Monday, 24 July 2017

My Love-Hate Relationship with My Medication

Many patients have conditions where they need to take medication for the rest of their lives. Living with a chronic condition can have a profound effect on a person's life, from a change in their lifestyle to even being forced into an alternative career plan. Taking daily medications becomes a part of their new routine and for many these treatments help improve their health and their overall quality of life, but sometimes they can also create other problems and patients may enter in to an ‘internal battle’ to take them.

I am one of those patients

At the age of 19, I felt my world had been turned upside down when I received a diagnosis that I never expected and initially really struggled to accept. I resented that I would have to rely on medication for the rest of my life as well as the implications my new diagnosis would have. However my attitude definitely changed as I gradually came to terms with my condition, and realised that things were not as bad as I first thought! My medications do more for me than just helping to keep me healthy and my condition under control. They enable me to have the freedom to be "normal" and go about my daily life without constantly worrying about being unwell. They help me to stay out of hospital, to work, go on holiday and make plans, and so for all of this I love them. I wonder how many people can say they have something as powerful and positive in their lives.

However, a part of me hates them too for the side effects that they come with. For many patients, a balancing act must be achieved between finding the most effective dose but with the least amount of side effects. Personally I feel switching feels risky when other medications aren't guaranteed to be as effective and come with their own set of (often similar) side effects, and so it can become a case of "better the devil you know".

I love them, but I hate them

I feel lucky because I have a specialist who is incredibly knowledgeable, and who takes the time to listen to my concerns and what is important to me and involves me in decisions around my care. However he is a busy consultant and it can be months in between seeing him, and what if I have problems with my medication in the interim period?

Having recently increased one of my medications, I found myself at the end of my tether struggling with side effects and felt pretty miserable. I fleetingly flirted with the idea of stopping them for a few days just so that I could have a respite from feeling unwell, and know that I am not alone with this feeling. I am aware of the dangers associated with this and so wouldn’t stop medication without appropriate medical supervision, but I can definitely understand and empathise with people who feel pushed to this extreme.

So what could help?

·         Patient information leaflets need to change and include more details. They often tell patients to get in touch with their doctor if they have problems, but this often isn’t easy when clinics are frequently fully booked. GPs are commonly unable to advise with specialist medications. Patients value advice and information about not just what, if any, of the side effects someone might expect, but also which of those side effects are like to be transient and if perhaps I (and patients like me) should persevere to see if they subside. There is also a large scope for practical suggestions on things that they can try to help alleviate these symptoms.

·         Signposting to patient friendly websites. In my view, the companies that manufacture the medications prescribed to me by my doctors could add considerable value to their products by pointing users to authoritative and evidence-based patient friendly websites with more relevant and easily digestible information - or linking directly to their own version of this. These need to offer general advice and support around disease management as well as information about their medication.

·         Industry-led patient forums. Commonly patients gravitate towards online forums to ask other people with the same condition for their recommendations and experiences, but these often aren't monitored or regulated and there can be huge differences in the accuracy and helpfulness of information shared. Developing forums that are facilitated by industry experts from within the medical and pharmaceutical industry could have a significant positive impact and reach many people.

In my view, pharmaceutical companies could do much more to support patients’ alongside what they already do in terms of educating healthcare professionals. At Branding Science we work with our clients to understand how patients really feel about their condition and their medication, and what they want and need from their treatment. Ultimately we want patients to really engage with their treatment and truly value the medicines they use on the basis that those medicines are enabling them to have a better quality of life sustained over a significant period of time. Ideally this kind of patient/medicine relationship should lead to the development of brand loyalty amongst patients and healthcare professionals alike and will contribute towards the building of a deeper trust with the industry.

Email us at to discover how we can help you to understand how patients really feel, and how you can best support them and address their needs

This blog was written by Linzie Reason, Marketing Communications Executive at Branding Science

Monday, 10 July 2017

Motivated Branding … ‘Am I bovvered?’

In a recent New Scientist article, Dan Jones examined some of the startling phenomena of recent political times, most obviously the shock of Brexit/Trump votes and the ‘post truth’ politics underlying these events.

Jones observes that it is in the nature of human beings to think in biased ways. He quotes a study conducted by Dan Kahan at Yale University, which shows that amongst conservatives it is the most scientifically literate who are the strongest deniers of climate change. The phenomenon here is ‘motivated reasoning’ … people interpret facts to fit what they already think or feel. Thus, during these recent campaigns, we see the emergence of facts and ‘alternative facts’ that play to both the hearts and minds of different political tribes.

Kahan’s team conclude that only those fuelled by a genuine scientific curiosity that is more powerful than their competing motivations are capable of rising above opposing claims and making a more objective assessment.

However we are not seeing a new age in which facts no longer matter. When presented with objective facts, people will interpret them subjectively to decide if it is relevant and whether or not it matters to them. In practice, ‘motivated branding’ is the golden goose of many marketers, and finding the underlying keys that will unlock motivation is the ultimate goal of market research.

We have long known the importance of the emotive in either reinforcing or changing the direction of human behaviour. What cognitive neuroscience has now shown [on an MRI] is that emotion and reason are always fellow travellers in human decision making. On occasions, the impact of the emotive can be challenged by those who claim a special exemption for medicine, and objectivity rules because science, and scientists, are governed by different principles that rise above the biases of voters or shoppers and strives towards scientific rigour and objectivity.

In practice though, medicine is done by human beings to human beings and so is also subject to how human beings are. When new treatments are adopted into guidelines [or not] on the basis of the status and passion of their advocates, or when a patients’ treatment is upgraded on the basis of their ‘social worth’, we see a system in operation where the ‘emotive’ does count.

At Branding Science we understand that the task of market research is to determine how best to speak to or challenge human behaviour and build brands that are relevant to the audience and make them care. We need to have hard evidence in our story, but we also need to make it emotionally resonant:

And so ‘motivated branding’ should be the watchword of new treatments and new campaigns. It is not that the emotive is somehow a substitute for rational scientific evidence, but rather it should be a partner to it. Therefore we work with our clients to answer the ‘does this matter to me?’ question in the affirmative.

Email us at to talk to us about making your brands matter

This blog was written by Jon Chandler, Senior Director at Branding Science