Vantage Point: Correct Terminology

Richard Vanderveer
Richard Vanderveer

Though Shakespeare's Juliet tells us, “That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” it is generally agreed that correct terminology is extremely important. Benjamin Lee Whorf hypothesized years ago that words of a language help determine its speakers' world view. Eskimos, with 15 words for different types of snow, are arguably more observant of nuances in precipitation than are English speakers.

Take the term “pharmaceutical marketing research.” In 2012, this phrase and each of the words in it seem a little wrong. Misleadingly wrong!

Perhaps we should change “pharmaceutical” to “healthcare,” or maybe “wellness,” to reflect the breadth and depth of our field in 2012 and beyond.

“Marketing” has generally meant the you-hold-‘em- I'll-hit-‘em kind of promotion that Seth Godin calls “intrusion marketing.” We all know that this approach isn't working very well in this increasingly noisy, social-media driven world.

Finally, when we think of “research,” we think of watching physicians in focus groups through a one-way mirror, or having consumers respond to an online questionnaire. Such efforts tend to be “one off” rather than ongoing, with sponsors often being anonymous and with project deliverables being final reports rather than decisive actions. Not quite right!

In 2013, watch for the terminology to change. Please, don't call us “pharmaceutical marketing researchers” anymore. Shakespeare would say that “healthcare stakeholder outcomes facilitator” or some such phrase does not come trippingly to the lips. But Professor Whorf might find this term more reflective of our role in the new healthcare environment, and thus likely to lead us to do more relevant work.

Richard Vanderveer is chief solutions officer, rbV3.

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