• Marketing Basics

    Marketing is a core component in business management but what is it exactly? According to the Japan Marketing Association, marketing is a comprehensive activity for creating markets through fair competition, with companies and other organizations gaining a global perspective and gaining mutual understanding with customers. Philip Kotler, the father of modern marketing, adds to that saying that marketing is human actions directed at meeting customer needs and desires through an exchange process. The easier way to understand this would just be the creation and maintenance of a market. So why do we need marketing? From the business point of view, it is to promote future sales and profits by communicating with the market which ultimately is the general public or consumers.

    Basic marketing compromises of six steps; the discovery of market opportunities, target marketing, market segmentation, positioning setting, building a marketing mix (strategy) and communication.

    Figure 1: Basic Flow of Marketing

    1. 1. Discovery of Market Opportunities
    2. 2. Target Marketing
    3. 3. Market Segmentation
    4. 4. Positioning Setting
    5. 5. Building Marketing Mix (Strategy)
    6. 6. Marketing Communication
    7. 7. Contact Us

    Discovery of Market Opportunities

    Discovery of market opportunities can be done via a series of processes. First is the environmental analysis to get an idea on the potential influence of various aspects of the environment on business operations. External environmental factors can be divided into macro-environment and micro-environment where macro division includes economy, politics, society and culture while micro division the industry, competition and customer analysis. Internal environment analysis, on the other hand, involves in-house analysis of people, goods, money, the know-how and information.

    After getting all the potential factors that may affect the operating business, SWOT or 3C analysis can be done. The SWOT analysis will allow the business to identify its strengths, weaknesses, as well as external opportunities and threats while 3C analysis points out the three key factors a business need to succeed; the company, customers and competitors. From there, business and product critical success factors (CSF) can then be extracted to match the market opportunities for the product.

    Figure 2: Example of a SWOT Analysis

    Target Marketing

    Next step is target marketing. To do this, we first need to identify the market size and calculate and understand the trends. The market is a collection of potential and apparent needs and wants. Wants are demand for specific things that are not necessary to meet your needs while needs are what the customers are looking for. A good example to differentiate the two would be an office worker wanting to go to work in the morning. The want here would be wanting to get on a train or bus to reach the destination while the need is just to reach the destination which is the office. More specific detail is usually taken into account by businesses and this is the advanced need which in this case is wanting to go to the destination comfortably or quickly. These advanced needs are where businesses strive to differentiate themselves from competitors however if the wants are mistaken as needs, this will lead to wrong product/ service development.

    When conducting marketing, determining the target market is an important step. If the market is classified into ‘by market space’, it can be classified into three target markets which are mass market, segment market and each customer. These cannot be considered separately but more organically linked where individual customers are narrowed down from the uniform.

    Figure 3: Target Markets

    Market Segmentation

    Market segmentation is the division of a market of customers into groups having the same common needs, similar product recognition, value, use and purchasing processes. It can be segmented according to geographical, demographic, psychological, behavioural variables, product usage pattern etc. Segmentation can also be done following the 4R principle; rank, realistic, reach and response.

    Once the segments are established, businesses can choose to develop products/services based on different segments. The first type is a single market type where only one market is targeted and superiority and efficiency are pursued in that market. Downturns in this market will directly affect the business. Product specialization type, on the other hand, involves deploying a single product in multiple markets. This is often used by small and medium-sized specialized manufacturers with limited technology and products. Dispatch of new technologies threatens this market type. Another type is the market-specific type. They provide various products and services required by target markets and customers such as a complete set of hardware and software products while the selectively distributed type develops with multiple markets based on marketability and superiority of their products as a measure to diversify corporate risk. Last but not least, is the overall type. This strategy is usually implemented by top companies in the market such as Toyota and Panasonic where they develop all kinds of products that comprehensively cover the entire market.

    Figure 4: Market Types

    An example of market segmentation in the healthcare industry is by age (in ten years) and gender of patients. Since lifestyle diseases such as obesity, high blood pressure, dyslipidaemia and diabetes affect mostly patients of both genders from age 30 to 50 years of age, this will be the core target for pharmaceutical companies developing treatments for these diseases.

