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DIY Health is A-OK.

December 11, 2011 Leave a comment

Mobile Health App ImageRecently, Trendwatching.com released its annual list of “12 Crucial Consumer Trends for 2012” and I’m pretty intrigued by item number two: DIY Health.

According to the article, DIY (Do it Yourself) Health is increasing and we can expect to see an influx of apps and devices designed to let consumers track and manage their health by themselves. These devices are feeding off a “never-ending desire among consumers to be in control.” Apple’s App Store currently offers over 9,000 mobile health apps and this number is expected to reach 13,000 by mid-2012. A wide variety of apps are currently available, including nearly 1,500 cardio fitness apps, over 1,300 diet apps, over 1,000 stress and relaxation apps, and over 650 women’s health apps. With the global mobile health market expected to reach USD 4.1 billion by 2014, consumers can expect even more advanced apps all designed to give them the power to confidently control their own health.

As an advocate for anything that encourages consumers to control, manage, and better understand their own health, I think trendwatching’s prediction is correct and much needed. As someone who actively partakes in the mobile heath app craze, I’m looking forward to the future of this trend. My favorite app is RunKeeper, which acts as a GPS and tracks my runs. I also use MyFitnessPal (MFP) to manage my caloric intake, and a few various others. I find all of these apps easy to use, helpful, and convenient and they really do let me manage my health.

Worrying about health and going to the doctor isn’t “easy” or “convenient” so the fact that there are apps that let you DIY is a really great thing for consumers. There are so many people who do not properly take care of themselves, be it a lack of exercise or not regularly seeing a primary care physician. Yet, the number of people who have smartphones and utilize these apps is growing. Therefore, I strongly encourage and look forward to the advances in mobile health apps. If we really wanted to make these apps worthwhile, I’d like to see doctors encourage their use and work them into checkups. For instance, using the new Skin Scan, “an app that allows users to scan and monitor moles over time, with the aim of preventing malignant skin cancers,” a consumer could show their doctor their mole’s change over time. Consumers want to use these apps and they’re more likely to take care of their health if we make it easy for them. Therefore, with proper marketing and direction, the DIY Health boom, particularly when it comes to apps, is going to be really important as society increasingly relies on mobile smartphones more and more.

However, I do have some areas of concern and I caution our complete reliability on these mobile health apps. For starters, anyone with some skill and money can create an app so you want to do research on what you’re downloading, particularly if you’re going to use it for legitimate purposes, like the Skin Scan, or if it’s an app used to diagnose issues. You want to make sure that your app has been positively reviewed and look to see if doctors or other health professionals have reviewed it as well.

Another potential issue I see with the growing reliability is consumers using their apps to replace their doctor. These mobile health apps should be used in conjunction with regularly scheduled visits and procedures and should not be used to take the place of speaking to a trained, licensed physician. Nothing can replace the one-on-one conversations with your doctor and even though I encourage anything that makes health easier for the consumer, people cannot expect that good health can be bought for $1.99 at the Apple Store. Good health is hard and requires effort and consumers need to remember that. The apps can be used to track issues or diagnose a problem, but its the consumer’s personal responsibility to take the information they’ve found and go see their doctor for a proper diagnosis. Just remember, Steve Jobs, as brilliant as he was, was not a doctor.

Categories: Uncategorized

Tell us what you think…but only if it’s about how awesome we are.

November 7, 2011 Leave a comment
Where do lost chapsticks go?

Certainly a way to get a conversation started...

If you’ve stumbled across this blog, chances are you’re interested in marketing and are probably up to date on the whole- as Tim Nudd’s article on Adweek so delicately put it- “Social Media Death Spiral” that ChapStick got itself into recently. And if you are here by chance- and were intrigued enough to stay- but know nothing of this Death Spiral, let me give you the Readers Digest Version of the story. ChapStick put up an ad featuring a woman bent over a coach, rear-end prominently displayed, searching for, what the reader is supposed to assume, her lost ChapStick behind the couch. A blogger was offended by this (shocker) and posted her thoughts about it on the ChapStick Facebook page. ChapStick deleted her comments and when others complained ChapStick deleted their comments too. People started to get mad that their comments were being deleted and more and more people became angry at ChapStick and so ChapStick continued to delete the comments, making no mention of the issue or issuing an apology anywhere. And it goes on from here…the more mean, nasty comments that were posted on Facebook, the faster ChapStick was deleting them which made people post MORE comments…do you see the problem here? And the thing is ChapStick’s tag line is, “Be heard at Facebook.com/ChapStick”- isn’t irony funny?

The saying “Put your money where your month is” is pretty appropriate when thinking about conversations between businesses and consumers. In ChapStick’s case, they told customers to talk to them and then not only ignored comments, but deleted them. That’s the equivalent of your friend walking away in the middle of a conversation with you. This is clearly not a conversation and not how to build a relationship with trust. ChapStick did many things wrong, beginning with the questionable ad, but dug themselves an even deeper hole when they tried to eliminate the negative feedback; they stopped the conversation. Consumers ultimately became frustrated and abandoned any trust and respect they had with the company. If ChapStick had come right out and apologized for the “offensive” ad, I guarantee a lot of people, even those who were angered by the ad, would have gained respect for ChapStick. Instead, people have lost it all. Company’s need respect in order to prosper. With respect comes a loyal fan base, support from consumers, free marketing (referrals), and, most importantly, money. ChapStick did not have a conversation with their consumers and the backlash has hurt their image amongst many people. They asked for the conversation, but when it came time to respond they hid.

