Agile Media Network Inc., Ambassador/Blogger, Mr. Motohiko Tokuriki.
Bigbeat LIVE Speaker Interview #4
Agile Media Network Inc. Motohiko Tokuriki
Mr. Motohiko Tokuriki. Ambassador/Blogger, Agile Media Network Inc. (Agile Media), will speak at our B2B marketing event, Bigbeat LIVE, which is on August 2nd, 2019. After graduating college Mr. Tokuriki entered in a large company, according to him, he ‘changed jobs at the end of his youth’ and ‘wondered around troubled about what he should do.’ And then ‘blogging saved his life.’ during in his unique career.
Bigbeat’s CEO, Yutaka Hamaguchi interviewed Mr. Tokuriki, who now works as a blogger and marketer, about what he thinks is missing in the marketing of Japanese companies and usefulness of getting information out there as a businessperson.
The business career of Tokuriki where ‘blogging saved his life.
Hamaguchi (H): Thank you for agreeing to speak at this year’s Bigbeat LIVE. I think most of the attendees of the event will know your name, but could you give an introduction to your career and how you got involved in blogging?
Tokuriki (T): Well, my life was actually saved by blogging.
H: What do you mean?
T: After I graduated college, I entered NTT, but I hit a wall. So, with the end of my youth I quit my job at NTT.
At that time, I took a marketing class at Graduate School and won an award for the best report. After that I mistakenly thought ‘I can do marketing.’ But I didn’t do any job that involved marketing at NTT so there were no companies that wanted to hire me for their marketing departments. So, I tried a career reset and entered into an IT consulting company, but I ended up quitting in a year because the job didn’t match with me at all. Then I got a job at Ariel Network (Ariel). I entered the company’s marketing department. Everything I was involved in did not go well.
H: Why was that?
T: To make it short, I didn’t understand the job. For example, there was a case where we connected with another IT company and were making an announcement that we would cooperate with each other. I thought ‘since we are planning on cooperating with each other both of our CEOs should be treated on the same level.
Ariel had gathered excellent engineers and I didn’t put myself on the stage. I tried to show the engineers the appeal of our company, but it didn’t go well.
During that time, I didn’t know what I was doing and I was always troubled at work. But I kept thinking ‘as long as I kept working seriously, then my company will see that and recognize me.’ I never thought about going outside of my company and expanding my network. I was doing things the way they would do at a big company like NTT.
H: What made you change?
T: They hired someone with marketing experience and moved me to the product management department. I took all the excess energy and stress I had and put it in a blog. And the way I thought about work began to change and I started to expand my network. And work started to go more smoothly.
H: So that’s how blogging changed your life.
T: That and social media. It was around that same time the things like mixi and GREE (these are social networking services in Japan) had just been established. One of my friends invited me to join GREE and I was able to connect to other net venture people. I became friends with them and understood there were others like me.
The way I work took a 180 degrees and I started participating in networking events. And I started writing about it and getting the information out in my blog. And when I first started publishing my blog, I kept my name anonymous. But I eventually thought that it would be better to publish them under my own name and so I started doing that.
H: So, you became a blogger and started to get involved with Agile Media Network……
T: I became the CEO and then stepped down from that position 5 years ago to become the CMO. Now I have stepped down from that position to return to blogging. It’s a very strange career path. (Laughs)
The ‘Anti-stealth marketing’ that started at Agile Media.
H: There is a unique marketing service from Agile Media that uses bloggers.
T: In 2006, before the establishment of Agile Media, although it might be an extreme way of putting it , blogging hit a crises. That was because the so called ‘pay-per-post method,’ where you would pay a blogger 100 yen to write an article, became popular.
This resulted in blogs looking fake and gaining the image of stealth marketing. So, when Agile Media began its ‘anti-stealth marketing’ project.
Because I really enjoy communicating through blogs and blogging saved my life, I was really sad that blogging had been equivocated with stealth marketing. I wanted to create a place where I could convey that sentiment.
As a venture capital company, we have the responsibility of ensuring returns are made to the investors. But using ‘anti-stealth marketing,’ and this is probably a strange way of putting it, we could be the ‘white knight’ company in the industry. We could prove that we are a company that doesn’t fall to the dark side and is still able to succeed in its business. We took up that burden.
From the viewpoint of a blogger, it isn’t possible to have fun writing a blog about a company or product you have no interest in. I think that if you are going to write a blog about something, it is important that you find that thing interesting and you want to introduce it to other people. I think that writing articles for someone just because they gave you a coin is equivalent to selling your soul.
So, at that time when we had events where we gathered bloggers, we make sure not to pay any sort of thanks money or for their train fare. We held them like they were normal journalist events. If they are truly interested, then they would be willing to pay for the train fare. For this reason, and it is obvious, but they would only write an article if they wanted to.
But our clients and advertising agencies did not understand our way of thinking. I think the sales team really struggled. Our stance was that only gathering bloggers who were truly interested would result in articles that have the blogger’s heart and soul in it. But our clients would say ‘if we pay money and 30 bloggers come to the event, then we should expect there to be 30 articles written.’ So, I think the sales team had a really rough time at first.
