Posts Tagged ‘U.S.-Japan’

Is Silver The New Gold? Tips From The World’s Fastest-Aging Market

March 8, 2013

One of the biggest fears among young people is simply the fear of getting old, and society is obsessed with youth. Get ready, because the world population is aging fast. According to the World Health Organization, by 2050 22 percent of the world’s population will be over 60 and the number of people 80 or older will quadruple. This change has major implications for the global economy and all aspects of life – from healthcare to housing, workforce to personal finance, and product development to branding, marketing and communications.

Japan is the world’s fastest-aging society. With the highest life expectancy in the world (86), one in four people are currently over 65. This is expected to increase to one in three by 2040. This presents serious challenges in coping with increasing costs for pensions and healthcare in Japan. On the other hand, increased spending by seniors (called “the silver market” in Japan), estimated to be 100 trillion yen (US$1.27 trillion) a year, is creating new opportunities for the economy. Japan seems to be out front in developing and marketing new products and services targeting seniors and penetrating the growing silver market. Here are some examples.

  • Fujitsu just showcased a prototype of its New Generation Cane at the Mobile World Congress 2013. This product is a “smart cane” with GPS, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. It has an LED panel on top that displays information and provides simple directional instructions for the user. A sensor on the top of the device monitors heart rate and the cane can also keep tabs on location, humidity and temperature, sending the information back to the user’s family, friends and caretakers.
  • Japanese wireless carrier NTT DoCoMo launched a new line of smartphones in 2012 targeting seniors, called Raku Raku (meaning easy easy). The phones have larger fonts and icons with simplified steps for sending email and taking photos. Senior-friendly features include audio adjustment that can slow down and clarify the voice on the other end. Also, with one push of the ‘how to use’ key, the phone will connect users to dedicated Raku Raku customer service staff.
  • Just about every Japanese girl has owned a Licca-chan doll, the Japanese equivalent of Barbie, since it was launched in 1967. (Barbie never caught on in Japan because she looked too foreign and adult to young Japanese girls.) Last year, Takara Tomy, Licca-chan’s maker, introduced a new doll, Licca-chan’s grandmother, named Yoko, targeting real grandmothers who enjoy playing with their grandchildren.

    Licca-chan & Yoko

  • Last year, Toyota unveiled a robot for seniors that can fetch, carry things and perform simple tasks using its fingers. Multiple companies are developing these types of robots with innovative technology to act as caretakers. A survey showed that 80 percent of Japanese seniors welcome the robots because they hate to burden their families with their care.
  • An electric kettle is a must-have item in a Japanese household. Zojirushi developed one for seniors living alone. When the kettle, “i-pot,” is used, the information is sent in the form of an e-mail to family members so they can monitor their parents/grandparents’ daily activities and be assured that everything is normal. Some communities are offering similar measures, products that use sensors and wireless networks at seniors’ households to monitor their safety. The Japanese government also introduced a measure with a more human touch in 2011: postal workers check up on people over 65 once a month by handing seniors seasonal greeting cards.
  • Retailer Aeon opened its first supermarket aimed specifically at seniors, with a range of products and services geared to their needs, such as a shopping cart with a built-in magnifying glass. Many supermarkets and department stores are shifting their business models in this way with items, displays and services catering to the silver market.
  • Large numbers of “dankai-no-sedai,” Japanese baby boomers, born between 1947 and 1949, have been retiring, and the travel industry is capitalizing on increased spending by the growing retiree population. According to a Japan Association of Travel Agents survey published last year, senior travel was stronger than travel by families, students or honeymooners. Since Japanese companies are not generous with vacation days, traveling is at the top of everyone’s wish list after retirement. The tourism sector is eagerly introducing new products and services targeting active retirees as well as the elderly with health-issues, including medical help and assistance from people who act as “travel helpers.”

What’s the best way to market and communicate to these growing consumers? I’ll cover that in another post.

Keiko Okano


How American PR Is Different from PR Overseas

February 19, 2013

Foreign companies that want to build visibility in the U.S.  are usually surprised to find that there are cross-cultural differences in the role of public relations between their countries and the U.S. In many parts of the world, including most of Asia and some of Europe, the tactics used by most public relations departments have traditionally been limited to media relations and event planning, with social media also becoming more popular recently. The goal is to win over potential customers (both consumers and business customers) and to try to safeguard the company’s public image.Morpheus on PR

In the United States, Canada, the U.K. and a few other countries, there are additional aspects of PR. In these markets, PR is not relegated to building visibility and helping market products, it also includes strategies to build and enhance a company’s reputation. PR professionals look for ways to develop and strengthen relationships that will help the entire company in its interactions with various audiences, including investors, the local community, government officials and employees, among others. In other countries, PR is more top-down, with management deciding what they want to communicate and the PR department executing those decisions. But in the U.S. there is more two-way dialogue with the public, and the PR or corporate communications department is expected to monitor the public dialogue, and also to recommend messaging and develop materials to help support the company in those conversations.

