Tuesday, August 17, 2010

It's just not right

I often take a walk around the block at work to clear my head. It takes about 10 or 15 minutes, maybe a bit longer. I listen to my iPod, stretch my legs, get a little exercise. It's all good.

Yesterday, I noticed a snazzy little logo that I hadn't seen before on a building that I passed. Health Talker. It sounded kind of interesting, so I decided to look it up when I got back to my desk.

So it turns out that Health Talker is part of something called "word of mouth marketing." Basically, working for the pharmaceutical industry, they encourage patients who use a particular medication to tell others about this medication, using social media networks. The goal of this is for the pharmaceutical industry to sell more drugs. From what I can see on the website, Health Talker does not appear to pay the patients for providing this service. So the drug companies are getting free advertising.

Here's what they do in their own words:
Our innovative word of mouth (WOM) marketing programs mobilize patients and caregivers to spread the word. We help you build greater brand loyalty and grow your market share, one conversation at a time.
Am I naive to be horrified by this? I'm all for social media. I love it. I use it. I've found wonderful support on the discussion boards of a great website called Breastcancer.org. But the thought that drug companies are somehow using the information that people are discussing online in order to better market their products...ugh.

There's even an organization, WOMMA, the Word of Mouth Marketing Association, that supposedly has "ethical standards" for this type of work. Unbelievable.

Any thoughts out there on this topic? Any marketing or advertising folks care to chime in? I remain stunned. I'll just sit here quietly.

No comments: