At our 3rd annual Japanese B2B marketing event, we had breakout sessions themed ‘Think Local, Go Global.’ The first session of the breakout stage was focused on marketing done by local governments in Japan. This blog is a report on the panel discussion held during the second half of the local session, where we heard about who government marketing is for and how are local governments in Japan trying to attract new residents.
You can read about the first half here!
Mr. Hibiya: Government is supposed to value “equality.” Did you not receive a lot of resistance on your catch copy of “If you become a mother in Nagareyama City?”
Ms. Kawajiri: Governments are supposed to be organizations that exist for the people, so you can’t do something that benefits only one group. But in order for everyone to live happily, the town needs to make sure it has a sustainable source of money. When I proposed that copy, I explained that to the people who worked with me when it appeared I was favoring a specific group of people.
Mr: Hibaya: You were able to easily convince them?
Ms. Kawajiri: It took a lot of effort and convincing.
Mr: Okimoto: Was it difficult to get through the project? Did people ask things like ‘What about people who aren’t married?’ ‘Isn’t it rude to those who can’t have children?’ How did you respond when you got comments like that?
Mr. Uchida: I think people really get caught up on the ‘narrowing down a target.’ One of the roles of government marketing is to effectively determine the greatest common devisor. The citizens happiness being connected to that effectiveness. If you can’t effectively explain that factor, then you give an impression of exclusivity and favoritism. Governments don’t have a lot of marketing know-how and awareness, but you can not just use logic when explaining yourself. It is a lot different from the private sector where you are partly trying to bridge the gap between the company and the target.
Mr. Hibaya: Government marketing is not about prioritizing a specific group of people, but about conveying there is a more effective way. I would like to hear about how you all generally tackle this.
Ms. Kawajiri: When you are leading a project in a city office, it important not to make it appear like you are looking down on everyone. Nobody will listen to you if you do. Instead you need approach the project from the stance that you want to grow together with everyone. Get other departments involved on the project and carry a shared sense of successful. This is not only true with each department in the government but also the citizens. If they do not have experience or knowledge in marketing, find a way to connect with them through success.
Mr. Uchida: Getting everyone involved?
Ms Kawajiri: By getting everyone involved there is a lot of pressure on yourself to succeed, but people find what they can do, and they understand you’re the value of your goal faster.
Mr. Uchida: That is the same with citizens as well. Citizens are very sensitive about being talked down on from those in the government.
Mr. Okimoto: In Kochi Prefecture, during the previous governor’s time in office the organization chart for the prefectural government did not show the governor at the top of the organization, but instead the citizens. It was a really good chart and reminded the government employees that they were working for the citizens.
Mr. Uchida: You need to explain yourself in a way that is easy to understand. If you can't do that then the person you are talking to won’t open themselves up and you won’t be able to get them to work with you.
Mr. Hibiya: Moving on to the next big question: How to utilize marketing in government? Earlier Mr. Okimoto talked about those ‘who don’t understand the basics of marketing.’ It sounds like you are trying to convey those basics as someone who has worked in the private sector before.
Mr. Okimoto: Business will continue to proceed on its own, but if the ones who hold the keys to the budget don’t have enough knowledge about marketing, then they won’t be able to determine whether a good plan is actually good or not. And it becomes a problem for business if you do not have mechanisms for determining the results.
Mr. Hibiya: You can guarantee the success of a plan if it made up and executived by someone with outside experience, but a lot of times internal people who don’t necessarily know and understand the contents of the plan end up being the ones who evaluate it.
Mr. Okimoto: Something that I personally feel is a big wall is the competitive bidding system. Even if you are able to come up a good idea with somebody and they have a really good plan, you can’t work with them because they didn’t win the bid because of some point system. There is the proposal method where you hear presentations from people on their proposals. But then you get worried if these are people who get really high marks because they are good at giving presentations. It worries me that we can’t work with people who have real expertise in their field, and we want to work with because of these obstacles.
Mr Hibiya: The bidding system is necessary to ensure there is no favoritism in the government, but how do you get rid of the negative effects from it?
Ms. Kawajiri: I think I want to use this platform to ask you a question, how did you get the project from Shibuya Ward in Tokyo?
Mr. Hibiya: You really turned that around on me! Thank you for your question. In order to solve the current tasks and realize the vision of Shibuya Ward, we are engaged in the ‘Enliven the Region’ project. But it is a mostly private driven project that Shibuya Ward contributes to as a sponsor, lending two staff members that have connections and know-how.
Because there are a lot of obstacles and red tape in starting and running a publicly funded program, this is not specifically a Shibuya Ward run project, but is, instead, an outside project that they are supporting.
Mr. Okimoto: In Kochi prefecture we are also promoting business through collaborations with private organizations.
Mr. Uchida: We are doing that in Nagano Prefecture as well. This returns to Mr. Okimoto’s story, but I think that if we are going to get private citizens to more actively participate and demonstrate their expertise, then we as government marketers need to hone our own skills more.
Mr. Hibiya: I think that we need to discuss whether marketers in the private sector can follow a viable career path that leads them to working in the government.
