〈Branding x Marketing〉Nama・Okyaku Vol. 7 Opening!
The theme of Nama Okyaku (Customer Live) Vol. 7 was “Branding x Marketing.” 20 B2B marketers (5 of which were first time participants in Nama Okyaku) came to the Bigbeat play studio to hear our two speakers.
The first speaker was Imagina CEO, Yoshiki Sekino, who talked about branding, which has a close relationship to marketing. Then Bigbeat’s own marketing director, Mizuki Nogita, talked about the branding and marketing activities we are currently undertaking ourselves at Bigbeat.
Recruitment, Philosophy PR……A lack of proper branding leads to lawsuits.
Imagina, where Mr. Sekino is the CEO, is a consulting company that helps its clients raise the value of their brand and grow their business. Over 2600 companies both domestic and abroad have consulted Imagina about their branding.
Imagina was established 25 years in New York as a consulting company that primary focused on HR consulting. The rules of recruitment and HR management in Japan and the rest of the world are very different. They are many cases of Japanese companies expanding to North America and facing lawsuits due to these differences. According to Mr. Sekino “over 70% of Japanese companies that expand into North America have faced lawsuits from their local employees there.”
Why are there so many cases of Japanese companies being sued by their employees abroad?
Mr Sekino told the participants “Lots of companies design the words they will use for recruitment, their philosophy and management, and the outward PR separately. Really, they should be designed together. By coming up with them separately it leads to contradictions. These contradictions lead to disputes. While in Japan these contradictions might not cause issues, but they will in the diverse countries of North America.”
Why is it important to start your branding strategy from the roots?
It doesn’t matter how beautiful a shop you have or if you release a flowery advertisement, if your employees misunderstand your company’s vision, you will fail. By seeing a lot of these cases, what Imajina thinks is important is the philosophy of "the brand starts with the employees."
If your recruitment, training, management, PR, and branding are all intertwined, then you will have a company that has a distinct value that cannot be replicated. This is the branding strategy of Imagina.
The first task is making your companies concept and culture clear. Then you create the brand story, convey your company’s philosophy through words that create a common understanding and empathy. Then you build your recruitment strategy, reward system, and your management style. It is not a simple and easy process. Mr. Sekino explained “a company with less than 1000 employees will take at least 3 years and a company with less than 200 employees will take 2 years.”
The ideal situation would be making the company philosophy and value clear from the time it is establish. But many companies grow without making those clear and they expand abroad. When they go abroad, they can’t convey a philosophy and value to the local people and they hit a wall that causes them to withdraw. When you expand to places where the values are different, your message won’t convey the same way they do in Japan, which often has the mentality “it doesn’t need to be said.” So, its necessary to take the time and start branding from the roots.
The 2 points necessary in order to “win” through branding.
During his lecture, Mr Sekino shared his knowledge on building a branding strategy and how to recruit. He also shared the 2 things that Imagina does upon creating a commonly understood brand.
Mr Sekino explained “in order for you employees, stake-holders, and customers to have a common understanding of your brand, your story is incredibly important.”
You have to tell a story that conveys your values and philosophy in a way that makes it last in people’s memory. Just like how old folktales and parables last in the minds of adults who heard them as children. Mr. Sekino explained “there is no need for difficult and cool words. Having a simple and easy to understand story is enough.” From there you can have employees who the company’s brand story has been apart of them from the time they entered the company to the time they retire. This is the strategy known as “inner-branding.”
When a company with a brand story like the one above starts to convey its value outwardly though “outer branding” the consistent story will play a huge role. By turning the two wheels that are the consistent stories of your inner and outer brand, you will raise its value.
The second important thing is to “start now.”
There is a tendency to prioritize sales and business investments. But focusing on these priorities is not always the right thing to do. In other words, focusing on these priorities doesn’t make you different from other companies.
Mr Sekino exclaimed “because of this, the company who starts now will win.”
Then he continued to shared client stories and case studies of how Imagina helped with the branding strategy and know-how. The lecture ended in a great success.
The branding x marketing that Bigbeat is developing.
The next speaker was our own marketing director, Mr. Mizuki Nogita, who explained the current inner and outer branding that Bigbeat is currently undertaking.
But according to Mr. Nogita himself, “it’s pretty difficult.”
A brand is made up of the “brand identity” and the “brand value.” The awareness of your brand is determined by the state of those 2 parts. For example, when you see a Coca Cola bottle or logo, there is an image of coolness.
Mr. Nogita explained in order to build this image, “it didn’t end with just creating the bottle shape and logo. They had to get every employee to embody this image. And then continue to embody it. That continuation is very important.” At Bigbeat we embody our goals and strategies in the companies catch copy “business that tells a story.”
And we also give each employee the “DNA Book” which explains the vision and philosophy of the company in order to ensure a common understanding. But after talking with the employees, he found that the ideas of the individual employees and the ideas of our CEO, Mr. Yutaka Hamaguchi, differed from each other. This means that’s our inner branding has not penetrated into the company enough. In other words, there are a lot of changes that need to be made.
For our outer branding, we are deciding what is the story that our of activities must embody in them. These activities include things like Nama Okyaku, our corporate site, “Bigbeat LIVE,” our Facebook community “Okyaku,” and our owned media.
We are currently trying to make this easy to understand story though trial and error. When we find something that differs from the Bigbeat brand, we cut it off. We are trying to create a story that embodies our brand.
Marketing is the act of conveying your brand in an easy to understand way. What will make customers choose us? What kind of brand our we? In his final remarks, Mr Nogita explained “branding and marketing together are the activities you do to make sure your company is chosen.” He then proclaimed, “we are going to continue to turn these wheels and continue our branding and marketing.”
If you want to change, you have to act now!
After Mr. Nogita finished his lecture, we moved into the Q&A portion of the event.
During the Q&A the audience asked questions like “They say it is hard for large corporations to brand themselves, what is the reason for this?” and “What can you do to break away conventional way of doing things and change the mind of the company?” They also discussed their own experiences with comments like “At my company, where they overemphasize sales, we reformed by……” or and “I don’t really understand the difference between branding and marketing.”
Mr. Sekino explained “in large corporations the decision makers are surrounded by stake holders. This causes there to be a tendency to not make any decisions.” He also emphasized the importance of having a facilitator to solve this issue.
Mr. Sekino advised the participants “I think the facilitator has to be someone who is attentive can communicate with a variety of people.” On the difference between branding and marketing he explained “I don’t think there is a huge need to clearly define the two.”
The important point is that if you want to change something, then you need to start acting now.
The Nama Okyaku reception party!
Next came the reception party, which was the original concept for Nama Okyaku.
While eating and drinking, the participants were able to share information. Participants were able to ask Mr. Sekino questions like “how can I change my own company.” First time participants were able to meet other B2B marketers.
Nama Okyaku is not a place where we debate difficult topics. We build a common understanding of the topic and grow together through discussion. It is a place where the participants, the speakers, and the employees of Bigbeat are all on the same level, listen and enjoy the lectures, and look forward to making changes from tomorrow.