Up Against the Wall!

For Chapter 8 -- "Sometimes You Just Have to Lego"

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This is about the Ostomy Road Show 2003.

Okay, the Ice Capades its wasn't. But a splendid example of Listenomics it was, sponsored by a Danish medical-supplies company called Coloplast. (Yes, Lego is also Danish, and, yes, it makes you wonder if Scandinavians are better listeners than the rest of us. Although, you know: Erik the Red was more of an axe-murder-first-ask-questions-later type and Torvald, of "A Doll's House" fame, well, he never heard a word poor Nora said.)

The Ostomy Road Show was something like a mobile focus group – a bus traveling around the UK to connect with those, to paraphrase the old Cook and Moore routine, "deficient in the colon area to the tune of one." The idea was to get a better understanding of their problems and their needs.

It is, of course, not easy to be an ostomy patient. It's awkward, sometimes embarrassing and not infrequently exacerbated by unpleasant complications. One of them is hernia, a side-effect of surgery involving a rupture of the abdominal wall, through which intestines may protrude.

Because surgery is seldom an option for these patients, for decades the standard treatment for such hernias – indeed, the only treatment – was a truss, a set of belts and spring-loaded pads that compress the abdominal bulge. Needless to say, the uncomfortable contraption adds insult to injury.

What Coloplast learned during the Ostomy Road Show, according to Copenhagen marketing consultant Soren Merit, is that patients dreamed of another solution.

Probably, hernias don't figure much in your dreams. Probably, they aren't even on your radar. Nor were they for Coloplast, which was doing fine in the colostomy bag business and deficient in the hernia-awareness area to the tune of a lot. The visits with patients were therefore a revelation. As Merit observes, "Twenty-four hours a day for maybe 20 years. For them it's a high-interest area."

The result, two years later, was a new Coloplast product: Corsinel, sort of industrial strength control-top underwear that replaces the truss altogether. "They have a systematic way of always having a dialogue," he says. "That's one thing. The other thing is they actually listen. They involved patients in the actual process of development."
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