One company I would like to praise is the Connecticut Light & Power Company (CL&P). After the massive Halloween snow storm that hit the Northeast, hundreds of thousands of residents in Connecticut and Western Massachusetts were left in the dark and some are still without power well over a week after the storm. Connecticut saw the brunt of the storm and has the most residents still without power. Their Facebook page is a poor example of a conversation; many CT residents are complaining on it and no one from the company is making any attempt to speak to them, but at least the comments are not being deleted. However, I would like to highlight their Twitter page as a prime example of a great conversation between a company and consumer. CL&P representatives are posting pictures, videos, health information, safety tips, updates, and even responding to the frustration. “@(name withheld) we know this is difficult…if you are looking for services or someone to talk to please call 2-1-1.” CL&P is tweeting multiple times every hour and providing phone numbers for people to call and report problems; they welcome the public’s conversation and they are responding, unlike ChapStick who said one thing and acted differently. CL&P are not perfect and they have acknowledged this, but their efforts to keep an open dialogue with the public are being recognized, salvaging what trust and respect is out there for them. “@(name withheld) pls thank the AEP SW crews that were working on Bloomfield!! Just got power thanks to them!” CL&P is a much lesser known company when compared to ChapStick and I imagine the advertising, PR, and marketing teams are nowhere near as big as ChapStick’s, but I think ChapStick can take a lesson from CL&P- as well as other companies too. Do not ignore the conversation going on with the consumer; even in moments of indiscretion and failure, the conversation will not cease and it’s how you chose to react to this conversation that will determine future trust and respect from consumers.

I Fear Little Success for New Graphic Warning Labels…

September 20, 2011 Leave a comment

A mild example of one of the graphic warning labels to be used starting in 2012.

I wanted to touch upon something that Rob brought up in class the other night and that is how our perceptions of fear and morality influence our behavior. “Threat” is an interesting word, because for many people what one person considers a threat may not be one for another. Using examples from class, I don’t perceive sharks as a threat, but for many people in class this was the case. According to these schools of thought and the lessons learned in class, in which we learned that human behavior is to monitor and react to threats, I’m not going to alter my behavior of swimming in the ocean at night because I do not perceive sharks as a threat, while the other students in class may. And this makes sense- if you perceive something as a threat to you, you alter behavior to avoid that threat, thus marketers can influence consumer behavior by tapping into these fears.
However, a new debate has come up over the recent months that tries to use this line of reasoning unsuccessfully, I believe. Many states have passed laws allowing graphic images to be placed on cigarette packaging and Massachusetts has similarly passed legislation allowing this type of marketing. Now, I must make the distinction that this marketing is designed to influence consumer behavior so that consumers DON’T buy the product, unlike traditional commercial marketing that wants consumers to purchase their product. The graphic images are designed to instill fear into the consumer who is purchasing a pack of cigarettes. The consumer is then supposed to be shocked and turned off from smoking by these images and in return alter their behavior to not purchase the offending product (i.e. cigarettes). Keeping in mind class discussions, the consumer is supposed to react to the threat of, let’s say, gum disease and lung cancer and stop smoking. Seems logical …in theory.
The problem with the marketers who are placing these graphic images onto the packs of cigarettes is that modern society does not perceive these scenarios (e.g. gum disease, lung cancer, etc) as threats…at least not now. Using our current environment as an example, a large population of Emerson students smoke and if you were to walk outside and ask any 20 random people what the outcomes of smoking long term were, I guarantee the majority of them will be able to tell you the major risk factors of smoking. And I bet this is the case for many people all across the country, because this is the modern world and we have significant studies and examples of the outcomes…we aren’t living in the era of Mad Men anymore. So if everyone knows the threats associated with smoking then why don’t people stop? Well, it’s because it is a threat, but people do not perceive it as a threat right now. The Extended Parallel Process (aka the “Fear Appeal” theory) relies heavily on the notions of severity and susceptibility. These two cognitive appraisals make up the “Threat Appraisal” which claims that people are simultaneously evaluating how likely this threat is to happen AND if it were to happen, how bad would it be? When it comes to smoking, there is a high severity (i.e. people know that lung cancer is bad) however, the susceptibility is low at this current point in time (i.e. many college students simply do not see themselves at risk for contracting lung cancer from smoking at this time). In order for the fear appeal model to work, both severity and susceptibility must be high; in this example, only severity is high and thus the fear appeal does not work here.
So when it comes to the new marketing campaign to reduce smoking through the use of graphic images, my personal opinion is it won’t be very successful. The “elements in [the] environment [have] already been defined”– people know what will result from smoking- and there is no “unknown” thus there is no present threat and the cigarette smoker is not going to react and alter behavior. Maybe they’ll capture the attention of young, first time smokers and this in time may reduce the number of people who smoke, but presently, I’m just not convinced that this type of fear appeal marketing is going to change the behavior of long-term smokers.