    Positioning Setting

    Positioning; an activity to make your product different from competitor products, and to clearly position superiorly in the customers’ mind, and to define the marketing mix. It is the first step before strategy development in marketing. Positioning can be done based on two parties, the company or the customer however, the latter is more commonly used. As stated before, first, there is a need to identify the differential factors. The best combination of those factors is then selected before building the marketing mix. Example when marketing for Gaster, a drug targeted for gastric and duodenal ulcers, the product concept “Gaster to know” was used where it states the safety margin of the drug, ease of drinking, effective speed and its effects on the conditions; moderate gastric acid secretion/ excellent gastric mucosal protection. The concept is a clear and concrete statement in the client’s language of what benefits the drug gave. In the case of pharmaceuticals, the market is also influenced by the trend of medical research and academic society.

    Building Marketing Mix (Strategy)

    Following that is the building of a marketing mix (strategy). It is a combination of different means that you can control yourself to approach your segments. According to E.J. McCarthy, marketing is based on four elements as theorized in the 4P model; product, price, place and promotion. A product can be a new or improvised form of an older product. You should also be clear on how the product has a differential advantage over other competitive products. Once a clear understanding of the product is achieved, the pricing comes into play. How much profit is set to be gained and what price is acceptable to consumers and competition? The third P then represents place, the setting where products are placed. Are products sold directly to consumers (direct sales) or from a wholesale store to store? The form of sales and transaction conditions should also be determined at this stage. Lastly, promotion is, like the word itself means, the incorporation of various ways to increase awareness of the product in the general public and sales subsequently.

    Marketing Communication

    The last step in marketing is the communication stage. It links with the last stage of the 4P model stated above which is promotion. In order to promote a product, information needs to be disseminated via communication in ways including human sales, advertising, sales promotion and public relations.

    Human Sales Sales staff directly directs products and services to consumers and sales associates
    Appeal and sell.
    Advertisement Informing / understanding / inducing an image of an “enterprise / product / service”
    Cultivate and brand.
    Sales Promotion Make a good impression on the product, have it tried, have it used continuously, make it stand out in the store, etc.
    Secure a lot of display space in the stores.
    Ask the people involved in sales to sell.
    Public Relations Have the media take-up products from a “third party” perspective, gain confidence and high sensitivity, and foster good relationships with consumers and various other people around the company.
    Figure 5: Different Ways to Promote a Product

     

    It is important to understand that products cannot be sold simply by raising product recognition with advertisements. In order to effectively market a product, a combination of these different ways stated above are to be used. Therefore, it is necessary to understand each feature, function and purpose as well as the current situation of the customer and product life cycle to productively apply each technique in a different situation. The effective combination and interlocking of human sales, advertisement, sales promotion and public relations is known as communication or promotion mix.

    Contact us

    Please feel free to inquire using the form below. We will respond as soon as possible between 9:30 and 18:30 (Monday – Friday Japan Tokyo time).

  • Information Provision Procedures for Recruitment of Subjects Involved in Clinical Trials

    Through these past decades, we have seen a constant development in the healthcare industry including the increase in clinical trials annually. However, public awareness of this subject is still limited hence the importance of clinical trial information relay to the public. Like any other processes, there are procedural guidelines to ensure efficiency and smoothness of the process. Clinical trials are not a new concept. Since, 1999, the Ministry of Health and Welfare (now Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare) have already received the final report of “Study Group for Smoothly Promoting Clinical Trials”. This was then taken into consideration by the Pharmaceutical Evaluation Committee of Japan Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association and Clinical Evaluation Committee to formulate the “Information provision procedure for recruitment of subjects involved in clinical trials” in March 2000. This is further revised in 2008 based on regulatory guidelines (shown below) issued thereafter.

    1. 1. Information Provision Means
    2. 2. Information Content
    3. 3. Restrictions on Expression Used in Providing Information
    4. 4. Things to Take into Account by Information Provider
    5. 5. Others
    6. 6. Conclusion
    7. 7. Contact us

    Information Provision Means

    There are many possible ways to do this especially through media such as posters, newspapers, magazines, flyers, televisions, radios or homepages on the Internet. However, compulsion such as force handing flyers is not permitted.

