“Doctors” of the Advertising and Design Department—What is a Creative Strategist?
New times – new functions of the Advertising and Design Department
--Ms. Fumi Fujie, who works as a Creative Strategist (hereafter, Strategist) in the Advertising and Design Department, was originally assigned to a sales position when she first joined the company. Ms. Fujie, could you give us an outline of your career in Shiseido to date?
Fujie：Yes, for about 10 years after I joined Shiseido, I worked on the frontlines as a salesperson, meeting and dealing with consumers every day. After that, I was transferred to the Advertising and Design Department, and served as a Producer for brands including MAQuillAGE, TSUBAKI, and HAKU. Following that, under the guidance of Mr. Toru Yoshida of Naked Communications Tokyo, who has lent his capabilities to enhancing the creativity of the Advertising and Design Department, I acquired a wide range of skills and became the first Strategist of the Advertising and Design Department.
--Mr. Toru Yoshida is renowned in the advertising and marketing industries as a strategist who handles strategic planning for corporations, isn’t he? What were some of the things that you learnt from him?
Fujie：One example is that as part of my training as a strategist, he taught me the method of applying inversions, or thinking backwards, when considering what message the advertisements of the world are attempting to communicate to their audiences. By inferring who the target audience is, what the brand’s issues are, who the competitors are, and what the social circumstances were like when the advertisement was launched, I gained an understanding of the core ideas underlying the creativity behind various advertisements.
-- It is said that one of the roles of a strategist is to draw out the core ideas for the preliminary stage of creating an advertisement. What specific tasks does this work entail?
Fujie：The work of a Strategist in Shiseido involves finding the points where corporations and brands overlap with consumers, establishing the core ideas, and inspiring the creators. Hence, members of the branding team come together and use a variety of means to explore core ideas, including organizing workshops where they express their views and opinions, going out into the streets to observe people and cosmetic sales counters, and conducting interviews. Our aim is to uncover consumers’ voices that have never been expressed before, and become a presence that can speak out on their behalf.
--Indeed, amidst the growing volume of information that we receive as a result of the popularization of social media, I feel that the voices of consumers are no longer uniform. To begin with, what were the circumstances leading to the birth of Strategists in Shiseido?
Fujie：With the diversification of attitudes and behavior among people in recent years, the communication between consumers and corporations or brands is no longer unilateral; rather, this relationship is gradually flattening out. The communication required in such an era is to gain a deep understanding of who both parties are, and based on that, to identify the points where we resonate with the other party. Strategists were born to identify these points of resonance through a multifaceted approach, and tackle the work of branding and creating experiential value for consumers in a professional way.
--Creative Director Takahashi, you have been engaged in the work of creating the worldview of brands. What impact has working together with a Strategist had on you?
Takahashi：With the birth of Strategists, it has become possible to properly organize issues related to each brand, such as “What is the purpose of an advertisement?” “Who is the target audience?” “How do we want to touch the emotions of the target audience?” while feeding back the opinions of the consumers into the creative process. As the direction for the things that we should produce, based on the marketing issues, has become clearer, I think that the key message that we wish to convey as a brand has become stronger.
Fujie：Strategists play a role that is similar to that of lenses, which is the convergence and divergence of light. In the same way that the light passing through lenses converges on one point, strategists narrow down the issues based on various information (facts), and concentrate on the important focal points that glow the brightest (core communication idea). From there, they radiate the colorful output for creators, just like the dispersion of a seven-colored spectrum.
I always think that it would be wonderful if we could “set fire” to the creators’ soul and spirit, as if lighting a fire through the energy from the light collected at the focal point.
Meeting directly with consumers and listening to their views
Conceptual diagram of the role of a Strategist
Pursuing the reality of consumers and sharing the burden of branding.
--What do Strategists do to understand consumers?
Fujie：Data is important in order for us to grasp the changes in values across the different eras, and to understand depth psychology. However, rather than seeking to understand these aspects alone, we also place much importance on direct interaction and contact. For example, through means such as meeting and speaking with consumers who are using the products and external experts, and going out onto the streets to observe market changes, we can uncover many fresh aspects of reality, and expand our horizons significantly.
Takahashi：I am in charge of the brand MAQuillAGE. This brand has continued to grow steadily to date, and that is precisely why I had felt that it is difficult to determine the extent of new challenges that we can tackle going forward.
Just as I was thinking that, Ms. Fujie came up with the idea to first conduct an interview survey by focusing only on the people who like MAQuillAGE. Based on the results of the interview, I realized that the strong commitment of the brand’s fans was precisely the reason why many of them gave us constructive criticism.
In the interviews, we were able to draw out answers from the interviewees about what made them excited about our products. This was something new for me. Hearing the honest views of consumers who love our products through the survey space that the Strategists had prepared for us also provided me with a moment when I could experience the joy of product creation; I felt that this can also be applied to the formulation of creative ideas.
Fujie：Prior to that, creators including Mr. Takahashi had not had many opportunities to enter the “circle of consumers” and ask them directly about how they felt. Hence, this was a very meaningful experience for them. While listening to what the consumers had to say during the survey, there were also moments when we felt a surge of desire to respond to their heartfelt opinions and requests; it is this surge of emotion, I believe, that helps to kick-off the process of product creation. We really cherish this feeling.
Going out onto the streets in search of new discoveries
Staying close to consumers and experts, and observing their behavior
What kind of lady does MAQuillAGE propose? The brand’s message brought into focus
--Mr. Takahashi, you have been with Shiseido’s Advertising and Design Department for many years. Based on the consumers’ views that you have been listening to, what type of creative work do you think is required to meet the needs of the current times?
Takahashi：Until about 20 years ago when the bubble economy collapsed, all members of a family would sit in the same room to watch a television commercial, so it was natural for them to say, “This is a good product, let’s go and buy it.” Hence, it would be fine as long as we kept in mind that the creative work should resonate with everyone. However, people now watch the television in their own rooms from the corner of their eyes, smartphones in hand. In an era like this, where information and values are becoming increasingly individualized, rather than creating something that everyone will like, it seems preferable to create something “what only certain people will rave about.” Surprisingly, doing so can resonate with a larger number of people. That is the communication style of the present day.
Fujie：To that end, we organized a workshop on “creating walls” to make the brand image of MAQuillAGE more distinct, and to align our perceptions as a team. In this workshop, all the members stood shoulder to shoulder looking at a board, freely expressed various ideas, and put these ideas up onto the board. As the ideas that have been put up on the board are then overwritten by ideas from other members, the perceptions of all the members gradually become aligned.
--Please tell us more about what actually happened when you “created a wall.”
Fujie：The existing core message for the MAQuillAGE brand is “Get ready for true ladylike beauty.” With that in mind, we organized a workshop to clarify what a lady is, to begin with.
Takahashi：The visual images of a lady as imagined by each member of the production team, as well as keywords, were put up on the wall. Although the keywords related to the aesthetic of a lady as envisioned by MAQuillAGE had never been visualized before this, they gradually began to emerge through the workshop exercise. Some of these key images included “Glitter is good; glaring is bad” and “Elegant is good; conservative is bad.” I felt that we were able to further strengthen the message that we wish to convey going forward.
Identifying a direction after countless meetings
The “MAQuillAGE wall” aimed to bring the image of the brand into focus
“The joy of making consumers happy”, now and hereafter
--Through the emergence of Strategists, there is much anticipation that Shiseido’s creative team will be able to produce even more new values for us. Ms. Fujie, you are currently involved in efforts to create such new forms of communication. What are your thoughts about the future?
Fujie：I was assigned to the sales department soon after joining Shiseido, so I believe that I have had the opportunity to learn from consumers about the power of cosmetics and the 145 years of history that Shiseido has built up. I have a strong desire to pass on this history, which I learnt about in person, to the Shiseido of the future, a decade or a century later.
Going forward, I hope to become a Strategist whom creators can consult with when they face difficulties or become stuck. It would be ideal to have a presence similar to being a jumping stand from where creators can take off, so that they can say, “I was able to take a leap without any hesitation because Fujie was here.” I have not been in this job for a long time, so I would first like to create a strong track record, precisely and thoroughly.
--Thank you. How about Mr. Takahashi, who has helped to drive forward the creative process for various brands?
Takahashi：I hope to further strengthen collaboration between creators and Strategists, and to steadily tackle the challenge of creating new values. To ensure that Shiseido never loses sight of its mission –placing the joy of people first, enriching the emotions of people, and making people more beautiful, I hope that the Strategists can guide us, the creators, toward the right direction.
I think of Strategists as the “doctors” of the Advertising and Design Department. When the brand is performing well, and when it is performing poorly, Strategists have a constant grasp on the situation, and offer the appropriate diagnosis and advice. By teaming up with Strategists, creators gain the ability to carry out their work with confidence.
Published in May 2017
- Fumi Fujie Creative Strategist
- Graduated from Ochanomizu University in 2001, and joined Shiseido the same year. After working in the sales department, she was transferred to the Advertising and Design Department in 2010. She initially served as a producer, then trained under Mr. Toru Yoshida of Naked Communications Tokyo. Appointed as Creative Strategist since 2016 to the present day.
- Ayumu Takahashi Creative Director
- Born in 1967. He joined Shiseido after completing his graduate studies at Tokyo University of the Arts. He was posted to Europe from 2005 to 2009. His work mainly covers SHISEIDO MEN and MAQuillAGE, among others.
- Fumi Fujie
- Ayumu Takahashi