Feb 21, 2012

Einstein On Pharmaceutical Direct-to-Consumer (DTC) Advertising

“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” – Albert Einstein

Was Albert Einstein thinking about DTC advertising in the pharmaceutical marketing space when he uttered this famous quote? Probably not, but it’s certainly applicable to the current DTC advertising model.

Traditional DTC marketing is based on the premise that consumer 'awareness' of a problem will propel them to take 'action' (usually in the form of asking their doctor about an Rx brand or inquiring about a medical condition). The reality is that most consumers are caught in a gap between awareness and action. They never go and see their doctors based on traditional DTC advertising and marketing campaigns (to be completely truthful, about 1% actually take action, which is still abysmal).

So, as communication experts, if our goal is to maximize the number of patients who take action, we need to engage them, gain their acceptance, and form the bridge between awareness and action—

  • Acceptance that their conditions and/or symptoms require medical intervention
  • Acceptance that Rx treatment is a positive step toward better health
  • Acceptance that their physicians’ recommendations and treatment plan is the right course of action

Being the scientist and intellect that he was, Einstein probably would have approached the problem of acceptance through research and insights (and then develop a theory, model and prove it out to ‘law’). Several pivotal studies he might have looked at would have examined the psychology of acceptance—the Health Belief Model, the Prochaska Transtheoretical Model, the Kübler-Ross Grief Theory— all indicating that acceptance is not a single event but a mindset continuum. And from these studies, three distinct stages (patient mindsets) along this acceptance continuum would be defined:

  1. Avoidance
  2. Assessment
  3. Acknowledgement

While Einstein never sought to figure out how to bridge the acceptance gap, a group of very smart people at our agency took on the task and proved out a solution.  It’s called The Catalyst Brand Acceptance Model and it’s designed to move patients from awareness to acceptance and ultimately action.


It is important to understand that each stage along the acceptance continuum presents different, often difficult hurdles for patients as they grapple with all aspects of accepting their medical conditions. However, it is these patient challenges that also provide real opportunity for us to offer engaging, proactive solutions.

Uncovering the motivating factors and developing communications that specifically apply to all three stages (denial, assessment, acknowledgement) propels patients along the acceptance continuum toward taking action. As marketers, by motivating patients through these stages of acceptance, we accomplish three important things:

  1. Help drive the patient decision-making process
  2. Increase the number of patients who take the desired action
  3. Maximize the brand ROI

By understanding the psychology of acceptance and creating more effective healthcare communications, we motivate more patients to take action, talk with their physicians and initiate appropriate treatment to address their medical conditions.

Do you think Einstein would agree the Catalyst Brand Acceptance Model can improve your direct-to-consumer campaigns? Contact me directly, or drop a comment in the box below and let me know your thoughts.

By Kurt Mueller, Chief Digital & Science Officer


  1. Well informative article. Yes, I always prefer and love to access websites through my phone eventhough syatem is near me. But sometimes it dissappoints when some sites doesn’t get adapted to my mobile phone. Thanks for sharing with us:)

  2. Well done with the whole post! Very well written and presented!


Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner