Editor's note: Jeremy Pincus is principal at Forbes Consulting Group, a Lexington, Mass., research firm.
Marketing researchers recognize that emerging markets will provide the engine of pharmaceutical revenue and profit growth in the coming decades. Because global markets vary dramatically in how consumers view illness, health and wellness (e.g., what illnesses mean, the remedies available, the best sources of advice, the best ways of treating), effective health marketing requires a deep understanding of local mind-sets. Fortunately, medical anthropology can inform global pharmaceutical marketing research studies by providing a deep understanding of local ethnophysiology (culturally-embedded beliefs about how the body works), cultural disease categories, beliefs about causes and vulnerability and beliefs about the interplay of Western medicines with traditional/herbal medicines.
Based on research conducted in a mix of established and emerging countries, we identified a set of seven global truths and implications for global health care-focused marketing research:
1. Biological and medical concepts are convergingGlobal communication is standardizing disease categories and treatment concepts, particularly among urban, educated classes and physicians, many of whom are trained in the West. Pharmaceutical advertising and government-sponsored PSAs also drive standardization of concepts through widely available media and growing global Internet penetration. This convergence makes global pharmaceutical marketing research possible as it provides a baseline level of thinking about health.
2. Western medicine is being integrated into treatment regimensAlthough traditional herbal approaches are generally preferred for minor ailments and prevention, Western medicine now plays a role in health care nearly everywhere, alongside traditional beliefs and practices. Western medications are commonly viewed as “str...