Sei-katsu-sha insight and Hakuhodo’s creativity

Oct. 16, 2019
  • Viewpoints

Unwrapping Hakuhodo’s Creativity

Hakuhodo has declared its commitment to using its creativity to provide society with new value. However, the creativity that underpins this has until now been communicated indirectly and rarely expressed in words. In this series, Unwrapping Hakuhodo’s Creativity, we examine why Hakuhodo has creativity though various keywords that are rooted in Hakuhodo’s DNA and culture.
In this first article, Hakuhodo Corporate Officer Tatsushi Shimamoto delves into Hakuhodo’s creativity from the perspective of the company’s sei-katsu-sha insight philosophy. As former Head of Hakuhodo Institute of Life and Living, Shimamoto has overseen the evolution of the philosophy over many years.

Sei-katsu-sha perspectives are the starting point for value creation, but what is “sei-katsu-sha insight”?

The sei-katsu-sha insight philosophy distinguishes Hakuhodo’s special brand of creativity. At first glance, the sei-katsu-sha insight philosophy and creativity may not appear connected, but I believe that Hakuhodo’s dedication to getting close to sei-katsu-sha and using sei-katsu-sha perspectives as the starting point for the creation of value is at the very heart of Hakuhodo’s creativity.

There is a word “consumer.” By analyzing POS data, vending machine purchase data and the like, it is possible to understand consumer behavior: what age group of people are buying what brand’s products when and where. It is also possible to analyze very detailed shopping behaviors using AI, the IoT, big data analysis and other technologies. But no one lives just to buy things. “Consumption” is just one aspect of people’s lives.

How do people with what values live their everyday lives with their families, friends and colleagues? What situations give them joy and happiness? On weekdays and their days off, what do they get up to and where, and how do they feel about it? If we look at people’s lives in their entirety, innumerable opportunities to provide products and services, and for companies to provide value, become visible in this great story.

What we call “sei-katsu-sha insight” consists of viewing people not as “consumers” but as “sei-katsu-sha,” and trying to understand their lives in their entirety. By looking at them in their entirety, people’s core desires and motivations become visible. This is one of the philosophies that support Hakuhodo, and pursuing it in all situations is a culture that has become rooted in the company.

Sei-katsu-sha insight was born as a technique for creating advertising

Hakuhodo first unveiled the sei-katsu-sha insight philosophy in 1981. At the time, it was conceived as a technique for supporting the creation of advertising. The role of advertising is to connect marketers and sei-katsu-sha, and knowing the other party is the foundation of communication. It is not possible to create excellent advertising without knowing the other party, or sei-katsu-sha.

It goes without saying that our clients know their products and services inside and out. As an advertising agency, we have made it our mission to stand in sei-katsu-sha’s shoes, and understand their lives better than anyone else, so as to create better advertising with our clients.

We have conducted all kinds of surveys and research into people’s lives through the Hakuhodo Institute of Life and Living (HILL), which was established in 1981 as the flagship institution for the sei-katsu-sha insight philosophy. No other entity has gathered more data and insight into lifestyles—not products and services, or consumption and purchasing.

Interpretative skills are the mother of creativity

Nevertheless, just collecting data on sei-katsu-sha will not ensure creativity. For that, interpretative skills are required. It is from them that creativity is born.

People find it hard to talk about their own desires. Even if lots of them reply to a survey that they want red things, you can be sure that any red products that you put on sale without further thought will not sell. You need to unravel what “red” represents in this case and tease out what latent desires are hidden there.

Take this example. One of HILL’s surveys is the Happy Photo Survey. HILL asks several hundred people to take photos of scenes that make them happy, which it collects and analyzes. One time, when tabulating outdoor photos, they discovered that most were of people growing their own vegetables. That alone is an interesting finding, but understanding this simply as “growing your own is popular with sei-katsu-sha at the moment” doesn’t provide any hints for creating value, does it?

“The number of people who take pleasure in growing cucumbers and tomatoes in their garden or balcony is growing.” “What emotions is this an expression of?” “So, what makes people happy has started to shift in a big way.” “In other words, nurturing something is connected to happiness these days.” “Growing food, looking after plants and keeping pets. Through these actions, perhaps people are looking to gain an invisible stock of memories.” So goes our interpretative process, then we express the trend hidden deep in people’s lives as the “joy of nurturing.” Beyond this interpretative process, new ways of living rise to the surface, such as the happiness of “raising” AI or robots or nurturing local communities.

The sei-katsu-sha insight philosophy only connects with creativity after we observe sei-katsu-sha in detail, analyze them based on these observations, and express the future from this. This is what enables us to propose surprises beyond the world’s expectations such as would not be possible with ordinary consumer analysis.

