Making more local brands global players a key target for new Kreab Japan head

Masami Doi recently became managing partner for Kreab Tokyo, as Jonathan Kushner stepped up to head the network across Asia-Pacific. Doi spoke to PRWeek Asia about his aims for the office and where he sees the biggest opportunities in Japan.

Masami Doi
Masami Doi

Regionally, Kreab has looked unstable for a prolonged period, with a number of senior level staff departures, most recently in December.

Jonathan Kushner, managing partner for Asia, is busy ensuring its offices in Hong Kong, China and Singapore collaborate to develop a more integrated offering in the region. 

Japan, however, stands out as a bright spot for the network. Its Tokyo office has grown consistently in recent years thanks to its positioning as something of a niche player in a market with few public affairs consultants, and the growing appetite for international expansion among Japanese companies.

Masami Doi joined Kreab as senior partner in early 2014 after a 30-year career at Toyota.

With experience spanning both marketing and communications at the automotive giant (he was most recently head of global communications), he has helped bring new business into the agency from sectors including IT, healthcare, manufacturing and asset management.

Why move to a relatively small agency after such a long period at one of Japan’s most prestigious companies?

Doi says having seen Toyota through what was perhaps its darkest period, beginning with the economic crash of 2008 through to mass product recalls and the factory supply stoppages brought on by the 2011 Tohoku earthquake, he was ready for a change.

"I asked the president to give me a break," he says. "I wanted another chapter in my life, so I came here to use my assets for government sectors, corporations, and to support local companies that have good technology [products].

"Toyota is a big company supported by small companies. These companies have good technology but don’t know how to sell it to other countries."

Kreab’s business in Japan is split between three main channels: the government sector (its flagship account is the Japanese government), the inbound corporate sector and the outbound corporate sector.

Supporting local clients and by extension local economies throughout Japan is an important part of Kreab’s growth strategy in the market.

Last year, Doi says, the agency facilitated investment from India into local cities through a client with an Indian joint-venture. It is now working with Japan’s cultural affairs agency to promote local art and traditional manufacturing to a global audience.

In terms of outbound clients, Doi says more effective crisis management and preparedness is the biggest area of concern.

Language is of course also an issue, and he bemoans companies that simply translate their websites or promotional materials directly and "dispatch to the global field".

He says more than linguistic differences, culture remains a barrier to going global — even for large companies.

Marketing and communications departments are rarely structured in such a way as to be effective outside Japan. Part of Kreab’s offering involves working to ‘globalise’ company culture.

Doi says he believes companies have replaced the media in having a duty to act as storytellers.

While the media still clearly has a role to play, Japanese companies are indeed putting more focus on content, and this has led Kreab to hire people from non-traditional backgrounds, including a TV director. Doi says former journalists are "attractive".

Looking ahead, Doi says given the number of business opportunities out there, his priority is to make Kreab more efficient.

People "are our only asset, but also limited," he says. The important thing is that Japan does not operate in isolation, but as part of the network, drawing on the resources of other offices when appropriate.

"Japan is changing, and companies should also be changing," he says. "We are changing in accordance with the market. We should have a more globalised eye."

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