Mr. Okimoto: I think there is a ton of opportunity. Kochi Prefecture has already lifted the minimum age for recruiting workers in the government. For example, we have hired someone who has experience in the IT sector because we needed them. In the same way, we need people with expertise in marketing.
Mr. Uchida: In my case I decided to quit my job at a private company and movre into government work. I theorized that there was nobody else looking for a job in government marketing that had over 20 years of marketing experience at a large private company.
In order to prove this to myself I went back to my hometown and got the opinion of a variety of people and discovered that a new department was being created in the prefectural government and with a little luck of timing I was hired.
Mr. Hibiya: I think if you are looking for a place where you can demonstrate your skills and expertise, then the government is a very viable option. METI (The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry) used to ‘recruit a bureaucrat a week.’ But is there the possibility of a non-regular staff member being able to a marketing job in the government?
Mr. Okimoto: Of course. For example, the IT person I talked about, that job came with a 5 year 'term limit.'. The term of office depends on the job and there is the possibility of changing to a long-term and continuous position.
Mr. Hibiya: Governments need marketers. I think I want to now ask a question that was not on our agenda. Mr Uchida and Ms. Kawajiri, you two both talked about opening up the process. What is the most effective way to get others to understand you and keep interruptions out of the process?
Ms. Kawajiri: You won’t necessarily succeed in the first promotion you do. But in the case, you do fail, it is important that you took the steps to ensure that the failure caused did not cause a lot of bleeding. If you can avoid any real damage, you can start another project that is again open.
In my old days, I cultivated was my ability to communicate with people and it helped me get others to understand my plans and goals better. We type the people we meet into 4 types and talk differently them according to that type.
Mr. Uchida: What you just said reminded me of something. I once heard a craftsman say there are three type of people: ‘those who want to try new things,’ ‘those who want to protect tradition,’ and ‘those who imitate people in power.’
Ms. Kawajiri: They divided people into certain types.
Mr Uchida: Our goal is to revitalize industry in the region. So we have to be able to get along with any group, and we need the ability to get others to understand us through communication. So, we must gain that ability through one way or another, whether it is through training, social events, or knocking on a thousand doors. Communication is one of the necessary skills you need in marketing.
Mr.Hibiya: Thank you very much for your answers. Let’s move on to the last topic, in order to get people to move to your region, what do you think is the most important point of view to have in marketing your prefecture?
Mr. Okimoto: I would really like to hear from you two on this. Nagano Prefecture has the highest number of inquiries about moving to your prefecture. (This is according to the Ministry of Internal Affairs.) Nagareyama City also has an increasing population. We have worked really hard to reach the top 10 for inquires in Kochi Prefecture, we are still looking for better measures to attract people.
What kind of measures do you think have been effective in Nagano Prefecture? In Nagareyama City, you had a clear target but I would also like to hear about the other contents of your planning.
Mr Hibiya: In Kamiyama City, they first focused on attracting people who wanted to run bakeries and cafes. But they couldn’t seem to find anybody who fit their profile. What kind of trial and era did Nagareyama City and Nagano Prefecture go through in your efforts to increase the population?
Ms. Kawajiri: I think it is really obvious in the private sector, but we thought about the customer journey. In order to get people to move to your city you have to take them through the steps: ‘become aware,’ ‘visit,’ ‘like,’ ‘live in,’ and finally ‘become a fan’ of your city.
Mr. Uchida: I am personally not involved in the strategizing for increasing the population, so I do not know the exact details. But I do think that one of the reasons we are at the top is because we have diversified the way we live, people who look in from the outside see our nature and food, and we have an abundance of the resources required to create an ideal life. For that reason, as I said earlier, you need to have and tell the brand story of your prefecture.
Mr. Hibiya: During my time at Sansan, a lot of local governments and NPOs visited to ask questions. But I remember thinking that everyone was just trying to copy the technique making and old house into a coworking space.
Ms. Kawajiri: I agree with you. In order to get people to move to your city or prefecture, you have to get them to understand your good parts. You can really utilize your marketing skills here. Improving the bidding system would certainly help, but I really think we need to bring in more know-how from the private sector.
Mr. Uchida: There is a really big business chance in the government. It has only been a few months since I started, but I have enjoyed meeting and talking to various people since I have joined my agency. If you are looking to expand your business chances, this you should come knocking on our door.
Mr: Hibiya: Our theme of the day has not just been about overcoming the wall between the private and public sectors and contributing but also about how you increase your own value, gain a new point of view, and stimulate yourself. It sounds like from everybody’s presentations that the government needs marketers and I hope our audience got that message. Thank you everyone for coming today.
You can read another break out session report here!
Below, you can read another stage reports;
|1st stage||2nd stage||3rd stage|
|Creating Customer Success||Organizations change with Empathy||establishing the core role of a marketer|
|Special stage: Global stage||Special content||Bigbeat LIVE|
|Overseas Expansion||Making the story - our original beer for Bigbeat LIVE||Marketing is the greatest tool of management|