Becoming a creative hybrid – Tokyo Memoirs Chapter 5: Otaku Culture Hack

The  fifth post in my “becoming a creative hybrid memoirs” series, describing my experiences growing Alien-Eye, a hybrid creative company in Tokyo which I co-founded in 2004. This chapter covers a period from 2008~11 or so, and explains the success of a long running campaign that hacked into a rich vein of Japanese culture on behalf of an international technology brand. The entire “Tokyo Memoirs” series is collected here. ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ Our next big endeavor led to our biggest "culture hack" to date, where we tapped into a deep furrow of Japanese entertainment culture, to rejuvenate a tiring brand in the Japanese market place, helping it reclaim top spot in an increasingly crowded market place. Norton, the security software company, had been a pioneer in the first … [Read more...]

The Japanese advertising industry in a nutshell

In this article I try to unravel one of the marketing industry’s most enduring mysteries: why Japanese ad agencies have succeeded in holding on to such a dominant position in the Japanese market, despite all the efforts of the major global agency networks. I believe the answer lies in a fundamental difference between Japanese and western audiences and the models the agencies use to approach them. (A new follow up to this post can be read here) The western agencies' strategy paradigm I entered the advertising industry off the back of 4 years studying physics at Oxford University, so I was more than a little predisposed to reductionist theories. I was therefor relieved to find a rational framework for solving communication problems, loosely referred to as  the ‘account planning … [Read more...]

Cognition as a Service – a new Hybrid Technology

This is an article I co-wrote with Dudu Noy last December for a "coming in 2014" guest post. Dudu is the CMO of Israeli language technology company, Ginger Software, which my company represents in the Japanese market (Ginger Japan website). So far the prediction has proved very prescient. Ginger has developed a super-smart hybrid technology that combines NLP and statistical algorithms to process all the English that is out there on the web, and using this enormous corpus as a reference, corrects non-native English as the user types. Like Japan, Hebrew-speaking Israel is an island nation in terms of language, and so they have similar challenges when it comes to communicating in English. They also have one of the most fervent technology development cultures on the planet. Ginger is a … [Read more...]

Becoming a creative hybrid – Tokyo Memoirs Chapter 4: Blog Culture Hack

The fourth post in my "becoming a creative hybrid memoirs" series, describing my experiences growing Alien-Eye, a hybrid creative company in Tokyo which I co-founded in 2004. This chapter covers the period from 2008~09 or so, and describes the microblogging boom that exploded around that time and some of our exploits with it. The entire "Tokyo Memoirs" series is collected here. ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ With the novelty of Mixi peaking out, the next big wave to hit the Japanese web was the micro-blogging boom around 2008 to 2010 that  made Japanese the most blogged language on the planet for a while. During this time everyone who wanted to be with it and online had a blog, It was a lifestyle accessory. Although blogs had been around since the 90's, they were now not just for … [Read more...]

Lecture on Emergent Properties of the Universe and Tour of Hybrid Sciences

This is a rough script for the first half of a presentation I gave to a group of 12~17 y/o at the British School in Tokyo near the end of 2013. I have pasted some of the slides I used into the script for illustration. I gave it a provocative title in an attempt to maximise attendance!: "Everything they don't teach you at school because they are afraid it will blow your mind!" ***************** I want to take you on a whirlwind journey through time, from the big bang to the present, and across science, from astro-physics to evolutionary biology, and along the way highlight some of the discoveries, ideas and unanswered questions that have thrilled me in my explorations since leaving education and that I do not believe are on the school syllabus yet. Try to note the subjects that I skim … [Read more...]

Why LINE is eating Facebook’s sushi lunch

This is an article I wrote for the industry journal "Marketing Interactive" in November 2013. Since WhatsApp was recently acquired by Facebook, and now goes head to head with LINE in the chat app race, it is good to be reminded of where LINE has come from, and what makes it so unique and adaptable. The published article was much whittled down, and although it may be an easier read, it left out several of the more interesting cultural nuances that makes LINE so appealing, as well as its cultural-hybrid origins, so I have belatedly printed my original draft below. The Marketing Interactive version can be seen here. On the face of it Facebook have a lot to be smug about when looking at their Japanese footprint. The original Japanese social network Mixi is in rapid decline, and … [Read more...]

Growth Hacking for brands and how to grow a hybrid team

I was recently interviewed for a Japanese creative industry magazine "Project Design" to talk about the relevance of "Growth Hacking" (Japanese article here), the approach to growing web and mobile startups that has come to prominence in recent years, to established and non-web businesses. I was interviewed in Japanese, but wrote up the main threads of the conversation in English below. First of all though some context. Why was I being interviewed about Growth Hacking? I have been a involved a lot with startups one way or another. I have had numerous startups as clients over the years, companies with a good product-market-fit for Japan for whom my company has effectively been the growth team for the Japan market. Also through my role as a mentor for 500 Startups, Silicon Valley's top … [Read more...]

Becoming a creative hybrid – Tokyo Memoirs Chapter 3: Culture Hack 2007

The third post in my "becoming a creative hybrid memoirs" series, describing my experiences growing a hybrid creative company in Tokyo which I co-founded in 2004. This chapter covers the middle of 2007 when we ran a run away hit campaign that was a "culture hack" on Mixi's burgeoning social platform that played off mainstream media and Hollywood icons by creating a novel Hollywood x Web creative hybrid space. The first episode of my "becoming a creative hybrid can be read here! ************************* Tokyo memoirs chapter 3: A "Puchi" viral hit By the start of 2007 we were starting to get on a role, and then in the spring of that year came our big break: a pitch for a campaign to promote a high profile Hollywood movie Die Hard 4.0, the 4th of the hugely successful series. The … [Read more...]

What the 2020 Olympics means for Japan

I wrote up this article to be published in a marketing journal, and after a lot of editing it was whittled down into something quite different, but much more suited to a marketing journal! I have included the edited down version at the end for comparison! What the 2020 Olympics means for Japan The 1964 Tokyo Olympics put Japan on the map internationally, gave the country the self confidence to become a global economic and cultural force, kickstarting 3 decades of phenomenal growth. By the time 2020 comes around, 56 years will have passed by and Japan will be more or less 3 decades past its economic peak. Where can Japan get to in the next 7 years and what does this mean for businesses and brand in Japan? Much of the international reaction to Tokyo being named as host city for the … [Read more...]

Becoming a creative hybrid – Tokyo memoirs chapter 2: 2005~2006

The second post in my "becoming a creative hybrid memoirs" series, describing my experiences growing a hybrid creative company in Tokyo which I co-founded in 2004. This chapter covers roughly the 2nd and 3rd years of Alien-Eye, during which we struck upon a winning formula for creating viral video contents in Japan, and came of age as "growth hackers", the more recent term for marketers that focus on high impact low budget growth tactics on digital. This period also includes the emergence of Mixi as a cultural force in Japan, which we embraced as the first open social platform for sharing content and which marked the paradigm shift from "viral" to "social". The first episode of my "becoming a creative hybrid can be read here! ************************* Tokyo memoirs chapter 2: Creative … [Read more...]