Japan’s Asian Century

With a career spanning the period of Japan’s globalisation, Masami Doi is departing the corporate world to join Kreab Gavin Anderson in Tokyo. He talks with Oliver Fall 

Japan’s economic recovery may be, in part, credit to government leadership under the lauded ‘Abenomics,’ but it is industry that is delivering the results. Building a sustainable economic future, however, will require the greater collaboration of both. With Japan preparing to host the Olympic games in 2020 the focus is on reassuring the world that their confidence in Japan remains well placed.

Fresh from winning at the 2013 Gold Standard Awards for its collaborative campaign with the government of Miyagi Prefecture to attract overseas investment and to promote its economic revival following the devastating March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, Kreab Gavin Anderson has announced the recruitment of Masami Doi as Partner to its Tokyo consultancy.

A 30-year veteran of Toyota Motor Corporation who headed the automaker’s global communications activities, Doi, spent the last six years at Toyota in charge of public affairs. His experience, which he is now applying, “to support SMEs and public sector clients to ensure their message is clearly understood overseas and secure their global reputation and brand,” is extensive. Over the past three decades he has worked on reputation management, including advising on the company’s response to recall issues in the U.S., as well as of corporate planning, sales and marketing and human resources. He will now be applying this experience on worldwide Kreab Gavin Anderson assignments, particularly on behalf of Japanese clients.

Generational Shifts

The timing is opportune. Over the last thirty years Japanese industry has undergone a paradigm shift, notably after the plaza accord of 1985, both embracing and being subject to the vicissitudes of globalisation. It is this factor Doi-San says that has been most critical influence on business and the public affairs industry to date. “If you have an issue in Africa today, it can become a global issue in a matter of minutes. Trade agreements, such as the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), will further accelerate globalisation of the economies of Japan and the broader Asia Pacific in the years to come.”

The global journey that Japan has undertaken since 1985 has been substantive. With industry migrating abroad, a trend that continues today, Japanese industry has re-engineered their business models to accommodate the development of local supply chains and recruitment, the re-training of staff, and taken on higher levels of risk. Undoubtedly, this has paid off for Japanese brands, which are now well placed to enjoy this Asian century.

“Globalisation will increase further because of the TPP and other Free Trade Agreements, notably with ASEAN as Asian incomes both increase and equalise regionally. Consequently, the Asian market will be key to the Japanese economy, in addition to existing markets in the US and Europe,” Doi-San told PAA.

While Japanese brands, technology, industry and expertise has externally become a global force, sustaining this shall be the challenge in Japan’s future and corporate engagement will undoubtedly be integral. “People’s thinking has changed from being solely focused on the economy, to believing that the economy is a means to achieve a happier and more sustainable future. For businesses to be successful now and in the future, they need to be listening to and engaging all of their stakeholders. Sustainable development has already become the most important pre-condition for business, especially as environmental considerations have come to the forefront. Considering these issues simultaneously is absolutely vital.”

Sustainable Futures

Looking ahead, Doi-San sees societal and environmental stability as the core issues facing the global economy, no more so than in Asia, which is experiencing a sustained population boom. Enhanced and environmentally friendly technology will be key components of managing these pressures and ensuring sustainable development. This is where Japan’s advantage will lie, says Doi-San, but only if they engage. “Companies play a major role in society, both at a local level and globally. If they do not engage and communicate with their stakeholders effectively, they risk losing trust and cannot be sustainable. Therefore, effective communications from the top levels of the company becomes critical and integration at all levels of business planning is essential.”

This will also become more important as globalisation influences affect “Brand Japan”. While Japan’s technological and manufacturing prowess still defines many external observers’ perception, Japan’s cultural exports, notably its food and anime, are rapidly gaining traction in global markets. Yet there is little doubt that its technological expertise will continue to lead. ““Brand Japan” will be even stronger in the future as a result of globalisation trends in the Asia Pacific region,” he told PAA. Income levels throughout the region are rising and, in parallel, demand for high-quality affordable products is set to rise. As a result, “Brand Japan” is well positioned to benefit. At the same time, competition from other counties who are rapidly climbing the technology curve will intensify.”

Yet sustaining Japan’s position will be the challenge, he warns. “I think more focus needs to be made on education, and preparing young Japanese for the real-world  challenges presented by globalisation today. Another important and somewhat related issue is diversity. Human resource development to prepare the next generation of workers will be central to meeting the evolving needs of Japan in the globalised economy.”

As Japan becomes increasingly engaged in global affairs, Doi-San’s experience in integrated marketing and communications, crisis management, government and public affairs, and CSR will undoubtedly help Japanese organisations grow and build their brands at a global level. Fluent in four languages and with experience of having worked in Europe, America and Asia, his career thus far reflects Japan’s own journey.

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