How good is Japanese customer service, and how bad can it get?

Japan has, I believe, a good image for customer service and I have certainly had numerous conversations over the years with foreigners visiting Japan who have been blown away by the attention to detail, courtesy as well as genuine human kindness. Some of the traditions that set Japan apart are things like beautiful and meticulous gift wrapping in retail stores, similarly delicate presentation of food in restaurants, cleanliness in general,  things running on time, and on a higher level safety and reliability. At the same time I have heard many anecdotes, mostly from foreign residents in Japan, but also sometimes from visitors, telling of mind bogglingly annoying treatment. What’s going on here? Is this another one of Japan’s “contradictions”? Japanese cultural stereotypes This … [Read more...]

Becoming a creative hybrid – Tokyo Memoirs Chapter 6: The app store gold rush

This is the 6th post in my "Becoming a creative hybrid" series recounting my experiences building and ultimately selling a digital agency in Tokyo. This post covers the arrival of the iPhone and later Android smartphones, roughly between 2008~2011. Previous memoir episodes series have described how we cracked the code for making content-based promotions in Japan (as with the Puchi Bruce campaign for Die Hard 4.0 explained here), or how we got a taste for building technology solutions (as with the iTunes blogparts explained here). But no account of this period in the late noughties would be complete without documenting the disruptive rise (and rise…. and rise...) of the iPhone, and thence the smart phone, and it certainly had a big impact on the Alien-Eye business too. Zooming forward to … [Read more...]

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...]

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...]

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...]

A blog about nurturing hybrid culture

Image: A broccoli x cauliflower hybrid sold in Japan  Welcome to my new blog! Why now? I have been writing pretty regularly over the years, some of which has been going up on line, but most of it never gets out of my Evernotes. I have been feeling a mounting inner pressure recently to get more of it out in the open to start some dialogues and share ideas with others. One excuse I was using to not get a blog going with regular updates was the fact someone else owned, so once I got hold of this domain I had no excuse to not get it together. I have also been piecing together the knowledge required to set up and run a blog like this one from scratch so I can be totally self sufficient. I have been frustrated by not being in control of my own publishing before and so … [Read more...]