Webinar: Unlocking “Brand Ikigai”

Webinar: Unlocking “Brand Ikigai”

Tokyo (SCCIJ) – More than 30 guests and members enjoyed the SCCIJ webinar talk by the marketing and branding expert Ms. Vanessa Oshima. The New Zealand-born founder of Brand Strategy startup “Heart-data” and the Head of Marketing Division for Starbucks Coffee Japan presented her “Brand Ikigai” framework. Based on the Japanese philosophical concept of “sense of purpose that leads to longevity”, any individual, team, or company may search for their “brand ikigai” by answering four basic questions. Full recording available here!

Webinar: Unlocking “Brand Ikigai”

SCCIJ Webinar speaker Ms. Vanessa Oshima explained a strategy to unlock your ‘brand ikigai’.

A personal story

Ms. Oshima pulled her audience into the topic with a personal story of how she found her “brand ikigai”. When she was diagnosed with cancer, she discovered the Japanese idea of ikigai but struggled to apply it to her case: “Although my medical data were good after early surgery and quick treatment, I was still crying a lot.” But she regained her positive energy after taking a different look at her disease. Using her experience in working to build and strengthen brands she set out to “fix the brand ‘Vanessa’, deciding to live with cancer instead of fighting cancer,” she explained.

Brands often need to be rethought as our environment changes. “As we go through a changing event, we have to think about what is changing and what is staying the same,” she said. “That is the core part of building your ikigai and surviving even paradigm shifts.” Finding and building the ikigai of an individual, team or company would require answering four questions related to the four topics of passion, mission, profession, and vocation. Although the questions seemed quite simple, in essence, they were not and so having to come up with ways to find the answers was a key part of the talk. Her first suggestion was to start with everyday curiosity and an open mind.

What you love

To find your passion, the speaker suggested going through the pictures on your smartphones. “Identify the shots where you are happy and put up to 30 hashtags on each of them.” For example, the brand Patagonia could be hashtagged with #environment, #outdoors, #together, and #clean. This process results in a word cloud with some words appearing more often or having a contextual relation. “One revelation from this approach is that the hashtags can change over time.” For example, the brand Tesla was first connected with innovation and green driving. But nowadays, it may be more associated with the name of its founder Elon Musk. “What brands are passionate for or seem to be passionate about can change,” Ms. Oshima noted and so we should continue to monitor.

What you’re good at

To find out what you are good at, the speaker presented several ideas: First, create a one-liner summarizing your strength to put on a T-shirt. Second, ask several people to make a bingo chart about your strengths and identify the topics appearing often. Third, list out all strengths and equities on eleven chips. Take three attributes and divide the chips. Repeat this until you are down to one or two. Fourth, the gatekeeper method: List your strengths and give up 30% of them several times until you are left with the biggest strength.

For brands, you can’t just say you are good at something or that this is your strength. The speaker gave examples that highlighted that you need to live the strength and continue to reinforce it. She also noted that what might be a strength in one environment or situation may be considered a weakness in another. “A weakness can be a strength and vice versa,” Ms. Oshima said. “For example, a brand can be seen either as premium or expensive, and an independent thinker may also be described as a lone wolf.”

What the world needs

The third ikigai search question is about your mission. “The thing to learn is that you do not have to achieve a huge change,” Ms. Oshima said. The other way would be to look at the new guys on the block. “Look for ‘I wish solutions’,” she suggested. New entrants would have new solutions for problems that were not well solved before. “Knowing what problems the world needs solving and then combining that understanding of technology and social trends can highlight opportunities. And sometimes we can see consumers fixing problems themselves with DIY solutions. These highlight immediate needs and opportunities. If you catch yourself saying ‘I wish’, that is where a potential opportunity lies.”

What you can get paid for

This fourth ikigai question requires you to define the value of your brand and find out what customers are willing to pay for it. “But be careful: If the value changes, the willingness to pay also changes,” she warned. For example, the use of a Wi-Fi network in a hotel used to be billed separately. Soon, customers started to consider Wi-Fi as a service included in the room price. However, some people may still be willing to pay for a Wi-Fi connection if it is fast, stable, and secure. Another case may be bottled oxygen. “Normally, you would not buy it, but while climbing Mt. Fuji, you may be willing to pay for such a product.” The speaker suggested checking the relationship between value and benefits to define the right price.

Biography of the Speaker

Ms. Vanessa Oshima has a passion for brands and the role they play in people’s lives. She participated in the strategy, planning, and marketing execution of some of the most recognizable brands, including Coca-Cola, Nike, Philip Morris International, and Starbucks Coffee. From Discovery Research, early prototyping, and final campaign, she was involved in many successful launches in Japan. Ms. Oshima was the co-winner of the ESOMAR (European Society of Market research) Paper of the Year 2018 for her work on Brand Ikigai (unpacking brand longevity and loyalty).

Text: Martin Fritz for SCCIJ

Find below the complete recording of the webinar:



  • 2022
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