Wharton giveth and Wharton taketh away (or, why 57 million consumers must be wrong)

Wharton Wharton reveals that consumer centricity is coming even to the health care industry.  In a Knowledge@Wharton interview, Mike McCallister, Humana CEO, says:

When we decided to set the strategy for this company after I became CEO
in 2000, one of the most important decisions we ever made was to organize and drive this company around the simple premise that the consumer had to be at the heart of health care. Now there’s a lot of talk around that idea today. Six years ago there wasn’t anybody talking about it and there weren’t many people going down that path. If you think about health care and the way it operates and has for a hundred years — very paternalistic, no information — it’s a mother and father "may I" kind of environment. To have the consumer at the core of how it’s organized seems so simple and seems so right — except when you talk to health care people, who think it’s crazy. That decision was a big one and has really guided everything we’ve done for the last six years with varying levels of success…. What’s particularly gratifying is that the rest of the industry has now decided they’re going to go down this path, too. We get the benefit of having been at it for a while, and we also take pride in the fact that we may have helped nudge the industry toward consumers. (emphasis added)

Wharton also reports the Pew Internet and American Life Project finding that 57 million American adults now read individual blogs.  But this does not impress one member of the marketing faculty, Xavier Dreze. 

Blogs are the latest forum for people who have nothing to say that others actually care about. […] I don’t see the point. It’s a bunch of people writing their opinions, and  those people have no credibility. The information content is very low.

Thank you, Professor Dreze.  Consumer centricity, I guess this has to work it’s way through the health care industry before it reaches the marketing faculty of a major business school.


Hunter, Dan et al., 2006.  To Blog or not to blog: Report from the front.  Knowledge@Wharton: Managing Technology.  October 18, 2006.  here

Useem, Michael and Stephen Wilson.  2006.  An interview with Humana CEO Mike McCallister: Letting the Consumer Drive Innovation. Knowledge@Wharton, October 25, 2006.  here.

4 thoughts on “Wharton giveth and Wharton taketh away (or, why 57 million consumers must be wrong)

  1. jens

    interesting about the statements on “to blog or not to blog” is that the skeptics are all marketing and management people. those who teach and understand business as a combination of specialized tools, strategic moves and measurement. other than customers they have a highly fragmented picture of a corporation and at the same time they look at clients as masses or aggregated groups subject to corporate influencing.
    to my concern the statements illustrates a classical problem that marketing – especially as academic discipline – has. marketing was not made for dealing with individuals. that’s why they can’t be seen – or have to be denied.
    i am not in praise of ‘blog wisdom’ here. but even the most sober mind can identify the blog phenomenon as another step in the evolution of an individualized society. this fact alone should make marketing professors more than only interested in this funny world. the ignorance though speaks loud – and it probably also tells us about the crisis of marketing and its deep going roots.

  2. steve

    If you read the article and substitute the word “book” for “blog” in the quotes from the blog skeptics, it’s pretty funny. It’s also interesting that the main objection raised is that the people writing blogs are allegedly not experts or authorities. But 1) can’t these people assess an argument for themselves?, 2) some of these people are experts (e.g. law professors, economists, etc.), and 3) Phillip Tetlock’s book, I’m told, is pretty convincing that experts aren’t much good at predictions outside their narrow areas.

  3. Lester Hunt

    The medical profession has an ancient delusion, a sort of moral fossil from more authoritarian periods of history, that it is ethical to think of the people they treat as passive recipients of their benevolence and wisdom, as patients and not agents. It actually gives them much more dignity to think of them as clients. Clients have rights with the liberty to dispose of them, while patients are merely places to dump your altruism.

  4. Bob M

    I’ve listened to several Knowlege@Wharton podcasts, and I think people there are mostly up to speed on consumer centric stuff.

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