Practical Perspectives

Blog & News

Amsterdam Canal with Tour Boat on Fall Day

Selling the Value of New Technologies

The airline industry does a masterful job of selling travelers on the destination, not the actual bundle of services its companies provide in getting you there and back. Their evocative communications show sundrenched beaches, iconic architecture and carefree vacationers having the time of their lives and creating lasting memories together. I took the photo above during a business trip to Amsterdam in 2017, and it reminds me of the picturesque Sunday afternoon walk I was able to squeeze in among a week of meetings. Not surprisingly, I didn’t photograph the security line at the airport on a Saturday night, waiting

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Entrepreneur in Frankfurt Train Station

What ‘Close to the Customer’ Means Today

The picture above was taken just after the weekday rush hour in the Frankfurt Am Main train station. The people, symmetry, shapes and colors in the composition caught my eye immediately. For me it’s also a perfect metaphor for customer closeness, where the man in the snack shack stands literally in the stream of people that buy from him, every single day. Many solo entrepreneurs like him have the benefit of talking directly to prospects and customers regularly, and gathering continuous feedback about their offerings, pricing, communications and overall experience. However, as businesses grow in size and complexity, only a

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Milan Faces

Is Differentiation a Lost Art?

Pharmaceutical marketing is a sea of sameness in which clever key messages, celebrity spokespeople and p-values do not compensate for poorly differentiated products. Do marketers and their agencies simply fail to understand their customers, or do they really believe that the science will sell itself? I concede that one major difficulty in differentiating an Rx brand is that the product itself fundamentally doesn’t change during its brief patent-protected life. Uses may expand, formulations may be tweaked, new data may be generated, and patient support programs may be created—but it’s the same medicine with the same properties it had on launch

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Newton balls, orange and silver

Solving the Perpetual Pilot Problem

While working at several leading biopharmaceutical and medical device companies over the past twenty years, I participated in hundreds of ‘innovation’ pitches from internal colleagues and external suppliers of all types. It was sometimes frustrating for me to sit through their presentations without intervening to help improve the offering, the value story and the marketing communications. I’ve lived the ‘perpetual pilot problem’ firsthand, and below are a few of the lessons I’ve learned that may help others avoid the trap of dead-end pilots that are rarely measured and almost never make it to scale. Life is Short. A Marketer’s Time

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Philadelphia skyline in Fall

Selling Innovation (Change) inside Big Companies

I’ve lived most of my life in the Northeastern part of the US, and autumn is a special time of the year. Despite a few weeks’ delay likely due to climate change, most of us still look forward to the change of seasons and the fall colors that paint the trees like dominos falling from north to south. I took the photo above a few years ago in Philadelphia, and each time I look at it I hear that classic Hall & Oates song. Change is natural and inevitable, and humans have adapted for a very long time. In the

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Artist in London Waterloo Graffiti Tunnel

You Can’t Step in the Same River Twice

There is a secret place just next to an underground car wash, which itself is just next to the busy Waterloo train station near the Thames River in London. Even if you know what you’re looking for, it may be difficult to find. It’s known as the Graffiti Tunnel on Leake Street, and I took the photo above on a Sunday afternoon a few years ago. If you can survive the fumes from spray paint cans and nearby traffic, you’ll see thousands of modern cave paintings by artists who come there to express themselves every day of the week. If

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Amsterdam Rijksmuseum Fountain with Boy

Photography Principles, Reframed for Business

Thanks to smartphones and social media, most people now think and communicate in pictures. It seems that everyone is a photographer now. The smartphone revolutionized capturing images even more than George Eastman did with his roll film and Kodak Brownie camera, introduced over a hundred years ago. And social platforms provide virtual galleries and massive audiences for the kind of work that appeared only in real-life galleries and museums, for the elite, just a few decades ago. I started shooting photos in high school, when 35mm film was the only option. Because shooting film and making prints were both expensive,

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