Skip to main content

Becoming global means learning local | Yuichi Ishino of TAMLO

by Emma Tozer - February, 2019

What happens when a Japanese digital agency meets the UK market? Becoming global means learning local says Yuichi Ishino, of TAM, in this guest blog.

How to be the bridge between two markets

About 1000 Japanese companies are currently based in the UK. From giant companies like Toyota to FinTech startups, the industry ranges are very diverse. We, TAM Group are one of those companies, and founded our subsidiary, TAMLO, in London in the spring of 2017. We are digital production/agency based in Japan, Tokyo and Osaka, and globally expanding, having launched offices in Singapore and Taiwan as well.

Right after having founded TAMLO in the UK, we made a partnership with Media Bounty, and have started to support Japanese companies that are already based in UK/EU or plan to expand their business in UK/EU together.

Although being global is an easy claim to make, the reality is quite opposite. It is always a matter of cultures And there are many differences between the two countries.

Language is the obvious one. If you translate copy for local campaigns word by word, you will always miss the connotations. To fill the gap between the two languages, we have to understand both cultures and predict how people react to the campaign. Needless to say, there are hundreds of examples of campaigns going viral for all the wrong reasons due to cultural misunderstandings.

There are not many Japanese digital marketing companies like us in the UK or even the EU. We believe it is not due to a lack of opportunity in the UK or European markets, but because it is too difficult to understand the UK or European market itself. From our point of view, as a 150 employee-company, it is necessary to make a strong partnership with local companies in order to solve this kind of problem.

The training program in our partner company, Media Bounty

In order to immerse ourselves in the British market we  have to understand the British market deeply. Based on that idea, we recently had a week-long training programme at Media Bounty.

Apart from the differences in working culture, it highlighted the many differences between the two countries in terms of social apps use. For instance, Linkedin is not used in Japan at all. Instead, we use Facebook even for business (which is annoying). Also, the most popular messaging app in Japan is not WhatsApp, but LINE.

Media Bounty is good at identifying consumer insight using social listening tools and developing a strategy from that, but Japanese digital agencies seldom take that approach. Moreover, in terms of advertising budgets, the circumstances are completely different. While TV still accounts for half of the total advertising expenditure in Japan, companies pay more for a digital campaign in the UK. In this sense, there are many learnings in London and that is why it is very meaningful to us to have Media Bounty as our local partner.

With the Rugby World Cup being held in Japan in 2019, the Tokyo Olympics in 2020,  and Osaka hosting the International Expo in 2025, the opportunities are great. While Japanese society is aging and the population is declining, many Japanese companies are looking to the global market to survive. Europe, and the UK, are one of the potential targets. Although we cannot predict the future after Brexit, innovation in digital marketing will continue.

And the more borderless the campaigns become, the more necessary it is for us as agencies to have a skill set to localise them. And we, TAM and Media Bounty believe that there is an opportunity in this global situation.