It is little wonder, given dentsu X has operations in 13 Asian markets, and more recently Europe, that its executive team would be theorising best practice for client strategies looking to take brands from East to West.
Historically fraught with problems, and the subject of contention between branding experts for many decades, the answer has always been – have different things, in different places, and have different strategies everywhere.
In addressing an audience of advertisers and marketers at Advertising Week Asia, in Tokyo, Sanjay Nazerali, Global Chief Strategist at dentsu X, the first global agency born out of Tokyo told how his agency defies this approach.
“At dentsu X,” said Nazerali, “we wanted to look at how you could take the best from here (Tokyo), the best from there (Western practices), and create something very different.”
One handbag, two radically different approaches
Nazerali summarised the problem faced by global marketers through an analogy of a luxury handbag being purchased by two women, one in Tokyo, one in New York.
The woman in New York buys the handbag as a symbol of individuality, success and as a means of standing out from the crowd.
Conversely, the woman in Tokyo buys the same handbag but for different reasons: symbolic that she belongs and is part of the crowd of the same group of people.
One handbag. One global brand. Two very unique consumer identities requiring fundamentally opposite marketing strategy. One ‘me’, another ‘we’.
“These differences are so much bigger than one of a brand, or brand marketing. These are the differences of culture, and they form our identity as people.”
“In US marketing strategies we are always going to celebrate the individual, we’re always going to celebrate the entrepreneur and the lone hero. Here (Japan) we try to do things differently. We celebrate the notion of family and a sense of unity, to try and understand how we can bring people together as a community.”
The SUV problem
To bridge the East Vs. West gap dentsu X follow a simple but unique problem-solving modus operandi. dentsu X looks at tensions faced by consumers, rather than solving problems based on a specific consumer identity like those found in briefs.
“Suppose you think about a problem that exists in the world before you actually think about people,” said Nazerali, who clearly illustrated this strategic approach by demonstrating automotive challenges over the last couple of decades:
– People have kids, are married and have good jobs but do not feel old enough to use the cars traditionally available for that group of people (people movers).
– The vehicle serves the purpose for their needs but makes them feel old.
– Tension in this problem = I have the life that requires me to have a people carrier, but I don’t want to feel old in the process.
The tensions faced by consumers saw the automotive industry give birth to the SUV, an incredibly successful category. Vehicles in this category are now purchased across all regions by an audience agnostic of gender or aspiration.
“You can buy them for $30,000 or $300,000.” And the beauty of all of this said Nazerali, is that “people who didn’t even have this problem started buying SUVs because they thought they were cool.”
Value over noise
Nazerali believes the approach of looking at tensions over consumer profiles will begin to “add value back into marketing.”
Such a change is particularly important when you see the slow growth of click-through rates alongside cases of ad blocking growing with increased fervency.
The Dentsu exec did not hold back in expressing his concern over the state of marketing and believes that the approach of focussing on tensions to create value could certainly help in the long term.
“By thinking about problems this way round we are able to solve problems rather than simply creating noise. We will be able to get much closer to the Japanese concept of Ikigai.”