From those wonderful folks who gave you Pearl Harbour

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In my Challenges of Global Poverty course provided by Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo at MIT, the last week briefly covered health; provision, success policy etc. One of the most interesting parts discussed was that people often want a drip or shot, to over-medicate themselves, when in fact a course of antibiotics, anti-inflammatories or even less would do the trick. They have previously been given a shot by some backstreet doctor, as this is all they had access to (think barber surgeons in Victorian Britain). This isn’t only attributable to developing countries but to developed countries and not only in critical healthcare but what could be loosely described as a consumer product.

I draw parallels with a situation discussed in From Those Wonderful Folks Who Gave You Pearl Harbor: Front-Line Dispatches from the Advertising War by Jerry Della Femina, the book that inspired Mad Men. In it he describes the introduction of a new antiseptic fluid, like Dettol (it might have been dettol, I need to revisit it). This new Dettol unlike it’s predecessor didn’t sting, but had all the benefits. That’s a good thing, they’re on to a winner, right? No.

It bombed; no one wanted this product! The sting, that brief moment of pain reassures the patient, the user, the consumer that it is working, that everything is going to be alright.

If over many years you have been taught or have experienced one particular situation and formed a solid perception of this ‘reality’, regardless of the authority of whomever is telling you it is wrong, that perception and the resulting behaviour will be extremely difficult to change. This equally applies to anyone of any economic or educational background and multiple contexts as it is only human nature.

Human nature is a bitch to break, but as a child I was known to my Mother as ‘The Destroyer’.

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