The BNM Marketing Connection: Cultivating Success Across Cultures
Behind the scenes of our transnational synergy in action
At Bandai Namco Mobile (BNM), we’re pretty good at solving challenges.
Maybe it’s because we’re in the gaming industry, or maybe it’s because our daily work in our sunny Barcelona office involves constantly piecing together a cultural jigsaw puzzle that spans not only East and West, Japan and the rest of the world but also encompasses the rich amalgam of over 25 nationalities represented within our team.
We like to think it’s a bit of both.
And while this challenge might not have super-powered heroes or pirates, it does have a fascinating story to tell. A story that is a bit like a real-life game and sees us navigating cultural codes and values daily as we strive to grow Bandai Namco's mobile business in the West. A story about how this diversity isn't just about varying cultural backgrounds – it's also a potent tool in our arsenal. The different perspectives, insights, and experiences we bring to the table profoundly impact our marketing strategies and decision-making processes, helping us create games that resonate with a broad range of players across the globe.
This constant interplay between our different cultures isn't just fascinating, it's a cornerstone of our approach.
But let's start with something that isn't always obvious: the Marketing team in Barcelona is more than a mere assembly of different specializations – User Acquisition, Community, Product Marketing, Data, ASO, and Creative – all these are important and make the backbone of our team, but it is something else that makes the real difference.
In assembling our team at BNM, we seek more than just a strong set of skills. We look for individuals who will thrive within our unique culture, align with our values, and mesh seamlessly with everyone here. This careful selection process has helped us create an invisible layer of shared understanding, authenticity, and trust – all woven on a tapestry of diverse cultures and viewpoints, enabling us to decode the 'cultural map' that is crucial in marketing games worldwide.
This becomes especially evident when we work with our in-house Game Development team.
Our cross-functional collaborations involve an array of activities, as we're currently laying the foundations for our forthcoming free-to-play original IPs. From conducting market and game analysis to running market research and in-house playtesting, we're focusing on a community-driven development approach from the earliest stages.
As we become more involved in discussions around new and upcoming games, every marketing discipline plays an essential role in ensuring that what we create captivates audiences worldwide. We pitch ideas, conduct A/B testing, and iterate on strategies, leveraging the extensive cultural diversity and wealth of experiences that our team embodies. This constant integration of diverse perspectives, skills, and experiences is what makes us more than the sum of our parts.
Our Publishing team benefits similarly from this synergy, empowering us with go-to-market strategies, creative support, and community building. Translating a game's essence into a marketing strategy is not a simple language swap – it requires us to draw upon our understanding of different motivations and values that drive players in different parts of the world.
That's why we focus on weaving creativity and storytelling into our advertising, a practice that strikes a chord with the Western market we primarily target.
While there's no rule set in stone, we're always aware of subtle nuances to ensure our strategies align with the player's cultural context.
Our collaboration with Bandai Namco Entertainment (BNEI)’s Tokyo team for overseas marketing - that is, marketing outside of Japan for free-to-play games developed by teams based in Japan - further embodies this spirit of mutual education of our respective cultures.
In a world where generative AI and ChatGPT only get you so far, we have found the perfect accomplices in our colleagues from the Licensing & Business Strategy (LBS) team. Our Japanese colleagues here in Barcelona (who have lived in Western countries for years) are our cultural guides, helping us to navigate the nuances of our different work styles and approaches.
In practice, this takes on several forms.
For instance, advertising in Japan often leans towards more informative content, awash with a rich array of colors. In contrast, BNM creates entirely new creatives from scratch to better fit the Western market.
Given the original Japanese game, we ponder over creative concepts and messaging that will connect strongly with the Western audience, ensuring our campaigns align with their preferences and cultural context.
Furthermore, activities like community management and influencer marketing, while staple practices in Western countries, are not as prevalent in Japan. For instance, we actively engage with fans on social media platforms and regularly collaborate with influencers to promote many of our titles outside of Japan.
And while real-time interpretation is rarely necessary, understanding the underlying cultural nuances, communication styles, and the differing notions of building trust across different cultures is a continuous learning process that helps us bridge any gaps, and LBS acts as a crucial conduit.
It's also here that our understanding of different communication styles comes into play.
'High-context' communication, common in many Asian cultures, relies on a shared understanding and non-verbal cues, with much information implicitly conveyed (or just left unsaid). We often find ourselves navigating the fascinating and subtle concept of 'Kuuki wo Yomu,' a Japanese idiom that translates to 'reading the air.'
It's an important facet of social interaction in Japan, highlighting the ability to perceive the unspoken context or to intuit the mood or feelings of others.
For instance, we sometimes find ourselves in situations where we may not immediately understand why our BNEI colleagues in Japan are saying or asking certain things due to the inherent nature of high-context communication, which relies heavily on shared background, culture, and practices. This complex dance of understanding unspoken cues, just like 'reading the air,' is as fascinating as it is crucial in our day-to-day work.
On the other hand, 'low-context' communication, more common in Western societies (particularly in languages like German), is explicit and direct, relying on clear language.
Similarly, we also navigate between holistic and specific reasoning approaches. The holistic approach focuses on the overarching picture and interconnections, while specific reasoning zeroes in on individual elements in isolation.
The result? As we maneuver the maze of different feedback styles, and decision-making approaches, and educate ourselves on different communication patterns (Erin Meyer's The Culture Map: Decoding How People Think, Lead, and Get Things Done Across Cultures is something of an unofficial Bible around here), we're constantly learning and growing into a collective spirit.
And this is where the circle closes: BNEI is a big part of who we are, but our role extends beyond just supporting their overseas marketing activities.
The marketing team's contribution spans multiple disciplines, playing a pivotal role in diverse projects within the BNM office.
This multicultural understanding is just the foundation upon which we craft our strategies for the crucial role we have in shaping the future of Bandai Namco Mobile– whether it's for a Japanese mobile title from BNEI or a mobile game developed and published by BNM, our focus remains on broadening Bandai Namco's mobile gaming outreach outside of Japan.
As we continue to navigate these exciting cross-cultural currents, we're always on the lookout for new crew members. If you're an industry professional interested in our unique blend of Japanese and Western gaming culture, or perhaps a potential candidate looking to join a dynamic team that values collaboration, innovation, a flexible work structure, and a good game of Tekken during breaks, we'd love to hear from you.
Remember, at Bandai Namco Mobile, we're not just creating games; we're bridging cultures. We learn to read the cultural map of each other's backgrounds. Just as every ‘Gracias’ finds its ‘Thank you,’ and every ‘Konbanwa’ meets its ‘Good evening’ in our multicultural environment, we find that every challenge we face becomes an opportunity for growth and success. It's an ongoing, rewarding journey – one that elevates our games and strengthens our bonds, making us more than just a team.
One cultural exchange at a time, we continue crafting games that are fun for players across the globe.
Bandai Namco Mobile
Published: 18 July, 2023