    Information Content

    Information on clinical trials can only be disclosed according to the extent indicated by the consent/ explanatory document and clinical trial protocol. Recruitment of subjects for clinical trials, on the other hand, are only provided items indicated by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, Drug Countermeasures Division. The Medical Law (2007) states that “The general name (component name) or the development code may be used for promoting information provision on clinical trials” as providing information using media such as the Internet which is operated by a public organization for the purpose of information disclosure is not considered to be an advertisement. However, under the Pharmaceutical Affairs Law, it is prohibited to advertise non-approved drugs excluding the names of the disease targeted and brand names. Therefore, it is advised to not display the name of the study drug as well as the development code. If the promotion of the medical institution and its achievement in clinical trials is to be included, it should be based on the Medical Law.
    Below shows a list of points to take into consideration for appropriate information provisions:
    • Terms such as ‘new drug’, ‘new treatment’, and ‘new medical care’ should not be used without explanations about it being a trial.
    • Glossaries can be included for questions like “What is a clinical trial”, “What is an anti-XX drug?”, and “What is an XXX disease?” so subjects can have a better understanding of what they are participating in. It is also possible to incorporate a brief overview about the company and its aim such as “selling or developing medicines in dozens of countries around the world”.
    • If there is a statement about examining effectiveness and safety of the drug in Japan from now on, it is possible to post that this investigational drug has already been released overseas as a therapeutic agent for XXX disease.
    • Following that, if the same statement of examining effectiveness and safety of the drug in Japan from now onwards is stated, it is also possible to post that this investigational drug has already been marketed as a therapeutic agent for XXX disease in Japan.

    Information Provision Contents Suitability
    Name of study drug (including trial code) X (see Note 1)
    Expected efficacy or effectiveness of the investigational drug (see Note 2)
    Expected use or dose of study drug
    Target disease name and symptom name
    Target criteria
    Trial purpose (see Note 3)
    Clinical trial content
    Subject burden reduction (see Note 4)
    Name of the clinical trial site (see Note 5)
    Investigator name, Department name (see Note 5)
    Sponsor name
    Recruitment period
    Contact (see Note 6)

    Figure 1: Information Provided for Subject Recruitment

    Note 1: Since under the Pharmaceutical Affairs Law, advertising of unapproved drugs is prohibited, the name of the investigational drug, a general name (component name) or a development code is not advised to be provided during information provision.
    Note 2: Some expressions are possible as shown below. For example, “anti-XXX disease drugs” can be used. However, we do not use expressions that imply effects such as “effective for XXX diseases” or “improve symptoms of XXX disease”.
    Note 3: The purpose of the clinical trial should be concise and easily understood, such as “to confirm the efficacy and safety” or “to investigate the influence on disease progression”
    Note 4: Subject burden reduction can be described as the contents of various burden reduction and the amount of burden reduction. However, expressions using the payment of money as an incentive is not accepted.
    Note 5: The name of the trial site medical institution can be described if it is reviewed by the clinical trial review board of the clinical trial site medical institution, approved by the director of the medical institution, and the medical institution can respond to inquiries.
    Note 6: As a contact point, indicate when, where, and in what way it is possible to inquire. For example, reception time, reception desk, telephone number, fax number, Internet home page address, E-mail address, location, etc. may be considered. When making inquiries, avoid asking for the personal information of the person making the inquiry. If personal information is obtained, action will be taken in accordance with the Act on the Protection of Personal Information.

