This snippet from Reuters posted earlier this week while I was listening to the Roche earnings call in Basle, which was a nicely put together presentation:

"Roche Holding AG overhauled the sales efforts for its best-selling drug, the Avastin cancer treatment, after the company “lost steam” during the fourth quarter.  

Sales of the medicine were hurt by a focus on selling it as a treatment for breast tumors, Pascal Soriot, the head of the pharmaceuticals division, said in an interview today.  The company beefed up marketing by assigning the sales team responsible for the Herceptin breast cancer drug to also promote Avastin, while the group that sells the Xeloda therapy will promote it for use against colorectal cancer, he said. 

“We focused on breast and then kind of lost steam on lung cancer a little bit,” Soriot said at Roche headquarters in Basel, Switzerland. “We’ll increase the promotional effort and I think we’re going to turn this around.”"

Sadly, though, this is not something that was unexpected, as many of us industry observers were secretly wondering how Genentech would fare once absorbed in the more conservative Roche system.  One is very science based and the other is more corporate.  

Just take a look at the two management teams and you get the big picture:

In the top picture, you see the Roche management team individually taken and in suits, but look like they have taken their ties off just for the photoshoot to make them a little less stiff and formal, perhaps. 

In the bottom picture, the Genentech management team, taken as a team in fairly casual attire, with the CEO, Ian Clark, even wearing a fleece!

A tale of two very different cultures in one quick glance.

What impact does this have on the physicians?  I asked around.  Now, lung cancer doctors are fairly academic and science based, many also do translational research, for example.  Underneath they are generally approachable, fun and always willing to answer questions or help people understand a complex topic. They're much more easy going than some of the other cancer specialties.

Which group do you think they would most likely mix with?

Therein lies the rub.  

Corporate suits may look sharp, but do they engage and have fun with the scientists, or even understand their world?  How much of a subtle impact might that have in the long run?  While it is true that in the end, all marketing is ultimately about sales, the intangibles such as how you approach it and engage with customers along the way is often crucial to success.

Time to stop drinking the corporate Kool Aid and focus on the science, methinks.