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2019.11.25 Column

How community marketing could be the key for your marketing strategy in Japan -
“CLS in Kochi”

It is a fact that communities are everywhere in Japan. Both on personal and, especially, on business level, you are able find very active communities that fit your interests, niche in business, or even your favorite brand. 

If you are planning to break through the Japanese market you should indeed consider the establishment of a strong community around your brand as a part of your marketing strategy. The organization of networking events allows you and your ‘fan’ to engage together and build a stronger relationship. 

The subject of community is so deeply rooted in Japanese culture and business culture. Bigbeat decided to participate in a Community Event called “CLS (Community Leaders Summit)” in Kochi prefecture, which is in the Shikoku region of Japan, knowing the importance and power of community marketing in Japan. 

What is a community in Japan and why is it important for your marketing and branding advocacy?

The word "community" comes from Latin and means “a group of people which has the same interests and want to achieve something together”.  Especially at a business level, we can think about communities as people who loves and identify themselves with a brand. A group where the brand and the fan merge together and, in essence, become a “we.” True partners on the same level, and no longer “the brand and its customers.” Customer experience and engagement are the keys in community marketing. This is the main reason why the majority of brands in Japan decide to establish their own community and organize community events as a core part of their marketing and branding strategy. The community also becomes a larger part of their customer success and satisfaction strategy. 

While in Europe or in the US, we are more likely to deal with influencers, micro influencers and influencer marketing in general, the trends in Japan show that in order to engage, satisfy and make your customers a fan, the “community” is the right way.  

“Community Marketing domain” vs. “Local domain”

In Japan, an expert of community marketing is Mr. Ojima, author of Community Marketing. He was the first to introduce the theme of community marketing in various companies, such as Adobe and AWS (Amazon Web Services, Inc). For instance, he established the first community in AWS starting from almost nothing!
 
During the “CLS” community event in Kochi, he explained that in Japan communities can be described the graph above. According to the type of community, the domain of it varies. In simple words, local and more closed communities will be in the domain of local cities or administrations; on the other hands, more open and wide communities will be in the territory of community marketing. 

This is very important point when establishing a business community in Japan. 

Marketing and Community Marketing: a matter of cost and reach

Mr. Ojima has also explained how the cost and reach vary from a standard marketing strategy to a community marketing strategy. 
 
As you can see from the above slide, The left graph shows the cost (dotted line) and reach (yellow line) versus time of traditional mass marketing. The right side however shows the same graph only with community marketing. In a community marketing strategy, while costs raise gradually, they are still contained, and the reach grows still grows quickly. 
This means that if you wish to have rapid results with a contained budget, community marketing may be the key for your (and your customers) success in Japan. 

How to keep your community alive and spread it with Social Media.

Especially in B2B, keeping your community alive and growing can be quite tricky. 

We live in the digital era, where social media is useful for meeting new people, especially the so-called "generation y" (or millennials) and "z" and engaging with new fans as well as expanding your brand awareness. 
In this way, hashtags on Twitter, groups on Facebook, blogs or any other social media tools where potential fans can come into contact with a band and its community are useful ways to keeping engagement active. These are the platforms where community marketing excels best. They have the biggest basin of users and the engagement is easy and convenient. 

This was proven during the CLS Community event. We were asked to use Twitter or Facebook and share pictures, videos or quotes about the event before, during and after it, just using the #CLS高知 (CLS Kochi) and we saw high engagement. 

In this way, Social Media is also precious to keep under control how much information about your brand is being broadcasted and how your community is expanding.

Don’t forget the offline community events!


While Social Media is a great tool for community marketing, face-to-face interaction, networking and business card exchanging are still of the utmost important, especially in Japan. A lot of people think that online communication is the key factor for community growth because it seems scalable. However, in many cases, the first ignition point of community growth is offline communication. People tend to adopt the opinions of people they know in person. This is also true for gaining the trust of your fans. People tend to have more trust for those they have met in person as opposed to a faceless online entity.  So, the community should start from an offline meetup, then, you will be able to build the online communication space.

In brief, in order to engage and to make your community stronger, community events are fundamental, especially if your target is in the B2B area.

