Tadashi Inokuchi | The Innovator 25 2016
Charting the future of public relations
TadashiThe Innovator 25:

Tadashi Inokuchi

Executive division director

Dentsu PR
Tokyo

"PR professionals must be able to move the hearts of consumers; the ability to move people as a team is essential"




As a multidisciplinary communications planner and strategist, Inokuchi leads Dentsu's communication design division, and is responsible for some of the world's most acclaimed PR campaigns of recent years, including 'Turn the page' for Iwanami Shoten; ‘Japan’s milk price problem'; and 'Second LifeToys' by Green Ribbon Project Committee. Much of this work is done to the ambitious rethink of public relations that Inokuchi has spearheaded at Dentsu, resulting in highly creative thinking and exceptional strategic insight.

How do you define innovation?
I think even modest efforts can produce tremendous innovation. As even completely new things are not necessarily innovative, I think a point of view that gives birth to new things constitutes innovation. I think the ability to view things differently is vital. The process of creating something real from that vision requires tenacity. In an era where virtually anything is possible, innovation may very well result from people’s dreams or delusions, as much as insight or analysis. Here I believe one’s resolve to produce innovation is vital. Perhaps, Dream x Resolve = Innovation.

Most innovative PR/comms campaign you’ve seen in the last 12 months?
While still currently in development, the Dot Incorporation dot watch campaign for the Braille smartwatch developed for visually impaired persons is wonderful. They say necessity is the mother of invention, however, more often than not, what people think constitutes a necessity is very often limited by stereotypes. By adopting the perspective of the visually impaired, Dot Incorporation found a new way to tackle an old challenge. This project is tackling a modest, but frequent challenge. That is, while confirming the time is a non-issue for the sighted, the visually impaired must frequently ask. Such dependence is a constant source of stress. Apart from larger efforts that societies must solve to promote barrier-free cities, their approach offers solutions to individuals, providing practical, perhaps more meaningful support. The company is also looking for ways to increase the display area to accommodate more Braille, and studying approaches for less not proficient Braille readers. The ability to continue developing current forms, while considering greater possibilities is a wonderful combination.

What brands and/or agencies are most innovative when it comes to marketing/PR?
Nisshin, the Japanese company that produces Cup Noodles, is extremely innovative. You could say that cup noodles, first developed 45 years ago, are now a globally established convenience food that originated in Japan. Though it created an original product, the company is always trying new things, especially in the area of communications, often a hot topic in Japan. This year, they began adopting consumer feedback on something it would seem everybody knows: how to prepare instant noodles (i.e., add hot water, wait a few minutes and eat). When consumers offer useful suggestions (e.g. letting certain noodles cook longer than the specified time produces more delicious results), the company adopts the idea and, in turn, offers the idea back to consumers: “Hey, here is a new way to enjoy our noodles!” They have adopted a very flexible, case-by-case, approach. Long established rules are often slow to change, but a company like this with the courage to change, I want to cheer them on.

Describe a moment in your career that you would consider ‘innovative.’
After the 2008 global financial crisis, PR entered the spotlight. In 2009, Cannes Lions even established a PR category. New expectations rose and bonds formed between creative work and PR. Sensing a global trend, I felt the urge to evolve the form of PR we were practicing, re-examine our fundamental approach to PR and inject our business practices with new perspectives unbound by past preconceptions.

In what area of marketing/PR do you see the most innovation?
Content & creative.

How would you describe the communications/PR industry’s level of innovation?

Lagging other marketing disciplines

Where do you see the greatest opportunity for marketing & PR to become more innovative?
Planning & analytics.

Who most influences how innovative a brand’s marketing/PR is?
CMO

Who is your mentor and why?
Family and friends: I think daily conversations with family and friends contain hidden hints to the solutions for various problems. While expertise is certainly important, the ability to always be aware of how average consumers view the world is vital. In this sense, daily conversations contain many helpful suggestions.

How do you find inspiration?

As my own thinking has certain fixed tendencies, I challenge myself to examine situations from different perspectives. I liken the process to playing mental dress up games, standing in the shoes of a woman, a senior citizen, a child or someone from a different culture. I try to imagine how I would feel attributes certain beyond my own, looking for new value using a 360 degree perspective. This process is a tremendous source of inspiration.

Advice for people seeking to bring new ideas, ways of doing things to their organizations?

How we form relationships is vital. The ability to get things done on one’s own within an organization is well and good, however, few can sustain such a performance for long. Though relationships can sometimes be troublesome, like interactions with colleagues with similar ambitions, in the end, teamwork is more sustainable. PR professionals must be able to move the hearts of consumers; the ability to move people as a team is essential.

In your opinion, what’s the most innovative place in the world?

Many places come to mind, however, Tokyo—host city of the next Summer Olympics—seems poised to produce great innovation. Though we have many concerns, as the vast changes to come have created a heightened sense of awareness: What shall our medium to long-term goals be over the next four short years; what shall we preserve after the games? The ability to answer many of these questions is the foundation of PR. As we prepare to host the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games, our excitement grows daily.

What’s your favorite time of day and why?
I wake up at 4am to walk my dog. As the sky changes from darkness to light with the arrival of dawn, I feel a sense of symbolic change: nature, life, time, love. The very air I breathe feels different. While a time to relax, this short interlude prepares me for bold change, the workings of life. I feel ready to face a new day of challenges.


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