Relative to doctors who were shown rational ads that were generalized, the third annual Wunderman Thompson Health Inertia Study found that 34 percent more doctors were likely to take action after seeing emotional ads that addressed them on a personal level. This year’s study explored why doctors don’t always follow the recommendations of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force for ordering bone density screenings for patients at risk of osteoporosis, and how marketers can better inspire doctors to take action.

The study started with a survey of 500 doctors that revealed four prevailing attitudes that clinicians have about ordering osteoporosis screenings for at-risk patients. Three were emotional and one was rational: a desire to feel they have done their best work professionally; a fear of the downward health spiral bone fractures can cause; greater confidence in their clinical judgment than in professional guidelines; and the obvious rational benefits of ordering screenings (e.g., tests are painless, easy to do, and generally covered by insurance).

The researchers built four ads, one for each attitude. The doctors who participated in the first phase were then divided into groups and two scenarios were tested: 1) doctors received an ad tailored to their primary attitude (i.e., personalized) and 2) they received an ad designed to evoke either an emotional or a rational response. In the second scenario, the emotional ads were randomized.

Non-personalized, rational content motivated only 56 percent of the doctors to order more bone density tests – roughly the same amount as already do. On the other hand, emotional approaches resulted in a 23 percent increase in motivation over rational content; a personalized, rational appeal increased motivation by 21 percent.

The most dramatic improvement came from the personalized, emotional approach: 75 percent of the doctors who viewed an emotional appeal targeted to the feeling that overwhelmingly motivates them said that they were inclined to follow the guidelines, a 34 percent increase over the baseline, rational approach.


Source: Wunderman Thompson Health Inertia Study.