Sridhar Iyengar: When marketing medical products, an emotional bond with consumers is key

At the MM&M Transforming Healthcare conference in New York, Iyengar told attendees how to take into account a consumer's behavior and emotion when marketing medical products.

Sridhar Iyengar
Sridhar Iyengar

NEW YORK: The challenges of selling and promoting medical products aren’t limited to government regulation and marketing strategies. Often overlooked is the issue of getting consumers to actually like the products, according to Elemental Machines CEO Sridhar Iyengar.

Speaking at the second annual MM&M Transforming Healthcare conference in New York on Thursday, Iyengar shared his experience and the lessons he has learned from his years of creating and selling medical products.

"We approach our products with the mindset that if somebody has to use your product, they’re probably not thrilled about it," said Iyengar, who has founded and headed three digital health and wearable companies: Elemental Machines, Misfit Wearables, and AgaMatrix.

Iyengar stressed the importance of creating an emotional bond between the consumer and the product, whether it is a drug, or a new wearable. He also advised medical marketers to take into account what’s "beyond the pill," the real-life context, and behaviors surrounding the drug or device.

"You need to use an anthropological approach," he said. "You need to go observe people in their natural habitat, not only in focus groups and studies."

He added that, more often than not, it’s the little things that manufacturers and marketers don’t even notice.

For one of Iyengar’s own products, the AgaMatrix glucose meter, his customers said the best feature was the rubber grip on the sides of the meter. This was a detail that never came up in focus groups and had not crossed his mind before, he said.

To have customers forge an emotional bond with a drug, product, or company, Iyengar suggested making an engaging app to complement a particular product, making it easier to use, or simply taking into account the consumer’s life beyond the product when making and marketing it.

"The only thing that matters is: Does the customer like the product? Will they use it? Will they form an emotional bond to it?" he said. "You can do that by using behavior aspects and behavioral design theory with the products."

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