Bristol-Myers Squibb Turns to Tuck for Help Launching a New Marketing Initiative

By Betsy Vereckey

15 August 2019

When executives at Bristol-Myers Squibb decided to update their brand planning framework, they wanted to develop a training curriculum for their marketers, hoping that it would help the marketers hone their own capabilities and provide them with valuable insights and guidelines.

Senior leaders began looking around at business schools with executive education programs that could customize their teaching to the company’s specific goals, all while speaking the language of the pharmaceutical industry—not an easy task. After an extensive search, they landed on Tuck.

“We were impressed with the caliber of Tuck’s faculty, their ability to design a program that fit our specific needs, and how they customized it for our different geographies,” said Jodi Thrasher, the company’s commercial strategy and operations lead. “Tuck’s approach wasn’t just a textbook PowerPoint presentation—it was designed specifically for us, and it had real meat to it.”

Bristol-Myers Squibb’s two-day program is led by Kevin Lane Keller, Tuck’s senior associate dean for innovation and growth, who had previously participated in custom executive education programs for Coach (the retailer now known as Tapestry) and Hasbro, the toy and game company.

For this program, Keller said it was crucial to have a program for marketers that was designed specifically with pharma in mind.

“With Bristol-Myers Squibb, we were dealing with an organization defined by science,” he said. “Marketing is very different for them compared to other companies. The whole program is pharma-applicable, with examples and concepts relevant to them.”

Keller relied on his own research and experience—as well as that of fellow faculty members Peter Golder and Praveen Kopalle—to help Bristol-Myers Squibb put together a marketing foundations course that was both practical and rigorous. It was also crucial that the course touch on many key topics, such as strategy, execution, measurement, and core marketing concepts that would serve as the underpinning for the new planning framework.

“There’s so much involved in the brand planning process with pharma,” Keller said. “Most importantly, they have to address the specific disease state and the side effects a drug has, then take that information and position it in a way so that patients and physicians can understand it.”

Tuck has run the program for Bristol-Myers Squibb in Princeton, NJ, as well as overseas in Paris, London, Shanghai, and Tokyo. Since the program started the company has placed around 250 of its own marketers—both those with previous marketing experience and those without it—through the two-day session, including Eileen Emison, who works in the company’s Princeton office.

Emison, who attended the program in the spring of 2019, said she came in with a keen interest in marketing data and analytics. While at the program, she learned about customer identification, forecasting, marketing excellence and more.

“The program was jam-packed,” Emison recalled. “There was a nice mix of classroom lecturing as well as group activities that allowed me to get to know more people within the Bristol-Myers Squibb organization.”

Emison was also impressed with how the professors taught and the way that they made themselves available during breaks and lunchtime for additional questions. “It’s not just lecturing—the professors are very hands-on and keep the audience engaged.”

Now back in her day-to-day life at Bristol-Myers, Emison still refers back to her notes for guidance when she finds herself stuck on a marketing problem.

“When we were doing our 2020 brand planning, I went back and looked at the information we learned about forecasting,” Emison said. “Each time I’ve reread my notes, it’s been a helpful refresher for me.”

Learn more about custom programs at Tuck Executive Education today.

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