    Restrictions on Expression Used in Providing Information

    In order to accurately convey the information, it is necessary to pay attention to the following:
    • False or exaggerated expressions
    • An expression that depreciates the research drug and product of another company
    • An expression that misleads using medical or pharmaceutical experts as a guarantee or recommendation
    • An expression that induces the feeling of discomfort or anxiety
    • Misleading expressions that suggest quality, efficacy, safety etc.
    • An expression that impairs quality
    • Expressions that use the payment of money as an incentive
    • Displays that impair advertisement quality, such as exaggerating the amount of money
    • Expressions that would suggest participating in the trial being recognised as a source of income

    Things to Take into Account by Information Provider

    The informant should always consider the sensitivity of subject information. The propriety of content, as well as the method of information provision, should be discussed with the sponsor in advance. It is also important to notify the Pharmaceuticals and Medical Devices Agency 30 days prior to the start date of information provision and 2 weeks or more before the date of submission of clinical trial planning.

    Others

    1) Inquiry Window
    Inquiry window should be established in preparation of an inquiry. It is recommended that the inquiry office prepare a procedure document that states the procedure, method, scope etc. of the response so that appropriate response can be made towards future inquiries. In order to protect the privacy of applicants, unnecessary questions regarding privacy are not to be asked and if personal information is obtained in the process, actions will be taken in accordance with the Personal Information Protection Act.
    2) Recruitment Period
    Regarding the end date of the recruitment period, to prevent any confusion to the subjects, it can be presented on the information provision medium.

    Conclusion

    The list above provides a guideline to the way of information provision for the recruitment of subjects involved in clinical trials, however, it is always good for information providers to keep in mind that information provided should be useful and easy to understand for the subjects.

    Contact us

    Please feel free to inquire using the form below. We will respond as soon as possible between 9:30 and 18:30 (Monday – Friday Japan Tokyo time).

    Reference:
    Published November 2008, Pharmaceutical Evaluation Committee of Japan Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association
    Information provision procedure for recruiting subjects involved in clinical trials (Revised Edition)
    Retrieved from http://www.jpma.or.jp/about/basis/guide/pdf/200811-information.pdf

  • Clinical Trial Platform “Puzz” Brings Clinical Trials Closer to Patients

    Buzzreach Co., Ltd. (Head office: Meguro-ku, Tokyo; CEO: Takateru Inokawa), who is currently developing clinical trial information infrastructure for patients is pleased to announce that the clinical trial information platform “puzz” has been released on March 5, 2019 allowing access to approximately 2.5 million clinical trial applicant database from partner companies, healthcare media, etc. We will also announce that we have raised approximately 50 million yen in seed round funding led by KLab Venture Partners Co., Ltd. for the purpose of further development of this service.

    1. 1. The clinical trial dissemination platform “Puzz” for pharmaceutical companies/ medical institutions
    2. 2. Information matching platform Smt (Search My Trial) for general consumers
    3. 3. Major Issue in the Industry: Low Availability of Clinical Trial Information
    4. 4. Comments from Takateru Inokawa, Representative Director, Buzzreach Co., Ltd.
    5. 5. Fundings
    6. 6. Future Business Developments
    7. 7. Contact us

    The clinical trial dissemination platform “puzz” for pharmaceutical companies/ medical institutions

    Puzz is a clinical trial information dissemination platform for pharmaceutical companies and medical institutions to publish and disseminate clinical trial information to the general consumers as well as enquiring patients allowing them to apply for clinical studies. On puzz, clinical trials information can be registered not only at the medical institution level but also at a project level, enabling detailed settings and information deployment. By posting clinical trial information on puzz, information can be disseminated to a patient database, healthcare media, patient’s association etc. The registration fee for puzz is free of charge however there is a paid plan option where we can support multiple projects of different duration. In addition, the clinical trial information posted on puzz links with the clinical trial matching platform smt (Search My Trial * beta version) operated by our company hence enabling the matching of trial information to patients seeking new treatments. This will allow us to provide an infrastructure for managing patient information in clinical trials. The process of drug development is costly, and this is usually due to the extension of enrollment period therefore, pharmaceutical companies are constantly aiming to finish development in the shortest possible time. By introducing puzz (beta version), several pharmaceutical companies have shortened enrollment period by two months, reducing costs by about 45 million yen.