In countries where the PR staff is mostly limited to helping to market products, PR professionals have a significantly lower status than they do in countries where PR professionals have a broader role that includes strategy for and management of corporate reputation. As one would expect, in the countries where PR has a lower status, PR professionals have less contact with top executives and aren’t usually seen as strategic advisors to corporate management. In the U.S., by contrast, the top PR job is often an executive position that reports directly to the CEO. In some cases, the professionals who hold those positions make very high salaries. (In large companies, the salaries are frequently in the range of $300,000. One recent news article reported that the head of corporate communications at a Fortune 500 company was being paid a million dollars a year. Those executives, and the employees and PR firms they hire to help them, manage issues important to the company, trouble-shoot in times of crisis and help with the overall positioning of their companies. They are responsible for fostering good relationships with all of their companies’ audiences, from employees to interest groups to customers and potential customers to government at the local, state and national levels. Some are also responsible for investor relations.

Often when I receive a call from a potential client from overseas, I can see the difference in attitude towards PR right away. I ask what the company is looking for from a PR agency, and the answer I get is usually a prepared list of PR tactics that the executives in the company have already decided will fill their needs. After talking to us and as they begin to work with us, the company’s staff begins to see that we can help in ways they hadn’t anticipated, and they stop telling us what tactics they want us to deploy, asking us, instead, for our counsel on helping them meet their goals.

Cross-cultural PR is a two-way educational process, since the client learns more about the U.S. business culture and sees how communications works here, while, at the same time, we have a chance to learn more about the client’s own culture.

Lucy Siegel

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20 Years of U.S.-Japan Pharma Industry Change

November 18, 2009

The launch of U.S.-Japan pharmaceutical industry group New York Pharma Forum in December, 1990 took the form of a symposium followed by a black tie dinner at the Waldorf Astoria’s Skylight Roof. If memory serves, about 70 people came to the symposium, and a little over 200 were on hand for the first annual dinner. There were speeches at the dinner by Ed Pratt, then the CEO of Pfizer, and by Shigeo Morioka, CEO of Yamanouchi Pharmaceutical Co., who, along with Haruo Naito, Director General of Eisai Co., came from Tokyo to participate in the launch. Mr. Naito gave the “kampai,” or toast, and then took part in a Kagamiwari ceremony, for which he and several of the other VIPs in attendance donned traditional happi coats and then broke open a sake barrel.  We hired a dance band for the occasion, but I was told by the Japanese executives that there was little likelihood of getting the Japanese couples to dance. My staff and I received more than a few calls from Japanese executives before that first dinner asking us, at the instruction of their wives (yes, they were all men), what the women should wear, whether a kimono was appropriate since it was considered formal wear in Japan, and what black tie really meant. They were anxious to fit in and wanted to be properly attired.

Those of us who were there 20 years ago can attest to vast differences between then and now.  There are superficial ones (besides our wrinkles): the Japanese never call anymore to ask what to wear, since they are quite accustomed to Western-style entertainment; unfortunately, it’s been quite a few years since we’ve seen a beautiful, graceful Japanese kimono at one of these events; the Japanese and Americans agreed that long speeches were too boring for a black tie dinner, and they were restricted to the afternoon symposium; and the dinner has now become a dinner-dance, with plenty of Japanese couples dancing as well as Americans.

The deeper differences in New York Pharma Forum  reflect the results of two decades of change in the industry. NYPF’s Japanese leaders of have been at the forefront of that change. Two of the speakers at this year’s 20th anniversary symposium are a case in point.  The Japanese companies, which all firmly stated 20 years ago that mergers were a Western phenomenon that would never affect them, have nevertheless undergone consolidation, including mergers with American and European companies. Hatsuo Aoki, president of NYPF from 1994-1995 while he was head of Fujisawa U.S.A. in Chicago, went on to head Fujisawa globally and was the driving force behind its merger with Yamanouchi to create Astellas, now one of the few global Japanese pharma companies. 

