What Chronic Pain Patients Want

Probing the Surface of Consumer Experience

A woman with her hands in the air.

The experience of pain eludes verbalization, thus frustrating traditional research based on straightforward reporting.  Marketing Semiotics cracked the code of chronic pain by decoding the meanings patients displaced into non-verbal The case illustrates the advantages of semiotic ethnography and metaphor elicitation to decode the non-verbal discourses consumers use to describe their pain experiences. Findings led to a new understanding of chronic pain, based not so much on its effects on the body as on patients’ daily lives and life projects.

Results: Marketing Semiotics reimagined pain management in terms of emotional and lifestyle benefits rather than the elusive notion of “pain relief.” Management responded by developing new branding and lifestyle programs for meeting these needs.