Six Mistakes That Marketers Make When Communicating With 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.

| Jun 15, 2012

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.


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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

Great letter from an obviously well informed person with diabetes. I would love to meet more people just like you. What I am encountering much more frequently is this:
1) many people are still under the impression that sugar free equals calorie free
2)Shots are not a problem until you take your first one, why are so many people resisting starting insulin if they do not have some anxiety about sticks?
3) the size of the drop only matters if you can't get any blood to come even if you are using the lancets without the device, and I do see many people that do just that
4) weight loss may not be the solution, but weight management does help control diabetes and can result in fewer or no medications - the approach sure needs to be changed from an only solution to lifestyle change
5)"ask us how we experience the condition, and meet us there" - as you stated - too many variations, too many solutions, but many people respond similar, as all people with diabetes have a pancreas problem that causes havoc with glucose control
6)people learn in differnt ways, sometimes the same information presented in a different way will finally make sense. While it is often confusing, it also helps some people to finally get the message. I have spoken with people treated with insulin for many years and they never understood the importance of timing meals and injections because they were not provide with information in a meaningful way for them.
I agree with you, too many people with not enough support and understanding from the marketing groups to make meaningful conversation, but do you really want to make your decisons based on information from somebody trying to make a buck selling you a product or service? should'n't you get the important and meaningful communication from your healthcare provider?

Posted by Anonymous on 19 June 2012

I'm sure people will come up with other but I'm perfectly sick of being lumped in with the phrase "diabetics." I am an adult with juvenile-onset diabetes. I am thin. I have no major complications.

Above and beyond anything, I want affordable, ACCURATE glucose testing. I don't care how easy a machine is to use, how fsst it is, how many doodads it has because they are inaccurate and I'm tired of it. I am also sick to death of being ripped off for their cost (which is actually only a few cents a piece). I don't want to pay for your marketing which is what % of your indirect costs?

Then I want my insulin back. Give me my Lente back at $30 a bottle because it did the same darn thing Levemir does at 4x the cost. And the bottles didn't expire like a time bomb either.

When it comes to insulin pumps. I don't want failures and risks and high blood sugar YOU cause because your products are deficient. It is often safer with syringes if you're taught properly. I don't care if I can dose at .05 if my meter is 20% off.

And as for CGMS - let me know when they are accurate and timely. 20 minutes after the fact doesn't cut it. 40-60% off is absurd. And the invasiveness and cost are just ... there are no words.

Until then, get off my TV and get off every web page that I look at.

Posted by Anonymous on 19 June 2012

Fantastic article and plan on sharing with endocrinologist and internist. Maybe even get newspaper to publish this one.

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 20 June 2012

This article actually fills out some of the counseling and behavior modification discussed in the prior article. Why we aren't all getting intensive help is shameful.

Posted by chanson3633 on 20 June 2012

All true. But will the Marketers read this?

Posted by Anonymous on 20 June 2012

The author is probably right about the marketers but should be talking about the incomplete and sometimes eroneous info from providers.

For example, how many people are aware that about 1% of male diabetes patients lose partial use of their foot and leg resulting in a condition called drop-foot. It happened to me and the specialist explained that lack of blood flow in my hip area caused the nerve to sever. I had 4 months of intense pain and now limp and realize that parts of my foot have no feeling. When taking a shower I must remember to test the water temperature with my right foot instead of my left.

My point here is that the providers are amazingly circumspect and perhaps dishonest by not describing in detail diabetes risks and outcomes. They constantly imply that diabetes can be cured. Ain't gonna happen.

Posted by Anonymous on 20 June 2012

I have had diabetes Type II for 29 years. I first developed gestational diabetes and was told "it has gone away" after I delivered my baby. It never went away and 4 months later I was back on oral medications and have been ever since. Two types of Insulin have been added to my regimen of drugs. When the "shots" were added, I was told that I was failing the diet and oral drugs and the big guns had to be pulled out. I was told that I suffer from diabetes and I have to take the needle. It's decided for me that I can't have a particular food because it has too much sugar, so it's not even offered to me. I think these are all negative connotations. I had to take a step back and rethink how I look at myself and diabetes. I do not think I suffer from diabetes or have to take the needle. They are means for me to support my disease and my manage my lifestyle. So, please, some respect for those of us that do have diabetes.

Posted by Anonymous on 21 June 2012

There is so much to consider when you are a diabetic...portion, carbs, types of meds, it ALL becomes a lifestyle...NOT a diet, not a lump together solution. We are all different, it effects each of us differently. I have been diabetic over 27 years, well controlled and doing well. While I agree with most of the article I must say my secret weapon for stable sugar is getting plenty of fiber!

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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