In 1989, Eisai was headed in the U.S. by Soichi Matsuno, president of NYPF from 1997-1999.  He had a handful of employees on his staff 20 years ago.  By the time he left the U.S. 10 years ago, Eisai had grown exponentially and entered the ranks of global pharma companies.  Today he is Deputy President of Eisai in Tokyo, and Eisai Inc. in the U.S. has  thousands of employees and is in essence an American company, with all American employees except for a couple of expat Japanese. The company has developed and launched new drugs in the U.S. market before even introducing them in Japan. 

We shouldn’t underestimate the difficulties that these and other Japanese expatriate executives have had to overcome to make their companies global competitors. There are cross-cultural business differences such as very divergent human resources and compensation systems between the U.S. and Japan, for example.  The language barrier alone is tough for most Japanese. One pharmaceutical  company executive from Japan said that when he first came to the U.S., around the time that NYPF was launched, he spoke English very poorly and had a hard time understanding what was going on around him. He recalls being utterly miserable for months, but he was determined to learn the language and the culture. He obviously  succeeded: Dr. Isao Teshirogi met the challenges here in the U.S. and is now president of Shionogi & Co. in Japan. The American president he appointed to head Shionogi U.S.A., Dr. Sapan Shah, is a vice president of NYPF.

It’s hard to express how satisfying it is, having been involved in the development of this organization 20 years ago, to see the rise and success of so many of the people I’ve worked with – both Japanese and American. I wish that Shiro Yamasaki could be on hand for the 20th General Assembly and Annual Dinner to celebrate with us. Not surprisingly, however, he now occupies a very senior role in the Japanese prime minister’s cabinet, and unfortunately he can’t get away.

— Lucy Siegel

New York Pharma Forum Comes of Age

November 16, 2009

 It’s easy to get caught up in our daily client work, but sometimes it’s important to take a look back to see the progress we’ve made.

20 years ago in mid-November I was in the throes of preparing for the launch of a U.S.-Japan pharmaceutical organization, the New York Pharma Forum (NYPF). Today my staff and I are working feverishly to get ready for the same group’s 20th anniversary of that event, its 20th General Assembly and Annual Dinner: inviting media, coordinating the program and speakers, and handling a thousand logistical details for an international event with 300 people.

The idea behind this organization sprang from the creative mind of Shiro Yamasaki, who had been sent to work in New York by the Japanese Ministry of Health & Welfare. It was ingenious for a few reasons. Those were times of terrible trade tensions between the U.S. and Japan (at about that time, members of Congress smashed a Toshiba radio outside the US Capitol with a sledgehammer).  The last thing the Japanese government wanted was to have trade tensions spread from Toshiba to Takeda, the largest Japanese pharmaceutical company. 

Before the 1980s, there were few Japanese pharma companies in the U.S.  The Japanese government protected its pharmaceutical industry for many years against the onslaught of large overseas companies. However, by 1989 there were clear signals that these companies would have to face international competition at home.  The more savvy US Flag Summarycompanies knew this meant they had to move into overseas markets. The Japanese market was (and is) the second largest in the world for the pharma industry, and until then the Japanese companies made a comfortable income at home and hadn’t made a big push overseas.

Shiro Yamasaki knew these companies were entering a new era. He also saw the wide gap in the business culture they had to cross to have a chance of success in the U.S. market. When an important new drug is discovered, people worldwide want access to it. But medical treatment methods, health care systems, government regulations and marketing and communications differences create unique pharmaceutical industry environments and cultures in each part of the world. “Big Pharma” companies have been globalizing for decades, which really means becoming part of each local culture.

In 1989 the Japanese pharma companies’ U.S. subsidiaries had only a handful of employees, many of them from Japan. I don’t think a single one was marketing its own drugs in the U.S. Profits from drug licensing are only a fraction of those from direct sales, however.  Efforts towards international harmonization of drug approvals were just beginning, and Japanese companies were only doing drug development work in Japan then.  Japanese pharma companies understood the need to build the infrastructure and know-how to develop and sell their products in the lucrative U.S. market.

The Japanese pharmaceutical companies had a lot of catching up to do. New York Pharma Forum was a perfect venue to bring them together with Big Pharma, where they could be exposed to the workings of the international pharmaceutical industry. At the same time, the American companies welcomed the chance to meet and talk to Japanese government officials in an informal setting and get to know some of the senior executives sent here from Japan as a way to facilitate deal-making. 

How has NYPF developed over 20 years? Stay tuned for part two of this post.

— Lucy Siegel

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