Health, Behavior and Interface

How do you get people to form healthy habits?

It’s a big question with many responses.

There are all kinds of theories of behavioral change.

One element of how people do – or don’t do – things which marketers too often overlook is Interface.

You can successfully market a behavioral change at every step…but if you get the interface wrong, it’s all for naught.

If you convince someone to monitor his blood sugar but make the process cumbersome or annoying, that’s going to directly impact his behavior – no matter how deeply he buys into the idea.

If you tell someone to quit smoking but don’t offer her an interface (like electronic cigarettes) that helps her titrate down her nicotine intake, she’ll probably keep smoking.

Think of your purchase experiences on and offline: the marketers may have done everything right to persuade you – but if that last transacting interface is a hurdle (or missing), it doesn’t matter.

Interfaces aren’t everything, but they are critical elements of behavioral pathways.

Let’s backup…I mentioned electronic cigarettes (E-cigs)! How controversial!

Well, I’m citing it here because an E-cig exemplifies interface. The issue of whether these things are good or bad – that I’ll leave alone for now.

I will say this though: if the use of E-cigs (as interface) is coupled with the right kinds of counseling, messaging and follow-up, they could offer hope for smokers.

My point about e-cigs isn’t about endorsing nor trashing them, but rather about remembering to highlight the importance of building and placing interfaces in Healthcare marketing.

Today’s technologies are giving public health marketers more opportunities to create the places, things, experiences and presences needed to encourage and maintain healthy behavior.

For decades, we have been struggling to improve public and individual health. As I’ve said before, I believe this is a Marketing problem.

What marketers need to do, is to branch out of their traditional ways of thinking (yes, even the “new” marketers).

Understanding the importance of interfaces is key to successful marketing – whether it’s marketing cancer sticks or meditation.

Stop thinking “mobile”, “web”, “social media”, “traditional media” when trying to solve today’s marketing problems.

When you’re stumped about how to market a healthy behavior that doesn’t look like a fundable proposition, think Interface.


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