5 Questions with Astellas VP Masaaki Usui

Based in Japan with offices worldwide, pharma company Astellas offers a strong brand promise: a commitment to the rigorous scientific and innovative work required to improve people’s health around the world. The company prioritizes certain therapeutic areas (urology, oncology, immunology, nephrology and neuroscience) while exploring new areas and opportunities for advancement.

The US headquarters in North Brook, Illinois, employs nearly 3,000 people. brandchannel had a chance to talk to Masaaki Usui, Vice President, Corporate Communications, about some of the insights that InterbrandHealth’s Best Pharma Brands uncovered around the role of brand in Japan and his vision for the future of the Astellas corporate brand.

brandchannel: Best Pharma Brands indicates that Japanese biopharma companies have strong equity in Japan but have difficulty translating them to global markets. How is Astellas tackling this issue?

Masaaki Usui: Astellas is a global company, with 17,000 employees worldwide and operations across Japan, the Americas, Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia Oceania.

We are currently advancing a multi-year corporate branding initiative designed to increase global awareness of the Astellas brand, enhance our global reputation and highlight our company vision—to be on the forefront of healthcare change to turn innovative science into value for patients.

bc: Are there lessons Japanese biopharma companies can take from Japanese companies across other industries that successfully grew into global brands?

Usui: Given the heavily regulated environment in which we operate, we can’t always look to how other industries are growing their global brand. Astellas needs to communicate its global brand story in line with the regulatory parameters.

As we continue to build our corporate brand globally, we will focus on telling the Astellas story in a consistent way, with one voice, to all our stakeholders around the world.

bc: In February Astellas launched an ad highlighting the corporate brand on CNN. What drove the decision to create the ad and how has it been received?

Usui: Partnering with CNN over the past three years has provided us a unique opportunity to tell our story in a visually compelling way.

This partnership serves as an integral component of our company’s ongoing global corporate brand campaign, focused on amplifying the profile and visibility of Astellas to key stakeholders.

The commercial was also a sponsorship opportunity for Astellas as it was timed to air in conjunction with CNN’s highly-acclaimed Heroes program, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary at the same time Astellas is also celebrating its 10th anniversary. Aligning the Astellas global brand with Heroes—which showcases the extraordinary contributions of everyday people around the world—was a natural fit as it aligns to our commitment to support the communities in which we work and live.

We extended our sponsorship this year, with the Astellas commercial featured prominently on the CNN Heroes microsite and social media channels [on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram], as well as our own online channels.

bc: Since 2005, the number of Astellas employees has grown by 60 percent. What is driving this growth and how does the company culture play a role in attracting top talent?

Usui: The company continues to evolve to adapt to changing market dynamics and best position itself for sustainable growth. Our continued success is fueled by our ability to respond swiftly and effectively to this ever-changing landscape and by continuing to embrace our unique way of working.

What makes Astellas special and helps us achieve success is our unique culture, which is built around “The Astellas Way”—our shared set of values that help guide our actions and decisions, with a focus on patients, ownership, results, openness and integrity.

Through these efforts, Astellas has been globally recognized as a top place to work by numerous highly respected organizations.

Awards include: Best Employers in the US by Forbes Magazine, Working Mother 100 Best Companies, Hispanic Network Magazine Top STEM Employers and Great Places to Work Institute and recognized as a Nadeshiko Brand by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry and the Tokyo Stock Exchange for excellence in providing opportunities for women, among others.

bc: What would you want healthcare professionals to be saying about Astellas five years from now?

Usui: We want all of our key stakeholders to recognize Astellas as a highly innovative organization, with an unwavering focus on meeting the unmet needs of patients.

We would also like our key stakeholders to view Astellas as on the forefront of healthcare change, turning innovative science into value for patients.

In addition, we want our key stakeholders to recognize that our R&D efforts are focused on the highest priority areas for patients, driving discovery forward to address unmet clinical and patient needs and provide medicines to individuals who have not yet received the benefit of existing and new science as part of their treatment.

This article originally appeared on brandchannel on April 6, 2016.

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