NEW YORK, Nov. 13, 2018 /PRNewswire/ -- Traditional healthcare advertising in the United States is falling short, educating people but not motivating them to take meaningful steps to improve their health. By contrast, marketing content that zeroes in on people's deep-seated motivations and emotional triggers—especially fear and hope—inspires action and stimulates thoughtfulness by double to triple digits, according to the 2018 Wunderman Health Inertia Study.
The annual study researches a common behavior pattern it calls health inertia, which is when people get stuck in poor health habits despite having an abundance of information about good health and how to achieve it. This year, Wunderman Health chose to study the smoking cessation category—in which decades of anti-smoking campaigns have failed to persuade the estimated 38 million Americans who smoke to quit.
The agency tested a flight of marketing content tailored to three different motivations for quitting smoking against the CDC's current, one-size-fits-all anti-smoking campaign, which hinges on the common, fear-driven message that smoking kills. The three motivations it tested, which were uncovered through a behavioral research analysis that leveraged machine learning, included: (1) having a good life; (2) achieving family security; and (3) making social connections. The content was also designed to test the impact of striking different emotional chords, which included: fear, joy and hope—the latter two are uncommon in category marketing.
In the study, the agency found that the emotional triggers of fear and of hope stimulate different parts of the brain, offering marketers a powerful combination to use at different points during a campaign. When people motivated by a desire to have a good life were exposed to content that triggered their fears, they felt nearly three times more surprise (+269%) and were shocked into making a commitment to quit smoking. When that same group was exposed to an ad designed to elicit hope, they exhibited 46% more concentration and reflected more deeply about their reasons and plans for quitting.
"People act on motivation, not information, and on content that stirs both negative and positive emotions over a period of time," said Becky Chidester, CEO of Wunderman Health. "The healthcare industry has done a great job educating people about medical conditions and treatments, but it has missed the mark in creating content that truly stimulates action."
In the study, when people motivated by a desire to achieve family security were exposed to content targeted to that desire, they were 16% more likely to say, "I am going to create a plan to quit smoking," than they were after seeing an ad from the CDC. In the real world, this would translate to six million smokers creating a plan to quit who would not have otherwise done so.
"People today have access to more information about their health than ever before in history, yet over and over, we hear them say they believe they're already making good enough health decisions and don't need to change," Ms. Chidester said. This false sense of security helps explain why insurers report abysmal uptakes of their wellness programs, why doctors see noncompliance and why nearly 38 million people continue to smoke, despite decades of public health initiatives about its dangers.
"Marketers have an unprecedented opportunity to break the cycle of health inertia by using new technologies and data to understand more dimensions of their audiences," said Yannis Kotziagkiaouridis, Global Chief Analytics Officer of Wunderman. "By drilling down into why people make the choices they do, and by crafting marketing content that speaks to their hearts as well as their minds, we now have the ability to spur both small and very large groups of people to action."
"Simply put, the stakes get higher every day," said Ms. Chidester. "As healthcare spending continues to rise, as the pipeline of resources designed to make us better stewards of our own health grows and as the financial responsibility for good health increasingly falls on individuals, every stakeholder in the healthcare ecosystem will rely on the partners who can shake the mantle of health inertia and inspire action."
Wunderman Health Inertia Study
The 2018 Wunderman Health Inertia Study included qualitative, one-hour interviews with 15 smokers and artificial intelligence analyses of the emotions expressed during the interviews; development of a motivational anti-smoking campaign, including nine pieces of content informed by qualitative research; and an online survey of 2,500 adults, aged 18–65 years. As part of the survey, facial recognition software was used to analyze subconscious responses. The motivational campaign performance was compared to that of the CDC anti-smoking campaign. Research was fielded by Wunderman Data, a global data and technology consultancy. For more, visit: www.wundermanhealth.com/healthinertia.
About Wunderman Health
Wunderman Health is a division of Wunderman, whose mission is to inspire people to take action. It is: Creatively Driven. Data Inspired. Headquartered in New York, Wunderman brings together 7,000 creatives, data scientists, strategists and technologists in 175 offices in 60 markets. Wunderman is a WPP company (NASDAQ: WPPGY). For more, visit: www.wundermanhealth.com and follow: @Wunderman.
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