    Information matching platform smt (Search My Trial) for general consumers

    Smt is a service that matches patients, families and general consumers seeking information on new treatments and drugs on the web with all clinical trial information in Japan. You can not only specify on clinical trial information that is appropriate for your own or your family’s situation but also the neighbourhood in which the relevant clinical trials are conducted (*The name of the medical institution is usually masked and only area information is available). This will open a new pathway for patients in the sense that they could participate in “clinical trials” as a new option other than the treatments they are getting from a general doctor.

    Major Issue in the Industry: Low Availability of Clinical Trial Information

    Clinical trials play an essential part in ensuring that new drugs are safe and effective. However, with only limited sites providing information on ongoing trials, it proves to be a challenging task for patients who are not satisfied with their current treatments to look up new trials that may be lifechanging for their conditions. The number of clinical trials conducted in Japan is increasing annually and 693 clinical trial plans were notified in 2017 (National Institute of Health and Medical Technology Pharmaceutical and Medical Devices Agency https://www.pmda.go.jp/review-services/trials/0014.html). Among them, 136 are undergoing clinical trial plan submissions showing that many new drugs have reached the clinical trial phase every year. Furthermore, there has been a shift of trends for drug development for treatments towards untreatable diseases such as cancer, dementia, psychiatric diseases, childhood diseases, rare diseases, gynaecological diseases, etc. These drugs may be the only chance for some patients in later stages of diseases and without efficient conveyance of information to these patients, they may just miss their chance to treating the disease and prolonging their life. Therefore, based on the current situation, we have released trial matching platforms smt and puzz in order to eliminate the information gap between patients, pharmaceutical companies and medical institutions. Not only will patients receive the information on new drugs efficiently, but the drug development cost will also be lowered due to the participant referring.

    Comments from Takateru Inokawa, CEO, Buzzreach Co., Ltd.

    At the moment, relaying information on clinical trials to patients accelerates development leading to a reduction in development costs, and more than anything else, new options and hope to patients. Patients are also given full transparency of new drug development status that pharmaceutical companies are working on. We provide puzz and smt (Search My Trial) to connect as many new clinical trial information to people suffering from illnesses. Although there are several companies specializing in recruiting patients for clinical trials and most of them have registered members, those registered members are just awaiting clinical trials for their particular disease since most information on clinical trials is not open to the public. On the other hand, most trials are delayed due to the lack of participants. In order to close this gap, we will open clinical trial information registered on our platform to various companies, media and organizations to improve the availability of this information to the people. Clinical trials are an essential part of the future development of healthcare in Japan. Patients who participate in the trials are representatives of the disease. There are hundreds and thousands of people who suffer from similar conditions who have no clue about clinical trials. We hope that more people will learn about clinical trials, participate in them and contribute to the further development of healthcare as much as possible.

    Fundings

    In December 2018, approximately 50 million yen was raised by third-party allotment, led by KLab Venture Partners Co., Ltd. With this funding, we will focus on other services that focus on patients seeking a better environment than the current IT-based environment, as well as expanding the current puzz and smt services we have released this time.

    Future Business Developments

    In order to provide patients with better treatment options, we will develop a service that delivers optimal information for each patient with the provision of clinical trial information. In the spring of 2019, we plan to connect investigators and participating patients, release a patient management app that solves various problems, and start creating a community where patients and pharmaceutical companies connect with each other based on “clinical trials.”

    Contact us

    Please feel free to inquire using the form below. We will respond as soon as possible between 9:30 and 18:30 (Monday – Friday Japan Tokyo time).

  • Problems with Lifestyle Habits and its Long-Term Effects

    According to the demographics of Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare in 2017, the top killer of the Japanese population is cancer, followed by heart disease, brain vascular disease, old age and pneumonia so what do these diseases have in common? Like most diseases, it all comes down to personal lifestyle habits. There may be arguments that genetics is also an important factor that may increase the risk of disease but excluding genetics, lifestyle plays quite a big role in the quality of life.

