Expert Insight: 'Look At Not Just Your Brand, But Also The Purpose Of Your Users'

We talk to Akira Mitsumasu, VP of Marketing and Strategy Research, Japan Airlines


Ahead of his presentation at the  Digital Marketing Innovation Summit in Hong Kong on April 26 & 27 we spoke to Akira Mitsumasu, VP of Marketing and Strategy Research, Japan Airlines.

Akira joined Japan Airlines in 1989 and has previously been responsible in the company for passenger services, network planning, international affairs, business development in China and internal auditing, before taking on the role from June 2014 as VP for marketing and strategy research of JAL's Asian and Oceania region. Akira holds a DBA from Hitotsubashi University in Tokyo, where his research was on parent and subsidiary relationship of Japanese corporate groups.

What are the main qualities of a successful marketing strategy?

As with any strategy, one important thing is that it should be synergistically executable so that it allows your organization to utilize resources and core competencies coherently and effectively. Asking some basic questions such as, are data analytics and marketing insights applied effectively to foster customer experience innovation as well as influence customer behavior? Do we have compelling value offerings that are then also effectively communicated to target market segments? Do intriguing and captivating pull marketing messages draw attention to allow push marketing messages to become more relevant and receptive? and so forth, may be a good start in checking and identifying areas where synergies are weak, and where more coordination is required.

Another important quality is an awareness concerning the role your company plays within the ecosystem. This could be on an industry level, regional level of functional level, such as one's role within the realm of thought leadership or technology. Because ecosystems evolve and are in today's world increasingly susceptible to game-changing disruptions from things such as innovative technologies and diverse consumer behavioral changes, it is important to regularly benchmark your company's role against the evolving changes, and check whether your organization has critical competency gaps. This awareness will prompt you to think of how you want to shape the ecosystem, and hence how you want to source or organically build your organizational capabilities.

How do you think the role of a strategist is changing in the age of digitalization?

The age of digitization sees more and more people wanting to be part of this massive data flow because collectively it is greater than what any individual person can possibly be. With more data being fed into the system, with faster computing power and better algorithms, systems are capable of offering answers to question more accurately than one's own judgment, which as we ourselves well know, is often prone to cognitive biases and bounded rationality. As a strategist in marketing, therefore, one may need to rely more on data analytics, behavioral economics, neuro-science and so forth. It is perhaps still arguable that much of a strategist's role - for instance from mobilizing core competencies to constructing multiple scenarios - remains not much different. But what has changed dramatically is the speed and pace in which strategic decisions need to be made today.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given for marketing strategy implementation?

The best piece of advice I have been given was from a marketing lecturer who reminded me of a very fundamental objective of marketing, and that is to influence behavior. My brand awareness campaign video may evoke emotions, the creatives used in my sales campaign may go viral, but if they do not in any way influence consumer behavior such that they contribute to achieving the marketing objectives, they are not good marketing. This focus on influencing behavior has been helpful to me because it has prompted me to seek consumer insights - such as in framing and mental accounting and heuristics - on triggering behavioral changes.

How can companies remain agile with their brand, whilst also having a clear vision and firm core principals?

All brands have their own raison d'etre, which should not be too rigid in that it becomes archaic, out of touch and irrelevant, nor too flexible in that it becomes everything but what it does well. True, firms need a clear vision and core principals whilst at the same time remaining agile. My approach to attaining this dual goal of relevance and excellence is to zoom out of the customer journey, and look at not just your brand, but also the purpose of your users. We live in an increasingly modularised world, where given transparency of information, consumers can construct their own personalized value ecosystem by cherry-picking the modules that fit their purpose. Seen this way, a brand is simply something that fits well into the purposed customer journey. Understanding the purpose, therefore, is a crucial activity in revitalizing a brand and making it relevant in serving that purpose.

What are the biggest challenges when building a marketing strategy in 2017?

We know that we are living in a fast-changing world where the equilibrium constantly shifts with the emergence of new ground breaking IT and life-science technologies. But yet mind-sets are slow to change and routinized inertia is too often found in many organizations. The biggest challenge, therefore, comes from how we keep up with the fast-paced changes, how we un-learn and re-learn, and how we redefine our raison d'etre as a brand.

You can catch Akira's presentation at the Digital Marketing Innovation Summit in Hong Kong on April 26 & 27.


Read next:

How To Create An Effective Wireframe That Will Simplify Your Design Process