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Motivate Me

Updated: Dec 16, 2019

Marketing to Make or Break Behaviour Change


Words by Louise Rogers

“If you had diabetes and all it took was a regular pin prick and a drop of blood to save your life, would you do it?”, asks Shamini Nair, Asia Pacific Marketing Director, Abbott Diabetes Care. “The answer is we don’t, and the problem is only getting bigger.”


People are constantly trying to reduce their sugar intake, or change their diet to lose weight, “so why aren’t people changing to save their lives?”, she queries. In an industry like healthcare where stakes are high, how do pharmaceutical companies best approach designing new products and campaigns that will genuinely change behaviour and thereby change lives?


In this context, Pegasus communications agency open the Healthcare Insights Stage at this year’s Cannes Lions 2018 alongside Dr Paul Chadwick, Senior Lecturer, Centre of Behaviour Change, University College London. Their session covers taking the science of behaviour and integrating it into marketing and creative frameworks. “Capability, opportunity, and motivation. These are at the core of our Behavioural Change Wheel at UCL and are the simplest way we as clinicians discover the barriers and facilitators for any behaviour we are trying to change”, Chadwick states.


The UCL methodology for designing an intervention strategy from the Behaviour Change Wheel starts by identifying the precise goal of intervention – what behaviour needs to change and to what extent. Then the behavioural diagnosis is established – what needs to change in terms of capability, opportunity, and/or motivation for the behaviour to change? Then the intervention function can be designed (e.g., persuasion, training, education) and applied to a higher policy order (e.g., communications/marketing, legislation).


Corrina Safeio, Head of Planning and Research, Pegasus, then integrates the behavioural model into creative context: “In health marketing we are interested in outcome. Outcome is behaviour, so in marketing terms this means changing the way people think and feel to thereby change how they behave. When gathering research in our discussions we ask a number of questions: do people have the capability, what is their opportunity, do they have the motivation… Then we can analyse this data and identify our barriers.”


People are constantly trying to reduce their sugar intake, or change their diet to lose weight, so why aren’t people changing to save their lives?

Nair taps into the same behavioural elements as she discusses trying to tackle one of the world’s largest disease burdens – diabetes – by changing behaviour. Whatever the reason for individuals not measuring their blood glucose, whether it be an aversion towards pricking the skin or the inconvenience in certain social situations and cultures, Abbott came to the realisation that “Instead of having people fit glucose monitoring into their lives, we needed glucose monitoring to be designed and fit into theirs.”


To achieve this, they developed FreeStyle Libre, a continuous glucose monitor, liberating patients from the hassles of traditional glucose monitoring. In designing this product, they identified the barriers stopping people measuring their glucose levels, what behaviour needed to change, and determined they needed to give their patients the opportunity to measure blood glucose beyond pricking and calibration, and the capability to do so whenever and wherever.


This easy to use system meant that patients began looking at their critical diabetes markers and HbA1c levels began to drop significantly from 9% to 6.5%; the change in behaviour meant individuals measured their levels more and more, hence the decline. “We saw glucose measurements increase to 16.4 times a day, compared to the global average of 1.6 times”, says Nair.


We can see from Abbott’s work that in order to change the wheel you must first understand it. What is the exact goal of the intervention, what needs changing? And then is it capability, opportunity, or motivation that needs to be targeted for that specific behaviour change? “Capability and motivation are what reside within people, opportunity lies outside that can influence behaviour”, remarks Chadwick.