Huffpost UK Tech uk
The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Philip Bourchier O'Ferrall Headshot

Brands Without Borders

Posted: Updated:
Print Article

Just as the digital age has broadened our horizons, and the airline revolution has allowed us to explore our planet as never before, so our desire to talk, trade and connect has grown stronger and stronger.

Yet for all we learn about the world we live in and those we share it with, vast cultural differences remain. Perhaps the most glaring example of this is the way we view Asia.

A recent news report in the FT about a briefing document prepared by America's National Intelligence Council for President Obama has highlighted the extraordinary speed with which Asian nations are overtaking the West - economically, militarily and technologically.

By 2030, the report concluded, Asia will be far ahead of the US and Europe combined - meaning that whether we like it or not, the time to bridge that gap in cultural understanding is right now.

Both the business community and consumers would do well to embrace this largely underestimated audience. Writing from personal experience, I know that this can and does work. As Dentsu, Japan's largest advertising agency, is collaborating in unchartered territories with the West, we are on the cusp of myriad opportunities to learn from Eastern audiences, and the cultural influence of Japan, in particular, is already growing.

Japan is one of the most fascinating countries on Earth. It has an amazing vitality that has appeared thus far to have been largely ignored by Western companies. There is a huge opportunity for Western companies to learn from the Eastern world - to view expansion not just as a cultural project but also as a commercial initiative. The business community has a responsibility to open its Western eyes to the possibilities of the East.

The success we have seen with MTV Japan, following the launch of MTV81 (which, if you're wondering, is a reference to Japan's international dialing code) illustrates this point perfectly. What has fed the popularity of this unique online/digital project is its focus on highlighting the amazing cultural vitality of Japan for international audiences; by positioning itself as connecting with homegrown artists, rather than aligning itself to Western ways of doing things, it has remained relevant to its audience. In this sense, the channel's flexibility and appreciation of its unique audience has fed its survival.

It's easy to forget that Japanese viewers have long been interested in Europe and America, engaging in Western cultural events as fervently as us Westerners - they took part in MTV's Europe Music Awards event in unprecedented numbers - so it's fascinating to see that influence starting to flow in the opposite direction.

Ultimately, a closer symbiosis between East and West should encourage absorption of all cultures. After all, we are all united in our differences. "Irrashaimase!", as they say in Tokyo.