Data-driven marketing overseas: Adapt to succeed

Mar. 15, 2019
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Currently the trend of data-driven marketing is progressing globally. As well as in Europe, the Americas, and Japan, in China, India, and ASEAN we have been seeing the same trend. Overseas marketing by Japanese firms is also becoming reliant on data-driven marketing. The reality is that there are many hurdles to overcome in order to get a grasp on the situation with partner companies who can secure knowledge about local markets and local people and provide practical systems. In this article, Masahiro Hayashi and Tetsuya Waida who are specialists of global data-driven marketing at Hakuhodo would like to share their insights on Marketing Technology Stack (marketing infrastructure). This is also a major theme of management and CMO, which is the key to succeeding in overseas data-driven marketing.

The “one solution fits all” era is over

We have been helping Japanese companies build and operate overseas marketing stacks for several years now, but we feel the importance of that work has been rapidly increasing in recent years. We are in an era in which we can no longer cover everything with one solution or one vendor’s tool. While many excellent solutions have appeared, in order to respond to a variety of local patrons, companies must select and combine systems that are necessary for each area on an individual basis to build an optimal marketing environment without relying on just one vendor. In that respect “stacking” of marketing technologies becomes increasingly important.

However, just combining systems is not a “marketing stack.” There are many hurdles in the operation of data-driven marketing that cannot be overcome with one system alone. Upon introducing a seemingly versatile solution, there are many cases in which the bottom line of the operation does not go well because the organization and workflow are ambiguous or the detailed judgment criteria are not clear. Also, it is not easy to find a partner company who supports such operations.

So, when we work with our clients, we value the organization more than the system selection. We strive to make sure the different departments of our client work together with each other and us, for better results. As will be described in detail later, the vertical integration of management and those working on site, in addition to the integration of company divisions working laterally such as marketing and sales, will become an important point. Focusing solely on the mechanics of mounting an ad campaign can be counterproductive. Instead, designing with a clear-cut business goal is crucial; it is indispensable for building a marketing stack that can work well and achieve targeting results.

Masahiro Hayashi

Asia amidst the waves of digitalization

In the past few years, the area that has seen the largest number of new projects for us has been Asia. The age demographic is young, new innovations are adapted rapidly, and data-driven marketing is often more effective there. While grasping the situation in each of these areas, we localize our plans according to culture and environment.

Marketing reforms from abroad

We have put into place a number of business solutions that have enabled us to visualize customer behavior in great detail.

Up to now, we have primarily gauged the number of sales and managed that information. Currently, it is also possible to accurately measure the effectiveness of internet ads and digital advertising measures. We can now grasp, measure, predict and evaluate how marketing communications help change customer behavior up until the time they make an actual purchase. The merging of the management of the two processes that take place before and after a purchase is increasingingly widespread.

When it comes to overseas marketing, the bases of operation there are much more compact than Japan headquarters, thus making it easier to establish a comprehensive system for setting up organisationsal structures and getting a handle on the numbers. The overseas bases are new and since there is little interference from the established order, they can quickly decide to introduce new measures.

The layers of management are expected to be able to explain what they are doing, and as a result they accurately evaluate the investments in marketing; the will to implement PDCA properly—and thus improve performance—is rising.

Japanese companies working with Hakuhodo are often large organizations but they can also learns from their smaller-scaled overseas operations. The overseas operations are compact yet nimble and this helps them find creative solutions. There are also cases in which a new method explored and established overseas is then adopted at the headquarters of the firm.

The improvements in information technology have made it possible to get a handle on customer behavior from start to finish. We can quickly figure out where it’s worth investing our efforts and the client’s funds. The problem is that the application of that technology effectively isn’t a simple matter.

Building an effective overseas marketing stack

We proceed with the construction and operation of an overseas marketing stack using the following process outlined in the figure below.

If the client has already clarifed their businesss goals and we are all ready to discuss strategy, we can start from the development stage. One of things we really consider important at the development stage, is the way we hold conferences and meetings—even how we organize them. It’s important to structure the meetings so that we promote information sharing between the client’s Japanese and local staff. We make sure we are active participants in discussions with all parties involved and are not just leaving everything up to the client.

In promoting development, emphasis is placed on the design of the meeting structures. In parallel with the development of marketing measures, we will divide the job into parts that are more efficient and automated in the system and parts that rely on operations. Then, we will design the structure of the marketing stack with the project members, while encouraging participation from various sections of the client. After designing marketing stack structures, refining the operation structure, and introducing the best systems possible, while also conducting training and offering guidance, we will move on to the actual implementation stage. Henceforth, we will carry out measures while implementing the PDCA cycle to evaluate and improve it.

