Seth Godin has a great post on his blog today about marketing for the here and now. He uses the above pictured National Lampoon cover from 1973 to demonstrate a sense of urgency. Buy this magazine now or we’ll kill this dog will sell a lot more magazines than buy this magazine because if you don’t we won’t be able to keep up our contributions to the SPCA and thousands of dogs might die. The first scenario creates a sense of urgency; the second doesn’t.
In order for marketers – or anyone selling anything, for that matter, to successfully sell, they have to create a sense of urgency in the buying public. It works for all kinds of things. Take diet books, for instance. How many thin people do you know who bought a diet book so they could keep from getting fat? Not many, I would wager. How many people buy books on preventing heart disease? Not many. Those books never make the bestseller list. Books on treating heart disease once you’ve got it sell way more copies. Same with books on diabetes.
In fact, it’s the same with almost all preventative health.
Old Ben said it best:
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Problem is that although everyone understands the wisdom of Ben Franklin’s quote, no one wants to buy the ounce of prevention. However, they will pay through the nose for the pound of cure.
I’ve been in medical practice for a long, long time, and I’ve seen thousands and thousands of patients in my career. Over this many-year span of seeing loads of patients for all kinds of problems, I’ve never had a single one come in to see me and say: Doc, I just feel so damn good I can’t stand it. I want you to tell me what I’ve got to do to keep feeling this way forever.
I doubt that any other doctors have had that kind of conversation with a patient either.
We have all had zillions of patient conversations of the following type: Doc, I feel like crap. I’ve got [fill in the blank with a symptom or seven]. You’ve got to get me fixed up.
Prevention doesn’t sell because the product can’t be consumed until way down the road. Treatment sells because the product is consumed immediately.
But you say: Aha! That’s not true. People are buying statins right and left in order to keep from getting heart disease. It may be misguided, but they’re all buying prevention.
In a stroke of evil brilliance, Big Pharma has managed to create a disease out of a lab value. They’ve managed to make people believe that they suffer from high cholesterol. The elevated cholesterol has become the disease that needs to be treated immediately. Although in rational moments people might realize that what they are really treating when they take statins is the possibility that they might have a heart attack in the future, most of the time they are focused on the elevated cholesterol. Which is there, right now, staring up at them in black and white on their lab result printout.
The sense of urgency has been created, and cash registers at pharmacies are ching–ching-chinging the world over.