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Monday, 04 June 2012 09:48

How to increase hearing aid adoption by changing the way hearing technology is marketed: Part 2

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Be you when the moment counts - example of destination marketing for hearing technologyThis is PART 2 of a series of two articles which looks at how changing the way that hearing technology is marketed can increase hearing aid adoption, change the public's attitudes to hearing technology and better differentiate themselves in an increasingly homogenised market place.

In Part 1 we began by looking at the limitations of the current approach to marketing hearing technology before examining the principles and practice of a more effective approach that focuses on shaping consumer perceptions.

In Part 2 we put these principles into practice with a worked-through example of a consumer-focused advert by an imaginary manufacturer as a way of demonstrating one way in which the new approach might be implemented.

This builds on many of the principles and philosophy of Destination Marketing outlined in "How to get people to want and like hearing aids".


If you have not yet read PART 1 I strongly recommend that you do so, because this article builds on it.

How to market hearing technology differently

Learning to market hearing technology to change consumers perceptions is not hard, but it does require a different mindset: we have to learn to communicate differently.

It's the same journey taken by detergents, cars, mobile phones, alcoholic beverages, perfumes – in fact almost every industry out there apart from hearing technology. It all begins with the power of presupposition.

Using presupposition to create a social norm

Presuppositions are powerful linguistic tools that lay a foundation that people automatically accept as ‘common knowledge’, enabling the main message to be built on top.

An example of a presupposition is this:

“There's no point having the world's best driving machine if you don't know how to drive it to its true potential. So we provide you with the advanced training you need to get the best out of it.”

Let's see how this sentence works. The main message is “the advanced training you need to get the best out of it” – but you can't accept this part of the statement unless you accept the presupposition that it's the world's best driving machine.

So let's see how this principle might be applied to messages about hearing technology.

  • Firstly, people who investigate hearing technology are doing so because they presuppose it's going to give them better hearing. So there's no need whatsoever to promote “better hearing” in any of the messages about hearing technology. It's like saying Coca Cola® quenches your thirst.
  • Secondly, we're going to assume that manufacturers have developed “the perfect hearing system”. Furthermore we're going to assume that everyone out there knows it. Why? Because by presupposing, we're implying it is common knowledge, and common knowledge tends to be readily accepted, and this enables us to move on to the main messages.

These presuppositions need to be our foundation when marketing any hearing technology. And like any foundation, they tend to be hidden from view – yet you can tell they're underpinning everything else because of the way the rest of the structure is standing.

A note of explanation

By saying here that the 'perfect hearing system' has been developed, we are not saying that we can restore perfect hearing, nor that it will be suitable for everyone, nor that hearing technology can't ever be improved upon.

Furthermore, we are never going to state in any of our messages that the perfect hearing system has been created, nor are we going to say that problems can be solved that can't be solved or create a false sense of hope.

We're simply using this idea of ‘the perfect hearing system’ as a thought experiment (as discussed in Part 1) to learn how we can communicate more effectively, by moving our own focus onto the more relevant messages. You'll see what I mean when we look at the examples below.

The Main Message

The “structure” we now build on these presupposed foundations will be the implications of:

  • Using the perfect hearing system – i.e. what does someone gain? (what will they want to approach)
  • Not using the perfect hearing system – i.e. what does someone lose? (what will they want to avoid)

To guide us in the formulation of our messages we can assume the 'perfect hearing system' is going to have the same implications to the user as 'perfect hearing'.

So our messages will be indirectly promoting the importance of our sense of hearing too, and this 'side-effect' is beneficial in changing attitudes because the greater that people appreciate their ability to hear, the more inclined they will be to enhance it should their hearing put them at a disadvantage.

This, then, is the secret of effectively marketing hearing technology: we are not really marketing the technology at all; we are marketing hearing! And the better we can sum up the unique qualities of hearing in our messages, the more effective our marketing will be.

Furthermore, by putting the focus on hearing our audience must accept (through presupposition) that hearing technology is good enough to achieve those goals, and this modernises their attitude to hearing technology without them even having to think about it. And if they have a more positive attitude towards hearing aids, they'll be more inclined to begin using them.

