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What it means to be part of a collaborative B2B agency: An interview with Ken Saito

Night time streetscape of Japan

As B2B customers become increasingly global and ask for more from their agencies, international collaboration between agencies has never been more crucial. Even large agencies don’t have everything that is needed to meet such demands. Being a part of BBN – the world’s B2B agency couldn’t come at a better time.

What’s the big deal? Being a part of BBN means that an agency in Denmark can tap into the brains and expertise of its colleagues in Japan – or in 25 other countries, for that matter. This provides the capabilities to deliver experience relevant to the local market, navigate cultural nuances and, if needed, bridge the language gap.

Big names

Based in Tokyo, ImpactM provides top-notch agency services to mainly IT-based clients including Microsoft and IBM. General Manager Ken Saito has more than thirty years of marketing experience under his belt and leads a team of about 40. His career in advertising has seen him work with one of the world’s top advertising and marketing organizations in New York, Wunderman. With a portfolio that covered big names like Microsoft, Dell and Coca Cola, having Ken as part of BBN is truly an asset.

Culture club

Japan is still a very traditional country with conservative ways of doing business; typically preferring face-to-face meetings in Japanese. On an international level, cultural differences can cause much uncertainty, for example, a simple nod can easily be misinterpreted – it doesn’t necessarily mean an agreement with your views. While innovation and business growth are usually encouraged when conducting business, the Japanese generally don’t appreciate drastic change and prefer to take their time.

Ken commented: “As an agency, we know to sometimes take it slowly with our clients. We want to see them grow, of course, but it often needs to be one step at a time.”

These sorts of insights are highly valuable for potential clients wanting to tap into the Japanese market. On-the-ground experience is worth its weight in gold.

Doing business

Japan is one of the biggest retail markets in the world, accounting for more than 55 percent of the whole Asian retail market. As the number of international visitors to Japan increases (it almost tripled between 2013 and 2017**), so too, has its export and business opportunities. In 2016, Japanese export was valued at $688 billion – but it’s not all about exporting high-quality products to the world’s consumers. As the fifth largest importer in the world, Japan imported $575 billion worth of goods in 2016***.

Digital in a traditional world

Digitalization is currently very hot in the marketing world, yet while digital media is gaining serious traction in countries like the US and China, the uptake in Japan is not quite the same. This may come as a surprise considering that Japan is often associated with breakthrough, forward-thinking technology and products. Especially when considering world-famous – and Japanese – brands like Toyota, Uniqlo, Sony and Canon. Despite those associations, the preference for traditional offline media like television and print ads is still where the biggest part of the media budget is spent.

Local matters

When it comes to corporate citizenship, Ken thinks it’s a big deal for corporate brands – and a lot of Japanese companies help victims of natural disasters, a common occurrence for a country that straddles volatile tectonic plates. While locals like the idea of making a contribution to society, sustainability is not yet a big influence on buyer decisions. Buying online and getting the best deal are key motivators for its 127 million consumers*.

Industry booms

Japan has a high demand for foods imports, as it has a low self-sufficiency rate. Back in 2008, the United Nations reported that 61% of all food consumed in Japan was imported and speaking to Ken, this still rings true today. But not all food is imported. Rice is a staple in the Japanese diet, and a notable exception as it is farmed locally. And while locally-grown produce is more expensive than its imported counterparts, white-collar professionals tend to prefer it. The Japanese are proud of their food culture and Ken believes that the food industry is the key industry of the nation.

Construction is also a growing industry, as the international spotlight will be on Japan as host of the 2019 Rugby World Cup and the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games. 2020 is a key date that many Japanese companies are working towards – but who knows what the future will hold after that?

Fresh ideas

One of the drivers for impactM’s decision to join BBN is to provide opportunities for foreign companies wanting to break into the Japanese market. New ideas are always welcome at impactM – and these often arise from case studies BBN agencies present to one another. Across the globe, BBN agencies share their stories and ideas in an effort to inspire and collaborate – and it works! Ken and a handful of other BBN agencies meet weekly and he finds these regular interactions with colleagues around the world bring a breath of fresh air to impactM.

Ken and his enthusiastic team in Tokyo are ready to take your company to the shores of Japan, one of the largest retail markets in the world. And they’re backed by literally hundreds of his international colleagues through BBN.





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Pha Khem

My career moves to date have taken me from my home town Melbourne, to London and finally to Copenhagen where I work as a copywriter and project manager for cylindr. I’ve worked in both the public and private sector, quite often capitalizing on my communication skills. My interests lie in public health, sustainability and corporate social responsibility. As a qualified dietitian, I enjoy working with food chemistry and human physiology yet can lend a hand with writing highly technical copy for a wide mix of industries.