NEW YORK: Healthcare marketers seeking to shift consumer behaviour are often guilty of sticking to rational arguments and devising supportive programs rather than taking the leap of imagination that can truly inspire change, according to an industry figure.

Writing in the current issue of Admap, Jeremy Vallimont, SVP/group strategic planning director at Area 23, an FCB Health company, argues that changing behaviour is a creative process, requiring us to imagine doing something new, inventing the rationale for doing so, and then investing the time, energy and pain to accomplish it.

The role of marketing in helping to drive all that depends on leveraging cognitive or emotional responses, he says.

And, he adds, there is an extra dimension to consider in the health context as marketers have to "build a framework around risk perceptions".

For example, some people may be persuaded by loss-framed messages such as the consequences of failing to exercise; others may be swayed by gain-framed messages such as the benefits of fruit consumption.

The framework will also take in notions of valuation and reward-seeking (e.g. disgust and fear associated with smoking reduces instances of smoking).

Developing a creative approach to drive behaviour change in healthcare communications begins with determining what the specific behaviour is that needs to be changed, then targeting the mindset behind the behaviour with an emotional promise at the most propitious moment.

But overlaying all this, says Vallimont, is the need to "find the key insight or new thought that will inspire an idea that is more original, creative and effective than previous or competitive work".

That may mean creating new reference points for success, recognising and removing obstacles to change, and associating valued emotions with achieving change.

"It is neither easy nor straightforward to change the behaviour of people and inspire a complete rethink of their life choices," Vallimont acknowledges.

"But if the only way to affect the decision making for people is to alter the way people think and act, advertising will have to consider creating the conditions for achieving sustained change."

Readers can download Seven principles of behavioural economics, by Dr Nick Southgate, for tangible examples and top tips on how behavioural economics can creatively solve business problems.

Data sourced from Admap