If the business goal is not clear in the company, we really make efforts to promote information sharing as illustrated on the left side of the figure. We encourage a vertical integration of management and those working on site, in addition to the integration of sectors laterally such as marketing and sales.

There is sometimes a tendency to focus more on the delivery system than the actual business goal. We keep our eyes on the ball so the system is constructed around achieving the goal.

In order to be able to operate in the long term including with the system, first we do quick demonstration experiments and PoC (Proof of Concept) and select and design the optimal method for the locality. In this way, we can minimize the risks and that is why you should enter the market as fast as you can.

Tetsuya Waida

Five important points of building an overseas marketing stack

Hakuhodo’s five strategic points

1. Clarify the goal from the management perspective.
2. Grasp the current situation meticously.
3. Design a meeting body (team) that transcends intracompany barriers and in which both Hakuhodo and the client are active participants.
4. Adjust to the local culture and life.
5. Select a system that can be utilized locally and prepare an operation system including partners.

In building marketing stacks, creating the right team is essential. We focus on finding members very familiar with each country, including local staff. From there we assemble a team of experts on workflow, business consulting, strategy, systems, data and media.

What is particularly important is the design of the meeting bodies, which is No. 3 as mentioned in the above Hakuhodo’s five strategic points. There are two types of meeting bodies—local bodies who meet biweekly or weekly and management level conferences that share information and make decisions every month or every other month. The former, especially, will be integrated into one team by eliminating the divergence between Japanese staff and local staff and between departments to work toward the same business goals.

We give special attention to meetings on the ground level. We’re not like some consulting company that only discusses the work with the people in upper management—we are an integrated marketing solutions company that works with the people at all levels, especially with the people in the field. We take a hands on approach.

A fusion of all resources involved is a requirement for the marketing stack to smoothly function. You have to bring together people working at many different levels and in different positions. Hakuhodo doesn’t just come up with a strategy—we excel in making sure that the strategy is executed well, supporting the staff at the ground level. That’s why when it comes to fortifying a marketing stack, Hakuhodo rises above the crowd.

Often companies lack objectivity in dealing with internal issues and conflicts between departments within the same company or group. By entering from the outside like we do, it not only allows the client to develop objective viewpoints and knowledge but also allows us to connect the people inside the company in a way that encourages synergy between the various departments within the firm. Also, even if the personnel change, it ensures that the knowledge gained from working together remains and the PDCA smoothly runs. All resources must be synced well for the marketing stack to function smoothly.

Global dynamism and trends of marketing changes in the near future

Finally, we would like to touch on trends occurring in Asia and globally.
First, in Asia the speed of marketing and technology evolution is accelerating, and dynamism is increasing. E-commerce services such as Alibaba and Tencent and OMO (Online Mergers Offline), followed by other services such as Didi, Meituan, and Xiaohongshu have taken off. In Asia and India, mobility, delivery, and payment services such as Grab, Gojek, Ola and Paytm continue to emerge as powerful market forces. Meanwhile in Europe and the Americas, movements in the daily life behavior of consumers such as subscriptions and the flow of DtoC (Direct to Consumer) enterprises are progressing at the same time worldwide.

We take into consideration how business will change in the near future, and thus we support client businesses on a daily basis from each country’s base. We are also working on solutions for a series of processes centering on certain industries, such as the manufacturing industry, in which we already have an established successful track record.


Masahiro Hayashi
Director, Global Data Marketing Department, Hakuhodo Inc.
Hayashi joined Hakuhodo in 1997. Since joining the company, he has always been engaged in businesses related to systems, digital and data, providing services for clients. Currently, he is in charge of supporting Hakuhodo’s global clients to construct their marketing stacks and strengthening the marketing system infrastructure for Hakuhodo’s overseas offices.
Tetsuya Waida
Deputy General Manager, Data-Driven Marketing Division and Director, Global Data Marketing Department, Hakuhodo Inc.
Working in line with Hakuhodo’s sei-katsu-sha-centered philosophy, Waida is in charge of strategic planning, management, business development, innovation, and global development in marketing domains driven by digital and data. He provides top-line marketing support to corporate clients in such areas as digital transformations, data analysis, DMP applications, data infrastructure construction, and organization development—with a particular focus on the automotive, IT, precision machine, electronics, EC, and cosmetics sectors. He also has in-depth knowledge of overseas operations and technology trends in Asia, China, and India.
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