Product testing the Valium way

An opinion piece on the New York Times earlier this month described how marketers helped popularise the use of psychoactive drugs in 1960s’ America. Robin M Henig wrote:

“How did Roche convince physicians that it was O.K. to offer their patients a bottled form of serenity? How did the physicians persuade their patients? And how did the company’s success in this venture shape our collective attitudes toward normal versus abnormal, stoic versus foolhardy, and the various ways available to cope with the ups and downs of daily life? Marketing, essentially.”

The author went on to describe how advertising and other marketing communications initiatives created a situation whereby certain (common) feelings were deemed as symptoms of anxiety, which warranted taking a tranquilizer. It is an interesting read – you can find it here.

The author went on to describe how marketers normalised this ‘pill-taking’ behaviour. For a discussion of how social norms influence behaviour, see this post.

But there is a delightful passage in the New York Times opinion piece that I cannot resist highlighting. At some point, the author described how the drugs were first tested on humans. He wrote:

‘(I)n this case, the mothers-in-law of a few Roche executives. The executives thought that the new drug, Valium, rendered their mothers-in-law significantly less annoying’.

Oh, my! Millions are spent on marketing research and product testing each year for nothing: all it takes is one’s mother in law 🙂

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