Should You be using a Scientific Approach?


Frequently Asked Questions

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Cognitive Science is the study of the mind and intelligence. It is the area of scientific study that tests/refutes different explanations of behavior and decision-making and it contains a large body of validated research which highlights why people behave the way they do.
One approach is developing predictive models to test theories of behavior and decision-making. When marketing efforts are designed to change behavior and/or inform choice, then understanding the theoretical basis of behavior is the essential first step since it is the theories that suggest how we can moderate decisions to create healthy behavior (or prescribing choice). Without that, marketing initiatives are operating in the dark.
Market research is a great process for developing understanding around immediate appeal or reaction to marketing materials or new products, unmet needs and brand positioning. It typically does not unveil complex cognitive patterns. One reason for this is that many attitudes and behaviors are the result of factors that we are not sensitive to. Human decision-making is extremely complex, sometimes even proving difficult for trained professionals to unravel. Consumers (and prescribers) are often unaware of the key motivators of their own behavior (referred to as poor meta-cognition) and, in fact, often explain their behavior in terms of what they think is the cause rather than what experimental investigation would demonstrate is the cause. For example, cost and side-effects are usually the top two mentions for reasons for drug discontinuation, but theory and substantial experience in moderating these factors suggest that this is not the case – which is why many side effect management programs and free drug trials fail to see improved adherence.

A theoretical basis simply means that your marketing efforts have a sound rationale, that is, one that has been tested and proven to be effective. Without this underlying rationale, strategists and creative agencies don't really have a ‘game plan’ for why they would expect behavior to change, or how to best direct that change.

No. Many theories of behavior already exist that have strong application to consumer marketing. You simply need to understand one or two approaches that have relevance in your market and use them as the mechanism to achieve your marketing goals (e.g. improve adherence; foster caregiver commitment; elevate trust between MD and brand).

Yes, as long as the cognitive processing is normal in those disease categories. Decision-making patterns are fairly consistent from one disease category to another (e.g. breast cancer to hypercholesterolemia). However, consumers who demonstrate altered cognition (e.g. Alzheimer's, ADHD, Schizophrenia) may not make their decisions in a similar way – but the model could certainly be tested in these disease states.

Not necessarily. Understanding the attitudinal style of your consumers is valuable information for creating communications that resonate with them. Segmentation techniques typically do not try to suggest why segments behave or think the way they do (they have not explained a dependent variable). As such, if changing behavior is the goal of the marketing program, then additional predictive modeling techniques are necessary.

Ad agencies are not necessarily experts in the scientific basis of consumer behavior, but they certainly can be trained in how to use a theoretical approach as the guide posts in their creative process. Cognitive models usually contain several components of behavior, some of which can be easily worked into a CRM program, and some which are a little more challenging to moderate (outside of real behavioral counseling). It is cost-effective for agencies to create program elements around the components that are malleable via paper-based, web or other low cost mediums.

Predictive modeling allows brand managers to profile and target consumers (or prescribers) based on their predicted behavior. For example, consumers who are predicted to be low adherers can be targeted for interventions; prescribers who are predicted to choose competitor products can be messaged appropriately. Models also can play a valuable role in selecting the segment to study when conducting ROIs.




“Dr LaFountain’s work can be
considered the gold standard in
how to approach patient support.
Her methodology is scientifically robust, proven in results, and directed to delivering maximum return on investment. Her work has set the benchmark in this field.”

— Hamish Franklin,
Atlantis Healthcare, Aus.
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