Creating A Framework for Successful Digital Marketing in Japan

No matter how solid a marketing strategy is, complications are sure to come up if a good team and organizational structure aren’t in place to support it. The previous article in our Harvard Business Review series listed four common challenges marketers encounter as they evolve their marketing practices. Here, we’ll discuss the kind of marketing organization and operations that are essential to solving those issues.

Challenge #1: An organizational structure optimized for conventional marketing
Solution: Reorganize teams for digital success

While the marketing manager responsible for a product or brand oversees the consistency of a strategy, it’s essential to build a collaborative system that includes creators, researchers, and other experts who can support the manager with specialized skills.

Think of the teamwork it takes to build a house. While a foreman supervises the whole project, it takes the collaboration of architects, painters, carpenters, plumbers, and other specialists to contribute to the project’s success. Every one of their skills is essential, but at the end of the day, they need to work well together to finish the job well.

With so many people and teams involved on any given campaign, it’s important that everyone is clear on the goals from the beginning.

At Google, every product, including Search, YouTube, Android, Chrome, and Google Play, has a marketing manager. These marketing managers are responsible for formulating marketing strategies to achieve specific goals, managing budgets, implementing marketing campaigns, and reporting. Internal teams of experts with specialized skills in fields including creative, digital media, user experiences, and research provide support and help the marketing manager execute campaigns.

With so many people and teams involved on any given campaign, it’s important that everyone is clear on the goals from the beginning. These goals need to be established across the entire company, and include quantitative quarterly goals along with longer-term visions for the company.

Challenge #2: Insufficient digital-savvy professionals and resources
Solution: Build true partnerships with external suppliers

With the whiplash speed of the digital age, it’s nearly impossible for a single company to efficiently handle every aspect of a campaign. So, partnering with external agencies and experts has become vital.

Google’s suppliers are referred to as its “partners,” not “vendors,” and the partners work alongside Google teams to come up with creative solutions to marketing challenges. Often these external partners bring creative sparks to the entire organization by approaching obstacles with a unique, third-party perspective and generating new ideas and solutions.

Marketers can no longer rely on a tried, true, and tested digital marketing handbook; today’s best practices change nearly every day.

Google’s Quarterly Business Review (QBR) highlights the company’s partnership needs and areas for improvement while also communicating what its partners can expect from Google’s mid- to long-term vision and marketing strategy.

In a traditional customer-supplier relationship, giving honest feedback to the customer can be difficult. But in order for collaboration to work smoothly and effectively, open communication where both groups are free to share goals and offer feedback is essential.

Challenge #3: A complex, restrictive mix of digital media and assets
Solution: Cultivate digital technology experts

Marketers can no longer rely on a tried, true, and tested digital marketing handbook; today’s best practices change nearly every day. Googlers tackle this challenge head on by continually learning on the job. In fact, the deciding factor in determining whether someone will be successful at Google is their flexibility and willingness to unlearn old habits while actively adding new ideas to their skill set.

Teaching digital expertise shouldn’t be confined to the boundaries of the company. When Google needed to better understand how to apply digital technology to its marketing strategies, we tapped into the skills of young creators who had little industry experience but a rich understanding of digital technology. As a result, new and highly polished marketing campaigns were created and many of these bright young stars—including the creators of Google Chrome’s “Hatsune Miku” commercial—went on to win accolades from the advertising industry, started their own companies, and remain partners of Google to this day.

Employees should be able to take on new challenges (and even experience failure), so long as they have opportunities to learn from these experiences.

When training employees or creating new partnerships, it’s important to encourage a deep sense of excitement and true desire to work with the company. Employees should be able to take on new challenges (and even experience failure), so long as they have opportunities to learn from these experiences.

Challenge #4: Inconsistent performance indicators assessing marketing ROI
Solution: Employ new ad technologies to gauge and optimize ROI

In the past, data was split between different platforms and devices, and it was tough to accurately assess a campaign’s return on investment. But advances in technology and analytical techniques have made this much easier.

For example, third-party ad serving delivers ads to multiple media from a single server and centrally manages the results, and attribution analysis measures how much digital advertising contributed to a consumer’s purchase of a product.

Clear goals and achievement targets are established for every Google marketing campaign at the onset and are revisited over the time to ensure optimization. While the campaign is running, things like media budgeting and the project’s creative assets are continually fine-tuned based on performance.

Conclusion: Innovate to evolve

Tireless innovation is required to stay on top of digital marketing’s constant state of flux. Certain portions of Google’s marketing budget are allocated to innovation projects that require risk and a taste for adventure.

For these projects, Google’s marketing team, external creators, and digital media experts come together to form a unified team. Instead of the usual top-down process of briefings and presentations, the team uses a workshop format to collectively brainstorm creative elements and prototypes.

It’s time for marketers to realize the full value of digital technology in creating an innovative organizational structure.

Google Japan’s team is particularly proactive in sharing its success stories from these creative brainstorms. One example is the Google Play Game Fest, an online gaming event created by the Japan team. The program—which engages users through events on YouTube, digital media, and social engagements—went on to launch globally after its success in Japan. On the flipside, Google’s Japan team also actively adopts successful approaches from other countries to incorporate in its own strategies.

It’s time for marketers to realize the full value of digital technology when creating an innovative organizational structure. From harnessing new measurement tools to tapping into the expertise of young digital creators, aim to digitalize your marketing organization as a whole.

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