NEW YORK: Japanese online retail giant Rakuten has hired Group SJR for rebranding support as subsidiary Ebates’ name disappears.
Rakuten acquired Ebates for $1 billion in September 2014 to establish a U.S. foothold, according to TechCrunch. The deal also gave Rakuten the ability to offer similar rebates products and complemented its own shopping loyalty programs.
Now, Rakuten wants to eliminate Ebates’ name as it goes to market. SJR has been tapped for internal communications, rebranding, and repositioning, according to Kim Miller, CMO at Rakuten. She added that the rebrand should finish by Q4 2019.
"We did a lot of digital work up front to look at the awareness gap between Rakuten and the U.S.; it’s fairly substantial," Miller said.
She noted that while Rakuten is a "very large" company in Japan, in the U.S. it is just getting started.
"So we started there and said, ‘Knowing what we know about the gap in the U.S. today, what type of media spend would we need to put together and what types of programs to help close that gap as we get closer to pulling the trigger?,’" said Miller.
Rakuten gave itself a year to complete this project. Miller said the company is doing all it can to keep its existing customers through Ebates in the meantime.
About 15-20 SJR personnel in New York and Los Angeles will service the account. SJR was referred to Rakuten. The firm was brought on at the end of 2018.
"[Rakuten is] often referred to as the Japanese Amazon, but the fact of the matter is they think they’re one of the fastest moving technology innovators across a variety of categories, including retail," said SJR CEO Alex Jutkowitz.
Over the coming years, Rakuten will leverage its corporate partnerships with organizations such as the Golden State Warriors to close the gap. Miller said those partnerships will "deliver activations." Secondly, SJR will perform direct consumer outreach to reinforce "the fact we’re not changing," she said.
As for internal comms, Miller said Rakuten wants to ensure consistency in messaging to its staffers and merchant partners. Jutkowitz said SJR will handle work around its internal referral contest, Ebates on Ice.
"[SJR’s] ability to tell stories and focus on content and audience for that content resonated with us extremely well because it was something we didn’t do very well and it was something we needed a thought partner to help guide us through," said Miller.
SJR left H+K Strategies once the content shop’s earn-out period was completed at the end of 2018. Today, it operates independently of any company in the WPP family. Erin Gentry joined SJR as chief client officer in January.
Other H+K leavers that have joined SJR include MD Michael Lustina; account strategist Emily Landrieu; and director of account strategy Steve Hirsch.
More recently, SJR launched an internal consulting agency called Outside Minds, Jutkowitz said.
Outside Minds was created to bring fresh thinking to accounts that have been with SJR for at least a year. It’s a fluid unit that brings in different account personnel from across the agency for new perspectives. That way, SJR’s account teams and clients don’t get "too comfortable with each other and stop challenging themselves as much as they could," Jutkowitz said.
WPP’s PR and public affairs units generated revenue growth of 2.6% in 2018. However, like-for-like growth slowed to 1.2% in Q4.