We’ve been delving into each of the four core human truths that shape our behavioral approach to brand strategy, in this month’s four-part series on the Motivational Edge (ME). Those four human truths are:

  • We are emotional.
  • We are driven to be validated.
  • We are shaped by context.
  • We lose motivation quickly. 

Here, in part IV, we’re exploring that final truth, and the bane of many a healthcare brand endeavor: We lose motivation quickly. Think about troublingly low chronic disease medication adherence rates, which are estimated to hover around 50%. Even being fortunate enough to afford the medications they need is not enough for most human beings to do what’s right for their health, because motivation is such a slippery thing. 

The imperative of finding just the right way to motivate your customers is demonstrated by an experiment that took place under the Affordable Care Act. It granted 10 states a total of $85 million to institute programs that reduced people’s risks of chronic disease and that would financially reward people for participation. The early results were positive, showing that a little extra cash made people more likely to participate in preventive activities. But a later report showed that those early results didn’t stick. The money helped with short-term changes, like attending a class or keeping a medical appointment. But people need more tailored, personal support to stay motivated in the long run. 

For healthcare marketers, this shows that even the strongest call to action is far from enough. A brand needs to be able to motivate customers, then re-motivate them again and again.

Motivation is like a leaky bucket. Even if your powerful communication or intervention fills it up, motivation starts dripping out through holes in the bucket. Those holes can be a user’s confidence, attention, ability, and/or something else. The result is that even if your customer takes on a new behavior enthusiastically, it doesn’t take long for your call to action to feel forceless and their motivation to be depleted. 

Luckily, the holes in the leaky bucket of motivation are so well defined that we can design communications and interventions to address them specifically and give people more of what they need to try and try again. 

Motivation is like a leaky bucket. We have to constantly refill the bucket to keep people motivated and build resilience. 


The Experts-by-Experience virtual community and panel gives UCB employees across the company a common platform to co-create and innovate with patients. Teams from operations, safety, marketing, clinical and medical affairs build solutions with patients and for patients on the platform. The observations and ideas shared from the real-life patient experience bring a new lens and expertise to a wide variety of initiatives. The Experts-by-Experience panel name recognizes the person living with a condition as an equal who brings their own type of expertise to the table, rather than as a passive receiver of care.


MerckEngage is a multichannel platform that helps people manage their chronic conditions. It offers registered members free personal health tracking, daily planners, food and exercise tips, email messages, and content updates. Tucked between lists of healthier fast-food choices and videos on preparing for a doctor’s visit, are popular features including interactive tools that inform users how many calories they eat, drink and burn each day. They also include condition-specific trackers that help monitor blood pressure, blood sugar, weight, cholesterol, migraines and asthma symptoms. These tools make for a more active experience and keep patients engaged longer.


Eisai’s Fycompa sales reps were having an issue answering all of their customers’ simple questions due to barriers like schedules and capacity. To ensure each customer got the support they needed, Fycompa’s HCP website launched a live chat feature for physicians available during work hours. Physicians can quickly chat-a-rep to have their specific questions answered live. The chat window call-out permanently lives in the top right portion of the screen, so physicians can launch it from anywhere on the site. Plus, it follows up with a text recording of the conversation for their reference at a later time.

Support the Support Staff

AstraZeneca’s Crestor increased customer support as its main competitor Lipitor faced loss of exclusivity. In the final years leading up to generic entry, they initiated several new programs specifically for HCPs’ office staff. Crestor reps hosted in-services focused on educating nurses and medical assistants about navigating benefit verifications, and sharing tips on how to speed up the process. To maximize engagement and value, reps also tailored content relative to each office’s patient demographics—even distributing heart healthy recipe books to physician offices as patient education.


What do you get when you mix behavioral science insights, technology and adherence? Pfizer’s free, easy-to-use mental health app that helps patients manage their condition from their smartphone. Not only is depression an isolating disease, an increasing number of those suffering from chronic conditions like depression turn to their smartphones to supplement the treatment they receive. With most courses of treatment including talk therapy, medication and peer support, Pfizer is using their new “moodivator” app to give patients a portable way to receive ongoing motivation, track their goals and monitor their mood throughout the day.

A brand’s ability to constantly fuel motivation lies at the intersection of: authentically delivering on the brand promise + understanding and solving for the audience mindset. Brands must craft experiences around consumer mindsets—experiences that also elevate the most relevant and authentic elements of the brand, positioned as ways to overcome breakdowns in motivation. Cultivate discipline by building habits: Starting small, gathering momentum, reinvesting that momentum in progressively bigger changes and building in a positive feedback loop.

About the Author:

 Carolyn Stephenson is EVP of Strategy for Syneos Health Communications. Her unique healthcare perspective is complemented by nearly 20 years of strategy expertise across sectors as varied as retail, financial services and higher education. She has built nationally recognized branding, digital, content and commerce programs for brands like JPMorgan Chase, Nationwide Insurance, EXPRESS, as well as on the agency side with Ologie and SBC Advertising. Her work has been spotlighted in industry publications like Mobile Commerce Daily, Mobile Marketer, and even featured on an NBC reality television show (Fashion Star). But her passion for healthcare is palpable: she’s also a Certified Hormone Specialist and a Precision Nutrition Coach.