Six Mistakes That Marketers Make When Communicating With People With Diabetes

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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