You just can’t seem to arrive at an optimal method to retain those mandibular anterior teeth. After all the effort you have expended to align them ideally, there seems to be no best solution. You’ve tried everything from bonded retainers to removable appliances of all shapes and designs. So when the Anchorplate representative calls, you tell your staff you’d be glad to hear what he has to say. Through a dazzling video presentation launched on his laptop and an articulate explanation, the rep relates a compelling account of the superiority of this newly developed retention device. But you are not sure the features of Anchorplate will give you much more than you already have in a traditional fixed or removable appliance!
As highly educated and experienced health professionals, we tend to believe that we have acquired the objectivity to assess all information pertaining to the delivery of orthodontic care. Yet studies have shown that even veteran clinicians are often unable to discern between factual and nonfactual information, including product information presented by marketing entities. This inability to discriminate fact from fiction is not an indictment of the efforts of the marketing industry but an innate aspect of human nature. Such vulnerability might confound our understanding of what is best for our patients.
Whether intentional or not, marketing tactics use several effective strategies of subliminal persuasion. The first, Reciprocation , enlists a potential buyer’s emotional desire to return a favor one has received. Providing samples of Anchorplate retainers or unrelated gifting might instill a sense of obligation in the orthodontist to reciprocate with a purchase. The second and third principles of Commitment and Consistency , which represent sustained loyalty toward a product or service, are intended to initiate repetition of the purchase. Many introductory offers made during our residencies or thereafter are aimed at establishing consistency and commitment to retain the customer indefinitely. Commitment and consistency might also serve to assure the buyer that he has made the correct choice, leading to self-validation of the purchase. Social proof , or the affirmation that our colleagues or contemporaries have accepted the same service or product, further validates our commitment to a transaction. As you read testimonials on the Internet or in trade journals, you might develop assurance in knowing that your peers’ preferences are the same as yours. Then there is the principle of Liking : the tendency to approve of, satisfy, or agree with those people you like. A congenial or physically attractive salesperson has been shown to increase product acceptance and even invoke impressions of compassion, knowledge, and talent. And someone who is seen as an Authority lends endorsement to a product. An academician or a renowned speaker might further solidify your impression that you’ve made the correct purchase choice. Recall the famous Milgram experiment that demonstrated that even the most upstanding members of a community can be persuaded by an effective authority figure to take action—whether right or wrong. Finally, Scarcity of a product connotes that its value increases if its supply is portrayed as sparse. Sale deadlines and “get them while they last” phrases are popular examples.
Collaboration with our valued suppliers is essential in our delivery of high-quality, effective, low-risk patient care. The ethical concern, however, is the potential conflict of interest that can evolve when the orthodontist might not recognize his vulnerability to erroneous product information that could be inferred from subliminal marketing principles. Integral to a resident’s education—and to our own continuing education—is the development of an ability to be critical of our product choices. Whether it be appliances that think for themselves or techniques that solve every orthodontic problem known to mankind, substance is more important than style.