Obesity and Advertising That Does Not Work

"Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted...

                                  … and the problem is I do not know which half"  

-        Lord Leverhulme 1851-1925,
British founder of Unilever and philanthropist

Today, CPG companies believe the problem of advertising effectiveness is not much better.  This can be evidenced by a recent move by Pepsi to avoid its traditional television advertising at the Super Bowl, and instead do an online campaign based on social media, which would focus users to select which social causes Pepsi should invest in. All sounds great, but results are in, and from a driver of sales perspective, it fell flat.

Marketing in Life Sciences is not any easier.  Many pharmaceutical marketers believe this statistic is closer to 90/10, with only 10% of their initiatives measureable and effective.   I have two suggestions as to why…


Our target audience is too fat

In short, Leptin does not work the way it is supposed to in patients that are overweight or obese.  Leptin is a hormone secreted by fat cells that tells us to stop eating. In obese people, it doesn't cross into the brain to help regulate appetite.  Dr. Susan A. Farr, principal investigator and associate research professor in the division of geriatric medicine at Saint Louis University School of Medicine, has also found that leptin affects the brain in other ways, compromising learning and memory. Low levels of leptin also could be related to cognitive deficits in disorders like type two diabetes.1


Well, 66.7% of Americans are overweight or obese so that means out of 307 million Americans, over 200 million suffer from a weight problem and perhaps they just can’t remember the advertisement, the optimal dose or the adherence program patient x was to be enrolled in.2   

We don’t spend enough time to understand the subconscious mind of our audience

The can be evidenced by the prevalence of traditional research and the few neuromarketing firms embedded in the launch processes of life science companies.  Traditional research focuses on the verbatim and conscious aspects of the brain whereas neuromarketing highlights the subconscious response to stimuli.  Neuromarketing’s raison d’être derives from the fact that the brain expends only 2 percent of its energy on conscious activity, with the rest devoted largely to unconscious processing. Thus, neuromarketers believe, traditional market research methods — like consumer surveys and focus groups — are inherently inaccurate because the participants can never articulate the unconscious impressions that whet their appetites for certain products. 
Decision makers have the tools to reach their audience, they just need to leverage neuromarketing methodologies or focus solely on the lower BMI audiences.
1. Saint Louis University. "Link Between Obesity And Memory? Researchers Examine Hormone That Turns Off Hunger." ScienceDaily, 14 Jun. 2006. Web. 15 Apr. 2011. 2. Expatify.com  Accessed 15 Apr. 2011.