    Figure 1: Causes of Death Among the Japanese Population

    1. 1. Lifestyle Habits that Lead to Diseases
    2. 2. Issue Regarding the Lifestyle-Related Diseases Market
    3. 3. DTC (Direct to Consumer) Marketing
    4. 4. Contact us

    Lifestyle Habits that Lead to Diseases

    When a healthy person acquires irregular lifestyle habits such as lack of exercise, inappropriate eating (calories, salt, excess fat intake), stress, drinking and smoking, it may accumulate to increase the risk of acquiring lifestyle-related diseases such as obesity, high blood sugar, high blood pressure and lipidemia. During this period, if measures are taken and the person follows specific health instructions daily, there is still a high probability for prevention of disease. However, without proper steps taken, the disease will aggravate and progress further to become visceral fat syndrome and hypertension. During this stage, drug treatments are already needed in addition to lifestyle changes to prevent further aggravation but not all patients will have the will to follow these instructions. If diseases persist, they may progress to severe complications such as ischemic heart disease (myocardial infection, angina pectoris), stroke (brain haemorrhage, cerebral infarction) and diabetes complication. This is where care is needed to aid the person in performing life functions since they may be half body paralysed and having conditions that interfere with daily life like dementia. From these, we can clearly see how small lifestyle changes can lead to major impacts not only towards a person’s health but also the country’s economic particularly the medical cost.

    Figure 2: Lifestyle Habits that can Lead to Disease Progression and Measures taken by the Healthcare Industry to overcome this.

    Steps Taken by the Healthcare Industry to Overcome this Problem
    To overcome this predicament, the healthcare industry has put in a lot of effort into promoting the maintenance of a healthy lifestyle. By providing health management support such as dietary instructions, exercise therapy and manufacturing of health foods etc., they help people manage their daily lifestyle and avoid acquiring an irregular lifestyle. People are also encouraged to perform medical check-ups annually and prevent from smoking and drinking.

    Issue Regarding the Lifestyle-Related Diseases Market

    A major issue for lifestyle-related diseases market is the low visit rate during mild disease periods. This may be due to people taking conditions lightly since medical costs are high or ignorance. Good examples are dyslipidemia and high blood pressure where 97% and 70% of the patients are untreated respectively.

    Figure 3: The Percentage of Treated (Blue) VS Untreated (Orange) Patients of Various Diseases including Diabetes, High Blood Pressure (Hypertension) and Dyslipidemia (From left to right)

    Pathways Patients Take after Disease Onset
    When a healthy person is contracted with a disease or illness, there are several pathways that the person will take. If the patient is knowledgeable, he/she will first collect information on the disease and look up medical institutions available that can treat the disease. From there, he/she will either visit a specialist who will give a proper diagnosis of the disease and provide proper treatment or just a general hospital or clinic where they will be advised. However, as stated above, there is usually a low visit rate if the disease is mild or only during the early stages. For these people who are not admitted into hospitals, they will either just get over-the-counter (OTC) drugs (medicines sold directly to a consumer without a prescription from a healthcare professional) or not get treated which is not advisable.

    Figure 4: Possible Pathways taken by Patients after onset of Diseases.

    DTC (Direct to Consumer) Marketing

    Therefore, to increase public awareness of diseases and the new drugs that are arriving in the market, pharmaceutical companies are currently using the DTC (Direct to Consumer) Marketing. Public awareness of the disease will first be raised by dissemination of information to media and medical consumers via publicity, web sites, advertisements, civil open lectures as well as health events etc. Market researchers will then contact physicians to further their knowledge on the disease as well as introduce them to the new drug. This will allow physicians to have better understanding of the drug so that they can prescribe the drugs better to future patients, promoting patient consultations. This will not only provide the patients with the most updated information of new drugs that may aid treating their disease but also secure a stable market for pharmaceutical companies so further research can be done to improve current treatments.

    Contact us

    Please feel free to inquire using the form below. We will respond as soon as possible between 9:30 and 18:30 (Monday – Friday Japan Tokyo time).

    Reference:
    Figure 1: Demographic statistics of Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare 2017
    Figure 3: Tokyo Comprehensive Health Insurance Association Council (Toshokyo), available online at: http://to-so-kyo.org/?q=node/1063
    Figure 4: DTC Marketing / Furukawa Takashi Quote from Kirishima Pass