GP Sceptics podcast 8: Marketing


‘Carrots & Sticks’ by Kat Ritchie

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Doctors try to ‘sell’ behaviour change to patients, who are often reluctant to ‘buy’ the message. What tricks can we learn from the modern experts at selling?

Justin and Liz bite the bitter bullet and enter the strange world of marketing.

We grill Dr Ninya Maubach, whose former life involved a PhD in marketing, but who has now seen the light and is studying medicine at ANU. That’s a powerful combo when it comes to teaching doctors how to sell a message.

Our starting point is a paper ‘Carrots, Sticks and Promises’, and it turns out that most of our attempts at behaviour change involve the least effective selling method: “I promise that if you stop this pleasurable thing today (e.g. smoking, lying on your couch), you will reap rewards in the future.”

That message is pretty easy to trump (are we still allowed to use that word?), and plenty of full-time tobacco and food industry marketers know just how to trump it.

Turns out the ‘stages of change’ model  we all learned (precontemplation, contemplation)may not be so useful after all.




Carrots, Sticks and Promises: a conceptual framework for the management of public health and social issue behaviors  Rothschild M, Journal of Marketing 1999

Stages of change model (Transtheoretical model) Wikipedia entry, accessed 2017

No Advertising Please campaign Coleman J et al, accessed 2017

One minute’s exercise – how much does it prolong your life? Inala Primary Care Journal Club, 2014

Thanks to Ninya Maubach (med student), Kat Ritchie (GP and artist)


About Dr Justin Coleman

Justin is a GP in Brisbane and Director of Education for GPs in the NT. He edits a medical journal and two medical textbooks, and is a medical writer and educator. Further details at
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3 Responses to GP Sceptics podcast 8: Marketing

  1. cathyregan says:

    Hi Justin, on the topic of the minutes of exercise, I did recently hear Billy Connolly argue that unfortunately the week that you gain is one sitting in a nursing home being fed soft foods and not a week at your best (I won’t describe it the way he did!). I realise it’s an iffy argument – in that we could be delaying disability – but it was persuasive 🙂


    • Thanks Cathy. Damn those genius comedians who market their message better than I can!
      If I were to counter Billy – although if I ever met him, I’d instead be fawning – I’d point out the most valuable weeks you gain are the ones that precede this. That last hiatus before your kids lock the front door of your independent dwelling for the last time and deliver you through the nursing home portals.


  2. Pingback: Feeling down about Depression? – partridgegp

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