Putting this all into practice

Hopefully these principles are beginning to make sense. They can be applied by manufacturers of hearing technology, hearing care practitioners and those involved in social marketing.

We're going to finish by building an example step by step which will help to illustrate these principles.

Let's begin with our presuppositions:

  1. We're not going to tell people that our product will give them better hearing; they will already assume that.
  2. We're also assuming that if someone uses our product it will enable them to do some or all of what they could do if they had ‘perfect hearing’.
  3. Also, we're also not going to tell people about individual features (e.g. 'no occlusion!', 'less background noise') because we're going to assume that these things are 'normal' for today's hearing technology and we want to move people onto the implications of using our hearing technology: for example, if there's less background noise we would simply show people using the technology in background noise.

Note the other advantage we have of using this approach about the features: we're not over-building people's expectations in the capabilities of our product! If we'd stated directly "less background noise", then anytime someone struggled in background noise with our product, they'd blame our technology. But now if they struggle in background noise there's more chance they will understand it to be just as likely due to situational factors.

Now let's build our message:

  1. Let's now choose a ‘destination’, i.e. what they might do with their hearing.
  2. And finally, what are the implied consequences of not using their hearing (and by association, our product) – i.e. the loss they want to avoid.

In our example we want to focus on:

  • How what we hear changes moment by moment so it's important to capture that moment because once it's gone, it's an opportunity missed. The possibility of missing it creates a risk of loss that someone will want to avoid.
  • We also want to depict how all of someone's unique personality and skills can only be put to use if they can be applied at the right time in the right place when the opportunity arises, hence the need for hearing capable of capturing that moment.
  • Finally, our technology is bringing the two together: their hearing (and by implication, them) with the moment.

Finally we link the message with our own unique brand personality or philosophy.

  • This will be specific to your own company or organisation and is beyond the scope of this article.
  • Don't forget to think about what positive associations you want people to take away from your message and the emotions you wish to evoke. Make sure they're shown in your imagery.

In our example we have simply chosen stock photos but for optimum results you would want to direct your own photography to ensure it is unique to your own brand and reflects your brand's personality. It also gives you greater control over the associations you build and the emotions you evoke.

You would also want to include a link to further information and possibly depict your product in the advert, which we haven't included in our examples as we don't really have a product to promote.

Be-You-1 Be-You-1 Be-You-1 Be-You-1

Examining the examples

  1. The wording remains the same in all four examples. We then use the image to 'apply' the copy to different associations and emotions. Repeating in this way builds trust and liking through the 'mere exposure effect'.
  2. Each image shows a particular type of scene where hearing something could be significant or even life changing. But each are chosen because they imply that a moment has been captured that involves hearing.
  3. In most cases it is ambiguous which person in the photograph is using the hearing technology. And that's the point. We are showing that using hearing technology means that you can carry on as normal - but bring all that you are and all that you can be into the given situation - whether you are a nurse or a patient making a life changing decision, or a musician on which others are relying, or a student needing to pass an exam or a tutor giving people the skills needed to change their futures, or just sharing an intimate moment that connects you.
  4. If we were directing our own photography we would stage specific situations to strengthen the idea of the risk of loss and highlight a particular feature of hearing. For example, we know that hearing is important to awareness and safety. So we might show a child being stopped from running out into the street in front of car to illustrate how hearing is an early warning system that enables us to react to a rapidly developing situation. Our audience is left to imagine the consequences of what might have happened if the person in the picture hadn't been hearing properly, but they'll be glad they were wearing our hearing technology.
  5. Notice that the message about "hearing" is actually very subtle. The only reference is in the tag line under the logo. This is deliberate. If we make our audience think ever so slightly to work out the message (but not too hard!), they are more likely to remember the message.


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Curtis Alcock

Curtis J. Alcock is Founder of Audira » Think Tank for Hearing.

He was involved in design and marketing for 12 years before making the transition into hearing care nearly 12 years ago. He now runs an independent family-run hearing care practice in the United Kingdom and has spoken internationally on shaping the future of hearing care.

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