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Six Mistakes That Marketers Make When Communicating With People With Diabetes

Jun 15, 2012

From the point of view of a person with diabetes, marketers often make the following mistakes when promoting their products to us.

This is an open letter to marketers who target people with diabetes. From the point of view of a person with diabetes, marketers often make the following mistakes when promoting their products to us.

1. Focusing on sugar

Anybody with a blood sugar monitor can attest to the fact that focusing on sugar alone will get you nowhere. Sugar is just a carbohydrate, no worse for people with diabetes than white bread, bananas, rice, or potatoes. We also know that sugar-free foods with high amounts of carbs in them are not as good, and no healthier, than the real thing. Focusing on solutions that people with diabetes can see-in our meters-will build trust and provide us with real solutions.

2. Thinking shots are the problem

Almost all of the sympathy directed toward people with diabetes focuses on the shots, yet most  people who take insulin know that shots are not the problem. They don't hurt. It's the hassle of having to calculate carbs, exercise, and boluses, the fear of low blood sugars, and the annoyance of having to constantly think about these issues that make diabetes difficult to live with. Providing solutions for living with insulin-after the dose-will give people with insulin-dependent diabetes answers that actually make our lives better.

3. Believing that size matters

Every meter company is constantly saying that the size of their drop of blood is the smallest. But once we've pricked our fingers, does the difference between half a microliter and a whole microliter really matter? Not really. For meter companies to make an impact, they will have to offer truly innovative products.

4. Making weight loss the solution

The vast majority of people with type 2 diabetes have already been on many, many diets. Telling us that we have to lose weight in order to control diabetes demotivates people who have already tried and failed diets for decades. Finding ways to motivate people with diabetes to control our blood sugar and maintain our health-without making weight loss the goal-is key to gaining our trust and helping us stay healthy.

5. Thinking we're all the same

Each person with diabetes responds to therapy, exercise, and food differently. This extends beyond the different types of diabetes. The condition, and our experience of it, changes over time. Because each person with diabetes experiences the condition so uniquely, speaking to us as if we are all the same alienates us from your products and services. While we share a common diagnosis, our lived experiences do not fit into a textbook description. Instead of telling us why your brand will solve our problem, ask us how we experience the condition, and meet us there.

6. Assuming that information is the answer

Most people with diabetes already have all the information we need. In fact, we have too much information, and giving us more is not going to help us change our behavior. Instead of information, focus on giving us meaningful motivation, community, understanding, and a focused way to sift through the vast and conflicting information that is already out there. Coaching and partnering with us to help us make and maintain substantive and long-term changes in our lives will build our trust and improve our health.


Categories: Sugar-free, Blood Sugar, Body Weight, Diabetes, Diabetes Health, Food, Insulin, Insulin Shots, Weight Loss

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Posted by Anonymous on 19 June 2012

This article is very good. I would like to add that most "diabetic friendly" foods, cookies, icecream, etc. are just awful. I would prefer to have a small amount of "normal" forbidden foods. Also, 1 diabetic friendly food I love is Heinz sugar free ketchup. But I am tired of toting it to restaurants in a big bottle. I called them and asked about small pckges of it like you get at fast food restaurants and they said no.

Posted by snjnt2 on 19 June 2012

I just wanted to give you a round of app;ause for using logic on your answers. I have been type 1 for 34 years, and everyone screams at me about sugar, thinking all diabetes is the same etc. What you wrote would give better answers for almost all that have it.

Posted by Anonymous on 22 June 2012

Really great! You are speaking truth to power. One could add that marketers never talk price to people with diabetes. Investigate the control and price rises of the insulin manufacturers. Why isn't there a generic insulin yet?

Posted by Anonymous on 22 June 2012

Here's another HUGE error that marketers make - They fail to distinguish between the various types of "diabetes." The most common types are type 1 and 2. They are two completely different conditions, with different causes and different treatment needs. In addition, there are type 1B, MODY, LADA, and gestational diabetes, just to name a few others. When a marketer lumps all people with "diabetes" together in one category, I immediately look the other way. They are NOT all the same condition.

Posted by angivan on 22 June 2012

What a great article! Another thing that irks me is blood glucose monitor ads that constantly show "perfect" blood glucose readings on their meters like 102 or 107. Ha! I dare one of these manufacturers to show a meter with a big ol' 247 on there. Even 123 would be refreshing!

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