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Jul 2, 2014

Today I speak with Michael Kuderka, an experienced pharmaceutical marketer. I liked what he had to say about being authentic. Michael suggests that pharmaceutical brands these days need to lock down a patient population where the brand can legitimately add the most value, and then own that market by developing strong value propositions for each stakeholder along the patient journey.

Michael says in the long run, this is a much better strategy than fighting for a tiny piece of a giant pie. Especially when the clinical differentiation across such broad sweeps of patients is rarely well-defined and even more rarely will motivate prescribers to switch up their current standard of care.

Soon after my talk with Michael, I heard a guy named Ian Altman speak on another podcast. His message dovetailed perfectly with Michael's point of view. I immediately went out and bought his book, called "Same Side Selling." Ian advises that sellers and marketers aim to be “Some Things to the Right People." He says that when a buyer senses that the seller is more interested in selling than in delivering value, trust vanishes. I can easily see how this applies to pharmaceutical brands.

0:00 - How Michael went from the defense industry to Pharmaceutical Sales and Marketing. I like a term he uses for smaller pharma … “Micro-Pharma”

2:15 - How the role of the healthcare marketer has changed: Formerly silo’ed functional teams have begun to work together and follow patients throughout their disease management journey.

3:50 - An example of what a patient journey might look like for an h.pylori patient

5:17 - How Michael’s brand team tackled the challenge to help patients via providers and caregivers by keying in on the problem perpetuated by the current standard of care … an overuse of one kind of antibiotic.

6:45 - Giving the prescriber a solid answer to the question, “I need to prescribe this brand because…” The answer needs to be compelling enough for the physician to champion the brand with payers and also compelling enough for a prescriber to break what might be longstanding prescribing habits.

10:00 - Niche strategies - from a forecast perspective, many might find it alluring to battle it out for a small piece of a big pie … but Michael talks about the advantages of owning a segment where your brand has the most value.

“In the niches you’ll find the riches”

10:45 - Focusing on the patients where a brand delivers the most impact might be the fastest path to market success. Because it hinges on the brand’s authentic value, physicians will see success. They become believers, and it is through these believers that marketshare multiplies.

Being authentic also attenuates the problem where really good reps who see that a sweeping unfocused strategy isn’t working will come up their own splinter approaches. That’s bad news for a brand.

12:30 - Major lesson learned? No value proposition is one-sized fits all. Every stakeholder along the patient journey— doctors, nurses, pharmacists … each has their own unique lens and a different impact on the brand.

14:09 - Transforming those various value statements into marketing: Michael talks through an example where one value message worked for payers and providers, but pharmacists required a different message.

16:56 - How can pharma collaborate? Around patient outcomes, says Michael. Each stakeholder has a role in outcomes.

18:19 - I pose a tough question — do patient outcomes sometimes play second fiddle to other organizational goals, like profitability? Michael emphasizes authentic brand value and supporting the patient as a guiding star for healthcare business.

22:00 - Value is, in some cases, synonymous with reducing cost. If this is true, then creating value for certain stakeholders might in fact diminish patient outcomes where the improvement in outcome is deemed not worth the price.

24:39 How viable might it be for an app developer to sell data to pharma? Michael talks about the challenges an app developer might face.

26:17 - Considerations a pharma brand manager might weigh before deciding to fund or subsidize a mobile app. Main takeaway, partner early in the app development.

Michael Kuderka

An innovative marketing professional Michael Kuderka is a pharmaceutical Marketing Director with over 22 years of sales and marketing experience.

 Michael has a demonstrated talent for branding, positioning, messaging, and strategic and tactical planning for such products as Covera-HS, Boniva, Zenpep, and Pylera, and  brand life-cycle experience ranging from early commercialization, to launch, to in-market branding, through generic competition.

 In his career Michael has gained experience in large and small specialty pharma settings, working at Pharmacia Corp., Roche Laboratories, Eurand, Inc, and Aptalis Pharma, resulting in hands-on experience in the Cardiovascular, Osteoporosis, Cystic Fibrosis, Pancreatic Insufficiency, H.pylori, and the Duodenal Ulcer disease markets. Michael Kuderka can be contacted via e-mail at