Internationally Minded Japanese Marketing Experts are In Demand


The demand for internationally minded Japanese marketing experts is rising. There are several factors pushing this demand;

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  1. Companies are seeking candidates with experience in specialty pharma.

  2. There is an increased need for evidence-based medical marketing.

  3. Japanese multinationals are looking to globalize.

Once, it was enough for candidates to have five to ten years of work experience and strong contacts among key opinion leaders. Experience in launching new products and a specialization in a specific area were the key requirements.

Companies focusing on specialty pharma seek candidates who are able to analyze the external and internal environment and work cross-functionally to identify and gain customer’ (HCP’s, patients’, and payers’) needs and to develop key inputs to a brand plan. Clients seek candidates who can create and develop, in close collaboration with partners, a brand strategy which they can subsequently roll out.

Key Opinion Leader (KOL) management is no longer enough; the market demands experience in creating a brand strategy through the evaluation and implementation of channel mix strategies by collaboratively developing innovative peer-to-peer programs, congress exhibits, TL/KOL activities and e-capabilities, and by making marketing channel mix decisions that are consistent with strategic plans.

As mentioned in a previous article,“Marketing is more than a pen and a tissue box.” . The pharmaceutical market now follows a more patient-centric approach. Clients demand candidates who understand evidence based medical marketing and who can create and execute a marketing strategy.

Marketers now empathize and look to walk in their patients’ slippers. They ask, “What is the real world situation and cost-effectiveness of the therapies?” Qualitative research is shaping the marketing plans of the future. The best marketers interview patients in their homes and observe real-life situations to find out the patients’ habits.

With Japanese companies scrambling to globalize, the demand for top talent is fierce. At one time, it was only the multinationals who sought to hire mid-career candidates and directors. This has changed; Japanese firms now fish in the same talent pool. Employees at Japanese firms, once considered lifetime-employment-system loyalists, now consider options at competitor companies (in one case a candidate who was a third generation of family member working for a particular firm).

Over half of the corporate officers of Takeda are non-Japanese. With an over 230-year-old history, the firm has looked to Christophe Weber, a Frenchman, as the planned successor to CEO Yasuchika Hasegawa. Webber is the first non-Japanese to lead the company and among the first outsiders to be brought in to helm a major Japanese multinational. Takeda believes the GlaxoSmithKline manager will help execute a global marketing strategy that will ensure that it survives as rivals’ look to take away business through generics of Takeda’s mainstay products. The firm looks to vaccines and oncology to boost sales and the old fashioned requisite of KOL management will not be enough to ensure success. The actions and strategies that occur at Takeda will have repercussions for the whole Japanese Pharma industry for the next decade.

It would be naïve to conclude that KOL management is no longer important, as personal connections and long relationships are a cornerstone to Japanese society, however the demand for a more strategic marketing approach is the new “hot” skillset our clients are asking us for.

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