find some way to trigger them into the consideration of the need for change. For the Pro-Active Consumers, you can take advantage of their mindset by trying to trigger a need for change by connecting your product to a risk or a known solution need state. You would want to drive problem awareness & outline risks, dangers, issues of non action. For the Reactive Consumers, you likely need to be there at the trigger point, using key influencers such as healthcare professionals to help dial-up the seriousness of the need for change.
As consumers are in the contemplation stage, they start to prepare and get themselves ready. You want to show positive easy solutions and make change feel do-able. You can use your product to help them visualize that the change would be easier and help set up the idea that they are capable. You can change their minds about their confidence level with something new.
As they move to the preparation stage, they’ll look for information that can help their journey and re-enforce their capability for achieving success. You want to Own Search. In the modern world, consumers turn to the internet before they turn to healthcare professionals. By helping the consumer early, you may be able to hold onto them throughout the change journey. The problem is that every brand knows this and will drive the costs of search and everyone is doing great websites that are providing information, advice and tips as they ready themselves. You may wish to use the entry point as the time to introduce the idea of a coach or self-help group. As consumers feel reluctant to take action, they worry they may fail. The coach or group can help add confidence they are not in this alone. Professional, peer, counsellor or on-line support. With the internet, a virtual coach can be highly effective with daily motivational tips to keep going.
Just before the Action stage, it’s important to help them set realistic goals. Baby steps might be necessary early on, so the consumer can experience a degree of success and feel motivated to keep going. Early failure could send them into the relapse before the change kicks in. They say it’s 21 days to change a habit, but it’s usually a lot longer with all the temptations around.
The change doesn’t end until you get through the maintenance stage. It becomes all about compliance and building the change into your life. Even a year later, you could find an event that triggers you into a relapse. A lot of vices are connected with stress. For many, comfort food or a coffee and a cigarette just feel great when things get highly stressful. So a new level of life stress can see the consumer reaching for old habits. Compliance is never an easy thing–even the most serious of heart medications can struggle with compliance.
Keep Awareness Strong at all stages. Depending on the potential size of the business, you may wish to cover all parts of the Change Model with a constant level of brand awareness. You want to be visible so that when the consumer turns to looking at solutions, you’re well known and the first point of consideration. For smaller and more specific categories, the first point of awareness would come into play after the consumer has been diagnosed giving power to that doctor recommendation. Doctors love to write scripts, because their patients expect answers. But they can also be conservative and slow to adopt new items, preferring to stay with their trust and usual choice.
Having worked in the quit smoking business for years, here’s a TV ad that shows just how hard change really is. People quit 6-8 times on their own before reaching for the help of a quit smoking product such as Nicoderm or Nicorrette. We capitalized on that fact to show a side-by-side demonstration of the difference when using Nicoderm.
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