How a B2B Community Event works in Japan?


In Japan a community event basically consists of two main parts:

1)    A “study” session, where there is usually one (or more) panel discussion(s), followed by speeches or presentations by participants or sponsors of the community.

2)    This is followed by a group discussion and networking party, where community participants can meet and discuss with each other and network. In Japan, exchanging business cards is more than a simple action, it is an integral part of the business culture. So, do not forget your business card during the party! 

Communities and companies as Pollinators  


Have you ever observed a bee? It flies from one flower to another of the same species and helps the species to make new seeds. The same happens with companies and its communities. By participating in a community event, you can network with other companies, which at the same time are part of different communities and business networks. This helps to widen your own network and help other communities grow (Mr. Seto – NPO SOMA). 

Leaders, the key for your successful community. 


 During CLS Kochi, Mr. Ojima explained that, in Japan, you will find three types of members in every community:

•    Wannabes: these members are interested in the community and in the topics discussed in it. However, do not expect any output from them. They will just observe you from afar, mostly online.

•    Followers: they follow, participate both online and offline, and actively give concrete outputs to your community. 

•    Leaders: they are the keystones of the community. They are very big fans of your products/services and you will obtain various output from them. They are your brand advocates. They will even go as far as to organize offline events, and be the moderators of the online communities. What differs them from brand ambassadors is that they act on volunteer basis. 

A concrete experience of community event in Japan:

CLS in Kochi. The returning Bonito”. Why Kochi prefecture?

On October 19th, Bigbeat participated in “CLS in Kochi. The returning Bonito”, held in Kochi City, Kochi prefecture. Kochi prefecture, in the Shikoku region, is the hometown of our President and CEO, Mr. Hamaguchi, and it is currently suffering a severe aging population. The average age is said to 10 years ahead of other Japanese prefectures! In this sense, the prefectural administration is trying to create business opportunities for young people, especially in the IT and content creation industry: on one hand, they are also trying to promote local businesses (agriculture, forestry and fishing industry) outside the prefecture. On the other hand they want to attract more IT/content companies, and favor young people who can work with just an internet connection, thereby preventing them from leaving the prefecture.  

That is the reason why the CLS community event was born. 

Community Leaders Summit

CLS is the acronym of Community Leaders Summit and it is usually held twice a year in Kochi city. This event has the aim to gather all the leaders from Kochi prefecture who have established B2B and B2C communities around Japan. The majority of them belong to companies involved in the IT or technology business, but precipitants are also students and others from the prefecture who want to be active leaders in the promotion of their region. 

This time there were around 70 participants, and, thanks to the power of word-of-mouth, the community is constantly increasing every year. 
There were two main themes this time around:

1)    From Local to Japan. From Japan to the world.
2)    Training x Tech x Community.
 
During the day we had the opportunity to listen to some case studies by Mr. Hashimoto (Nulab Inc.) and Mr. Yokota (Classmethod Inc.). They told us how they established communities domestically and then “exported” them internationally both in Asia and Europe. They stressed the importance of finding good local leaders and engaging with people inside the community
As Bigbeat Inc. was a gold sponsor of the event, our marketing representative gave a presentation about how communities and community events can help your company engage with your more shy customers
 
The second part was a panel discussion between Mr. Yasumoto (Life is Tech, Inc.) and Mr. Seto (NPO SOMA) and moderated by Ms. Nishimura (HEARTH CATCH Inc.). They told us about how technologies can help create communities and help train people. It was followed by a sponsor presentation from Mr. Yokota (Classmethod, Inc.)  who talked about how IoT is changing our life and society. 

Between the two sessions as well as at the end of the event we had time for networking and exchanging business cards. 
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The CLS community event gathers more participants every time and the audience get bigger and bigger. And this will not stop. We should think of communities as pollinators, like bees. 

This event was a good chance to learn new things, but it also a good opportunity to better understand Japanese society and business culture. We could also see with our own eyes how much communities and events related to them are deeply rooted in Japanese (business) culture.  

Are you still wondering if establishing a community in Japan could be a good tool for your marketing strategy in Japan? Feel free to contact us for consultation!