In Part Two of our email interview with Alexandra Drane of Eliza Corporation, she talks about how most health messaging fails miserably at inspiring change in behavior.
Here’s Part One of the interview.
Your latest new venture, Seduce Health, talks about why so many health messages, both in the private and public sectors, fail miserably to change behavior. What are they missing? What’s your favorite example of a bad message, in form or content? A good one?
One of the most gorgeous things about the healthcare space is almost everyone in it is here because they care. They are mission driven to make this world a better place for people – particularly as it relates to health. And that’s a good thing!! But it’s also our Achilles’ heel. We often project that fanatical level of interest in health and healthy behaviors on the people we are trying to influence, as if they too are spending most of their waking hours thinking about and obsessing over what creates better health-related outcomes. Sadly for all of us, they’re not. In fact, the average person would rather eat worms than read my thoughts on healthcare! They’re out reading about who slept with whom or which team won what or feeling secretly delighted that Facebook’s stock is down because they don’t own any and they don’t work there (at least, that’s what I’m doing).
By virtue of the fact that we sometimes think we’re ‘all that,’ we seek to influence people in ways that don’t resonate because we presume a level of baseline interest or engagement that is just not there. One of my favorite examples is to look at the advertising and marketing efforts of the food, tobacco and beverage companies, and then compare them to most of ours. We send pictures of diseased kidneys; they feature smokin’ hot models with grease from a bacon double cheese burger running down their arms. Hmmmm – who’s going to win there? That’s not always true, but you get the point.
The problem (opportunity?) is also compounded when you consider that we as an industry spend 30 cents for every $30 our ‘competition’ (those same food tobacco and beverage companies) have at their disposal. They’re simply spending more money. And with a greater self-awareness about what sells, what resonates, what inspires and seduces and beguiles. And not to pile on, but to be fair – their job is easier! I can sell the pants off how good a donut would taste right now (or Fritos, or a sausage, or …), but convincing you that carrots will hit that same spot? Slightly more challenging.
So, is the answer to just use beautiful models in all that we do? Of course not. It’s far more complicated than that. But it does require that we inhale more humility about what the average person finds intriguing, what real people are interested in spending time thinking about, and that we design our outreach efforts in a way that fully and unabashedly incorporates that very different perspective.
How can we do that? By adding joy, soul, humor to our approach…by paying attention to the universal conversations that are happening at the water cooler, at the dinner table, at the bar…. by meeting people in the messy realities of their lives, speaking with them in a way they can understand, one that doesn’t feel condescending or academic, and working to help them solve the problems they care about, which may or may not be the ones on which we are focused.
We work hard to infuse our health messages with a true consumer approach, and we do all we can to avoid tactics like medical terrorism – a favorite go-to of many health organizations – even though the literature (and common sense) shows that terrifying someone into action may work once but has a very short half-life. Many of our favorite examples of what we love, and what we don’t, live at Seducehealth.org. Roll around in them for a bit and share what you think!
It’s not hard to do on paper – the tough part is being brave enough to roll out this kind of approach in the real world. Luckily, we’ve been able to convince (coerce?) some of our customers into trying fresh approaches, and they work! For example, we reached out to women due for a mammogram with a flirty approach and found that women were 26% more likely to schedule a mammogram after hearing this message versus a straightforward reminder: “Believe it or not, there’s a mammography machine out there that really misses you. You don’t call, you don’t write. Do you think you’ll visit soon?”
The one thing we know for sure is no one has figured out how to really nail this yet. But we think with time, with more experience, with more data, with more humility, and really with more bravery to try genuinely unorthodox and thrilling approaches to engagement – approaches that DON’T presume people are sitting around waiting to get lectured – we’re going to get there.
–Interviewed by Stacy Lu