In the previous volume, Yoshiki Sekino, CEO of Imagina Inc., and Yutaka Hamaguchi, President of Bigbeat Inc. discussed the importance of branding and why so many companies are unsuccessful at branding themselves.
As businesses adapt to robotics and AI, it will also become the era where people ask what is the “value” created by human labor. The two discussed what are the roles of branding and marketing in this future business climate. (Photos, Author: Shie Iawasaki)
A mutually understood company philosophy and value through inner-branding is necessary for hataraki-kata kaikaku
Hamaguchi (H): I once heard from a monk that the “kyou”（経) in “Okyou”（お経） (Japanese word for sutra) comes from a Hindi word meaning “vertical line.” And the opposite horizontal line can be imagined as “time.” In the life of a human, time then can be imagined as a horizontal line. The vertical lines of Okyou act as pillars for this horizontal line. The kanji for kyou is a part of the word Keiei （経営） (Japanese word for management). I think that kyou is meant to represent a company’s philosophy and the ideology they are trying to follow. I believe that it should be the goal of branding and marketing to convey that kyou both internally and externally and to create a mutual understanding and sympathy. In order to create this mutual understanding and sympathy you must do both branding and marketing at the same time.
Sekino (S): I think that it’s exactly as you say. I really agree with you.
H: Management basically means running a business. In Japan, there are lots of companies where the management says, “we have to do it this way and we must not do that.” It could be said they were pushing a kind of aesthetically beautiful company culture. But now companies must think about the horizontal “time axis” of “employees working at companies and building their careers.” I think management must skillfully weave the vertical lines (philosophy and ideology) with the horizontal lines (Time = everyday running of a business)
By this I mean management must work with their employees as team, and while doing this they must have a mutual understand of that vertical line. We have also started working on inner-branding at my company.
S: What kind of branding?
H: We discussed it in our previous discussion, but hataraki-kata kaikaku (workstyle reform). In a few words “not being able to achieve work-life balance.”
S: Not being able to achieve work-life balance?
H: It’s a bit hard to convey. (Laughs)
When we say “work-life balance” we usually imagine trying to balance the time we spend at work and in our private lives. This isn’t what I mean. I want to manage in a way that will allow my employees to take the career they have built at my company and use it in their private lives and for their future. I want them to take the experience they have gained at work and use it in their private lives and vice versa. By doing this I want their work and life to become the threads in a skillfully crafted tapestry. This is the current management task that I have undertaken. I’m a little worried that I have not been properly conveying it to my staff. (Laughs)
S: I see.
But I think that is the kind of work-style reform we talked about in our last conversation.
Abroad there is the concept of taking your work and life and integrating them together. It’s called “work-life integration.” Instead of separating your work and your private life, you take the ideology you have built in your private life and use work to grow that ideology. Humans are unique on the fact that they are the only beings who can see the value in this.
The acceleration of the change in establishing a business will only get faster. Conveying your value the same way as before will only result in you being weeded out.
H: Last time we talked about how robotics and automation is becoming increasingly important in manufacturing. I think as AI and robotics get more advanced, the amount of work for middleman companies such as advertising agencies with go away. Instead of taking something that is on the right and moving it to the left and taking from the margins, we must commit to “creating a message that conveys the value of this company.” I think this will be the type of work that will be requested.
I think the work at the beginning and end will remain. Setting up the chairs at seminars for example. The middle part will be done by AIs and robots. (laughs)
S: That is also a type of work-style reform.
Even if labor time decreases, the same quality of work that takes a lot of time will still be requested only expected to be done in a shorter amount of time. I don’t think this will lead to an improved quality of life on the work side. If you do a bad job, then the machine that doesn’t complain 24 hours a day, 365 days a year will become the greatest rival for your job.
I think manufacturing mechanism will continue to change in this way.
It has become the era where more people are sharing cars. The information and publishing industries are also changing as well. Toyota, for example, has seen these changes and responded by creating new businesses. They are also making sure to explain the value of these businesses to the market. Unfortunately, many companies have not yet recognized the changes and are not preparing for them.
This is a bit of a different topic, but there are exhibitions abroad where Japanese manufacturers show off these manufacturing machines with really amazing functions. But, at the same time, they are very expensive. Then there are these Chinese and Korean manufactures that have manufacturing machines that don’t have as impressive functions as their Japanese counter-parts, but they are aware of the design trends abroad and are building very good-looking machines. And they are showing off machines that are cheaper. There are cases where the Japanese manufacturers are unable to explain the price difference and start explaining the functions from start to finish again.
Finding people that can think on their own and demonstrate creativity is becoming very important. But right now, the problem is that there isn’t the education in place that promotes growing this creative skill.
H: Along with the manufacturing industry, the business model of IT companies is going through a big change as well.
In the past, you would sell some system for how many trillions of yen in a 5-year contract. So even if it was short, you knew you could survive for at least 5 years.
But monthly subscription services have become more and more common. The past model doesn’t work very well now.
People will end their subscription over your call center and email correspondence being too slow. Because of this, it has become necessary to create a value that will keep customers from ending their subscription service. In addition to internal training, you have to consider marketing measures from the branding idea of how to convey the value. This is the current task of marketers.
S: I think “how do we make new customers?” and “how do we build our marketing and branding?” will become much more common questions as time goes on.
I want to create a society that respects companies who have a passion for marketing and branding.
H: Mr. Sekino, I was hoping that you could tell me your goals and aspirations for the future.
S: My goal is marketing. (laughs)
Like with branding, we are getting a lot of request for advice that is close to marketing.
The survey tools and panels for that kind of advice already exist, but because they are mostly owned by large survey companies and advertising companies, it is very difficulty to get raw information. For that reason, I want to build my own survey and information panel. I think I want to work with marketing companies that I can trust and create branding and marketing strategies. I also want to work with Bigbeat as well.
H: We would be happy to work with you.
S: I also want to create an organization that looks at companies that have a passion for branding and marketing, judges them from variety of viewpoints, and then awards them for their that passion. These types of organizations tend to focus on larger companies because they have the resources, but there are a lot of startups and midsized companies that are working very hard. I don’t want to judge them using the same vectors as a large company. I think it would be interesting to create new indicators and let the general public come to learn about branding and marketing. I want to work with Bigbeat in this goal as well.
H: That would be great. I would be really happy if we could talk more about this again.