H: Are they doing better now?
T: The social media boom really helped us. More people at corporations have begun to think the comments made by users aren’t ‘advertisements’ but an extension of public relations and communications. In other words, instead of making people advertise for your company, you engage with them and get them to become a ‘fan’ of their company.
During this process we have begun to focus on our ‘Ambassador Program.’ Now, the customers are beginning to use digital media and social media more and more. Companies are focusing on turning there already existing customers into ‘fans.’ They want those fans to become ‘brand ambassadors.’
They don’t only want to get new customers through paid media. They want to get new customers from their ‘fans’ posting about them on social media and the opportunity for this is increasing. Up until now, this strategy was mainly used in the BtoC world, but overseas BtoB have succeeded using this method. Japanese companies are now trying to use the strategy themselves.
What is necessary to learn how to think in a marketing way?
H: I am asking everyone this, but how would you explain the job of a marketer to a middle-schooler?
T: That’s a difficult question. I think I would the job of a marketer as ‘creating a market.’
And by ‘create a market’ I mean, for example, a new product is released, and the job of a marketer is to create people who will buy that product. ‘Marketing is creating a market.’ And I think if we were able to properly translate it, Japan would have a more developed marketing.
H: What skills do you need to do that job?
T: This is something that the CEO of Nestle Japan said, but Japan is a country that has focused soley on developing its sales and development skills, but largely ignored marketing. Sales and development are of course really important, but it often happens that those in management only have experience in one of those two fields. They usually have an embarrassing lack of marketing skills.
I think the original company founders would think ‘how do I grow my company?’ And they would think about the market and the customer and build their business around that. But as the company grows the divisions split and people tend to only work in their own departments.
On the other hand, companies that have well established marketing, engage with their employees to get them to see things from the managements point of view. Unexpectedly, it actually goes really well. For example, when the company Itoen expanded to America they put Mr. Kenichi Kakuno in charge of the San Francisco area. He is trying to develop the market for their green tea ‘Oi Ocha’ through trial and error. And I think that is the real meaning of ‘creating a market’ If there were more people like Mr. Kakuno , then I think companies would change.
H: Not increasing ‘marketers’ but increasing the amount of people who can do ‘marketing things.’
T: That’s right. There are of course CMOs in Japan, but I’m not talking about increasing the number of executives with a job title. I’m talking about people who can think about real things with a marketing perspective. Its important not to work from the top down but the bottom up.
H: How can someone gain the ability to see things from an overarching perspective?
T: I think if people start lives. And they have a tendency not to the leave the community outside of the compseeing their company as a complete separate thing from themselves then things would change quite a bit. For example, everyone says, ‘my company’ and that fills up their entire any they work at and their world view narrows.
I think if you can see yourself and the company as separated that you can develop the habit of seeing things from multiple perspectives. For me it was my blog.
Don’t fear change and start getting information out there yourself.
H: The topic of change has come up. It appears that a high percentage of college students want stability from the company they will work out. 36.6% of of college students who will graduate college in 2020 say the want to work at a ‘stable’ company.
T: I think that NTT, which is were I first worked out was stable. But if you only have people who are seeking stability enter a company, then that company will grow weak.
H: I think that ‘stable’ or long-running companies have to grow at a very fast pace in order to stay stable.
T: The P&G marketer Jim Stengel said, ‘fear of failure destroys organizations.’ I agree with that statement.
H: How do you want to change the future starting from now?
T: Right now, my main job is to enlighten companies about the ‘Ambassador Program.’ And I plan on using most of my time to doing that. I want to hear from the fans on how they want to communicate with the company and then through co-creation increase our number of fans.
At the same time, I want to find people who are like the way I was 15 years ago and tell them ‘there is a different way of doing things.’ Even as the presence of social media increases, there are still too many businesspeople who think ‘this has nothing to do with me.’ I think it’s a huge waste considering the communication tool that social media is.
We now not only have email and phones to communicate to people, we also have social media and blogs as tools for this. People can discover your existence and see the information you have posted. They can then be encouraged by that info or they can find joy in finding a new way of thinking. It’s amazing.
Because I realized that 15 years ago, I’m here today. Even if you are a ‘normal’ businessperson by getting information out there, someone may be able to help you find the solution to your trouble. Or someone may be able to find the answer to their troubles through your blogs or posts. I hope that my articles can motivate someone to start doing it themselves. And I think there are a lot of ‘normal’ businesspeople who can be save by it. I want to convey that sentiment.
H: Could you give a message to those who are attending Bigbeat LIVE?
T: The first thing I want is for the attendees to feel like they aren’t just simple ‘audience’ members. I think there is a tendency to think the speakers at these events are this great teachers and the you are just one person in a large audience. But in this day and age everyone can output information.
The speakers and the audience are on the same level. That’s how I want the audience to feel.
H: That’s actually why we gave it the name ‘LIVE.’ That’s what our goal is. (Laughs). Yours is the last session so I would love for you to stay after and talk with the audience. Thank you very much for today.