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Summer is a good time to rethink the fundamentals of our profession, to gather new ideas for making our work more exciting and relevant, and to decide how to put them into action when we shake the sand out of our shoes and return to our desks.

This year, two seminal books provide fodder. The first is Free: The Future of a Radical Price by Chris Anderson that explores giving things away as a money-making technique. It harmonizes the “razors/razorblades” business model with the general perception that “there ain't no such thing as a free lunch.” For a pharma industry accustomed  to the prescription/sell-drug/make-profit business model, the notion of shifting price and profit in time or space, which is what “free” really is, is a new thought indeed.

Relatedly, What Would Google Do? by Jeff Jarvis, explores the most notorious success of the “e” era, arguing that the business strategist's feet be held to the fire by evaluating the extent to which his/her ideas are consistent with the business principles that have made this company such a clear winner in its space. The book's most central thought, which clearly pertains to healthcare companies, is that a company should not try to be all things to all people, a likely outcome of the diversification strategy being followed by several manufacturers. Rather, a company needs to focus on doing what it does extremely well, and provide a platform that links the user to other organizations with complementary capacity.

These and other new business models will need to be given due consideration as the healthcare industry moves into the future, and we as marketing researchers will need to help.

Richard Vanderveer is CEO of GfK Healthcare
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