The Impact Behavioral Science Can Have on Market Research Insights  

Below is a case study of behavioral science principles at play in work that HawkPartners conducted for a leading pharmaceutical manufacturer. If you’re interested in learning more about how HawkPartners incorporates behavioral science principles into our research, explore our perspective on Behavioral Economics.

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Methods Used

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The Problem

The brand (Brand X) that established the category of treatment for a specific cancer diagnosis had lost market share to two new entries. The brand team wanted a fresh approach.

The Hypothesis

The new entries were thought to be more potent than Brand X, but Brand X believed it could benefit from its long track record of being well tolerated over time and therefore emphasize being in the “sweet spot” of efficacy with few side effects.

The Research Plan

A set of in-depth interviews with prescribers: some loyal to Brand X, some using the rivals. The respondents were shown several stimuli communicating the hypothesized “sweet spot” positioning.

The Behavioral Science Perspective

HawkPartners wanted to understand the System 1 (fast, subconscious) positioning of Brand X in the minds of prescribers. Too often, marketers (particularly those in pharma) assume that System 2 (slow, conscious) is operating in driving doctors’ prescriptions – but doctors are people, too, and subject to the ongoing influences of System 1 reactions which form the foundation from which decisions flow.

Key to System 1 is the availability bias – brands trigger an immediate cue which colors and often dominates all other information about the brand.

So, HawkPartners sought to uncover the cues prompted by Brand X simply by asking for the word(s) that come to mind right away when they see or hear Brand X.

The Findings:

This single prompt introduced a new avenue as most doctors (fans of Brand X as well as users of the competition) cited “convenience” or “once a day” as their first reaction.

Brand X has a dosage of only one pill a day – fewer than the competitors. It became clear that this was a key advantage that was not being emphasized. Brand X, doctors felt, had better patient compliance which, coupled with its tolerability, had untapped marketing potential.
This point provided a stronger motivation than any of the prepared stimuli and would have been undiscovered without behavioral science.