How TAMLO’s workshops help clients break into new markets

Emily Bratt

We (TAMLO) discuss how we use workshops to help clients break into new markets and create better digital marketing.

Did you know that in Japan 75% of Twitter users are anonymous, or that Google isn’t the only go-to search engine? No? Well, you wouldn’t be alone. 

Japan is one of the leading economic and technological centres of the world. But it also has a distinct culture, full of unique practices and traditions that, unless you’re Japanese or have spent considerable time in the country, you’re unlikely to be aware of. It’s this lack of awareness that presents problems for brands trying to break into the Japanese market.

From internal communication styles and sales approaches, to local regulations and digital literacy, there’s lots to consider when expanding into a new market. Skilled in localisation between Japanese and Western markets - and with a bilingual and bicultural workforce - independent agency TAMLO helps foreign brands find success in Japan and vice versa. 

So how do we do it?

The TAMLO process: getting to know clients

‘The first thing we do is run a workshop for a new client, which we believe is absolutely crucial,’ says Nanako, TAMLO’s Chief Localisation Officer. ‘We all need to start on the same page. Our workshops help us understand the client and their needs, but they also help clients better understand themselves.

‘Then, it’s about educating them on digital marketing and working together to build a strategy. Once we’ve done this we can start creating content using our transcreation methodology.’

The service we provide at TAMLO is niche but necessary. Brands entering the Japanese market aren’t aware of the cultural aspects or specific policies that dictate Japan’s marketing sphere. And these brands aren’t startups or SMEs. We count NetApp and the British Council among our clientele, proving that localisation between Japan and the West is something most companies, no matter their successes back home, need help with.

TAMLO’s workshops start by stripping everything back. We build a digital strategy from scratch for clients, focusing on accommodating the new market.

‘One of our recent workshops was with a major European truck manufacturer,’ reveals Nanako. ‘Despite being present in Japan for 15 years already, they’d never done digital marketing here. And their name was completely unknown in Japan.

‘So, we needed to start by getting to know the brand and understanding their USPs. Then, we had to establish everything from what differentiates them from the competitors in the Japanese market, to what challenges they face at the Japanese office.’

Communication and a lack of understanding of Japan’s truck policies had been huge hurdles for the brand in Japan. But our workshop brought about a shift.

‘The team gave us really positive feedback,’ says Nanako. ‘They all thanked us, saying they’d never done anything like this before - it brought everyone together and everyone understood the challenges. I think it gave them some big realisations.’

The language of trust

Of course, the most obvious difficulty when marketing abroad is the language barrier. But overcoming it isn’t as simple as just using a translation service. Transcreation is key to bringing brands to life outside of their own culture - as well as to avoid causing offence (think: McDonald’s’ slogan ‘I’m lovin’ it’ altered for the Chinese market where using the word ‘love’, publicly, is offensive).

‘It’s really important to use the native language for anything you do in that country in order to generate trust,’ explains TAMLO Consultant James Lovell. ‘Trust is really important, especially in Japan. People, no matter where they are, are hesitant in buying from a new, international brand. These days, most people understand the value of proper localisation and that we’re not just a translation agency. Helping companies build trust is a big part of what we do.’

When you assume, you make an…

TAMLO’s workshops also help to dismantle assumptions which, no matter how small, can cost brands dearly.

For example, 34 million people in the UK use LinkedIn, and it’s 202 million in the US. ‘But only three million people use LinkedIn in Japan’, says James, ‘so when we work with a brand and we bring them insights like this, they start to realise, “Okay, we can’t market our services on LinkedIn then, right?”’

Instead, TAMLO works to uncover a brand’s strengths in the context of the new market. We use classic digital strategy components, but we work with clients to ensure everything makes sense culturally.

‘There’s a big difference in media channels between countries,’ explains Nanako. ‘During our workshops we’ll help our clients discover where it’s best to be visible. We’ll create personas, list out keywords and select the most appropriate channels and apps for those personas.’

Rethinking search engine marketing (SEM)

Search engine optimisation (SEO) is, of course, integral to clients’ strategies. SEM plays a critical role in digital marketing and will continue to do so as search engines become more sophisticated. However, considering Google is not the only major search engine platform in Japan, there is much to be learnt here, for both Western brands marketing to Japan and Japanese brands marketing to the West.

‘Our SEO workshops give the company an overall understanding of how SEO works and how to do it for their company,’ says Nanako. ‘We help them facilitate or organise their thoughts and put it all together to build their SEO strategy.’

Ultimately, TAMLO’s client workshops are a chance for agency and client to understand one another. They’re usually the starting point of a long, mutually enriching, professional relationship.

‘We include our clients as much as possible in the process - we’re all growing together. We know what the objectives are, they know what the objectives are,’ Nanako explains. ‘When there are successes, the client understands why they’ve happened because they’ve been part of the process.’

A team with first-hand experience

These successes are due, in part, to the fact we have an empathetic workforce. Most are bi or tricultural so, essentially, they get it because they’ve lived it. As Nanako puts it:

‘In a way, I've experienced similar confusions and culture shocks returning to Japan as a Canadian who looks Japanese. Now that I've been here long enough, I understand most of the cultural norms in Japan - what's acceptable, what isn’t. So I understand our clients’ pain and I feel like we have the solution for them.’

Need help with marketing to Japan

Please get in touch for more information on our workshops or any one of our services. We are happy to help in any way we can.


Emily Bratt


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