The sei-katsu-sha insight philosophy has changed with the times

It may have begun as a technique for the creation of advertising that connects marketers and sei-katsu-sha, but the areas in which the sei-katsu-sha insight philosophy has been able to demonstrate its potential have expanded with the changing times.

With the advance of digitalization, we have come to be able to understand all aspects of marketing through data and to use sei-katsu-sha changes and responses in corporate activities in real time. In line with this, Hakuhodo’s “patch” has extended beyond the bounds of advertising, to encompass support for all marketing activities. While sei-katsu-sha insight remains the cornerstone of all that we do, you could say that it has evolved beyond a technique for the creation of advertising into a technique for building corporate activities.

And now the sei-katsu-sha insight philosophy is set to evolve again. Japan, which is experiencing the world’s most rapidly declining birthrate/aging population and declining population, is known as a “front runner of global challenges.” In the past, when economic and social growth was a given in Japan, companies could grow just by fighting in the given market environment. But we have already entered an age where companies are unable to grow if they don’t contribute to the growth of society overall.

In an age when we are expected to create society itself, I believe that the sei-katsu-sha insight philosophy is evolving as a technique for innovation and business creation, and further, as a technique for the creation of social value.

Life model thinking is the mother of innovation

Why does the sei-katsu-sha insight philosophy lead to innovation and business creation?

It is not easy to come up with totally new business models based on existing management resources. But for us at Hakuhodo, where the sei-katsu-sha insight philosophy is deeply rooted, before we even think about how to use those resources or come up with a business model, we conceptualize a future “life model,” which will become the foundation for those. We actually think first about the form new fulfillment will take and about new lifestyles.

All business depends on people’s lifestyles. What will sei-katsu-sha look for in their lives in 10 years’ time or 20 years’ time? How will this change what their lives look like? Hakuhodo conceptualizes fulfilling life models and creates businesses that can realize that life model—and our sei-katsu-sha insight philosophy is the basis for this.

The “joy of nurturing” from earlier can be seen as a keyword for understanding the next generation’s life model. What can companies’ production facilities and data resources provide people who are looking to create memory assets by raising or growing something? How can their sales channels and owned media support sei-katsu-sha’s “joy of nurturing”? Thinking in this way can throw up completely new ways of utilizing management resources.

Previously, we used creativity for creating advertising, but in today’s age, we need to apply our creativity to creating new business and generating social value. Generating innovation using life model thinking, with sei-katsu-sha insight as our foundation. This is the newest relationship between the sei-katsu-sha insight philosophy and creativity at Hakuhodo.

Creativity is something you train, like an athlete trains

Hakuhodo’s creativity ultimately depends on how well our employees can leverage their curiosity and sensitivity based on the sei-katsu-sha insight philosophy. By this I mean leveraging their curiosity about people and sensitivity to the world that people weave together. You might think that everyone has such curiosity and sensitivity. But what is critically important is the vigilance to constantly strive to use and heighten this curiosity and sensitivity. In actual fact, creativity is akin to an athlete’s skill in his sport. Just having talent or nous doesn’t mean he can put it into practice. Without day-to-day training and consistent effort to enable him to give his absolute best at the moment that decides who wins and who loses, he won’t be able to function. A batter’s striking power does not surge just by standing in the batter’s box. Likewise, your creativity doesn’t conveniently rise to the occasion just on the day of a pitch.

In a way, I think that Hakuhodo is a collective of “creativity athletes.” It is a collective of eclectic people that always takes sei-katsu-sha’s side; is always interested in and curious about people, society and the future; and always looks to do something new. Each of us has our own sei-katsu-sha insight. The reason Hakuhodo is able to manifest superior creativity is, I believe, because sei-katsu-sha insight is rooted in the company as a philosophy, a company culture and a collective mindset.

I have said that we are in an age where Hakuhodo needs to use its creativity for business and social value creation. I would like for us to take on the challenge of seeing just how far we can go in proposing fulfilling life models based on sei-katsu-sha insight. And through this, I believe that sei-katsu-sha insight will become an even stronger philosophy and continue to grow as Hakuhodo’s core competence.

Tatsushi Shimamoto
Corporate Officer, Hakuhodo
Tatsushi Shimamoto joined the company in 1983. Following stints as a marketing planner and developing techniques for uncovering insights in the R&D Division, he assumed the role of Head of Hakuhodo Institute of Life and Living in 2006. In 2013 he was appointed Corporate Officer. He has been President of Hakuhodo Sei-katsu-sha Academy since 2016.
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