|LIFE IN JAPAN
Marketing Manager for DirecTV
Time in Japan:
Where are you from?
What brought you to Japan?
DirecTV. The business, multi-channel digital broadcasting, is in its infancy here and a
few of us in certain functional areas were sent to lend insight into how to tackle common
problems of subscriber acquisition faced in the business.
What did you find most different about working for the same company in Japan as
opposed to the US?
The availability and sophistication of multi-channel programming is vastly different here.
Programmers need to address the consumer' viewing preferences and that varies by market.
Japanese consumers have a more international flavor to their television than the mass
market in the US. People here are more cosmopolitan and like movies and entertainment from
all over the world. So the Japanese market's programming acquisition strategy has to be a
lot different. But the end game in both markets is that movies and sports drive the
business. I have been more amazed at the similarities than the differences actually. On a
personal level, I don't think my story will be any different from the typical encounters
that the new gaijin with limited language skills has in the Japanese business environment.
At first I was regarded with a bit of suspicion. People were probably thinking, "What
is this gaijin going to do and what could he possibly tell us about Japan? He can't even
speak Japanese!" But what constitutes a good business decision is the same
everywhere. The difference is in the delivery of the message.
What kind of marketing strategy do you have for the Japanese market?
It's like a stool with three legs. First you need a solid consumer proposition, a consumer
offer. Next, you need a good promotion and advertising plan behind that. The last leg is a
solid distribution strategy that compensates and rewards your selling partners downstream.
Most of the Japanese market is still in the dark as to what the real value of a
multi-channel service is. But with recent new promotions we have more than doubled our
weekly sales and, not surprisingly, our market share as well.
What do you foresee for TV channels in Japan in the future?
Pay TV will become part of a broader array of services that will exist in the
"digital space" of a fully networked home. There's going to be an explosive
growth in multi-channel paid television, Internet type services and e-commerce. The future
of multi-channel television is bright, but it has to be looked at in a broader context of
Internet, e-commerce and data delivery services. Strap yourselves in - things are going to
What's your favorite thing about Japan?
It depends on what day it is. On some days I might say washoku - Japanese cuisine
is extraordinary. But the next day I might find a plate of natto in front of me and my
opinion will change. Overall it's the feeling of wonder and curiosity and sense of
adventure that no matter what street corner I turn, something's going to happen to me that
just rocks my world and changes my whole perspective of things, and that may humble me and
make me feel like a child.
What's the weirdest thing that you've seen here?
I don't understand young girls' fashion - the darkened skin, too-high shoes, white
lipstick and the white teased out hair. They look like tanned ghosts.
Do you have any advice for other newcomers to Japan?
Get as much up to speed as you can on the language before you come. Don't spend your
evenings in your home. If you're coming just for a business trip, don't eat at the hotel.
Get out and do stuff. If you insert yourself into the mix, it's almost guaranteed that
something interesting is going to happen.
Randy McGraw spoke to Maki Nibayashi.
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