Gain vs. Risk in Mobile Message Crafting: Going with Gain


Image of a male doctor and a female patient going over a chest X-ray. They're sitting on opposite sides of a cluttered desk.

With mobile certain to play a larger role in 2017 healthcare marketing strategies, we started thinking about mobile messaging. Specifically, our old friends “gain-framed” and “risk-framed.” Remember them?

Mobile can be an extremely powerful environment for influencing or changing behavior. However, our audiences (e.g. HCPs, patients, caregivers) can and will respond differently to the exact same messaging, depending on how it’s delivered and what the messaging is addressing. The platform, after all, matters little if the messaging is not making an impact.

Here is a closer look at gain-framed messaging for your next mobile campaign, the first in a two-part series of Gain vs. Risk.

Going with Gain

Gain-framed messaging promotes the positive benefit a certain behavior or action can bring. More effective outcomes are achieved when, for example, someone is told they could save money by eliminating a harmful behavior (such as smoking), than if they were warned about the consequences of not adhering to good health behaviors or treatments (i.e., scare tactics). It boils down to answering the ubiquitous question we all ask ourselves before adopting or changing a behavior: What’s in it for me?

A gain-framed approach is particularly useful when your message focuses on disease prevention behaviors and treatment adherence in patients. Nutrition Reviews2014 study, “When do gain-framed health messages work better than fear appeals?” identifies the core individual characteristics in your audience where gain-framed messaging is effective:

  1. Low level involvement in the issue (general public, i.e. patients)
  2. Certain outcomes (e.g., a vaccine is absolutely believed to prevent a certain disease)
  3. Risk-averse behavior (e.g., using sunscreen, limiting alcohol intake)
  4. Heuristic processing style (drawing plausible conclusions from limited, relevant information)


We recently faced a messaging challenge on a project for a device maker client, where we had to choose the right approach for the audience, and it had to be tablet-and-mobile friendly. Brella developed a whiteboard video to introduce a home PD dialysis device for patients suffering from kidney disease. The video was designed to ease the fears of both new patients doing their PD therapy from home and patients transitioning from an old device. The best way to alleviate patient concerns was to focus on what they stood to gain from this transition; namely, greater control of their lives and the benefits of smart technology. We used a relatable analogy and an approachable animated design to support the positive messaging, in a way that presented them information relevant to their pain point and remained mobile-friendly. The feedback received was overwhelmingly positive and spoke to the approachability, likeability, and clarity that the video offers.

Gain-framed messaging encourages your HCP’s patients to play an active role in their own treatment and facilitate positive outcomes for themselves, their healthcare providers, and for you. We know it works. But when is it worth employing the opposite approach and taking the risk? We’ll explore that in Part II of this mini-series. Stay tuned!