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The key to creating a market is visualizing the consumers who are your customers and steadily cycling through the marketing PDCA

Morimasa Hirosue, Data Science, Digital Marketing, Kao Corporation

Kao’s Biore UV had been maintaining a high market share, yet conversely its sales had reached the saturation point. Using outstanding digital promotion, the company was able to successfully spur demand for this product that would have been impossible to do with mass advertising. Morimasa Hirosue, a Data Scientist in Kao’s Digital Marketing Center, followed the marketing PDCA (understanding customers, communication, measuring results, and deriving challenges) for this project. His thesis on this was met with praise, and won the first place prize at the 44th JAA Advertising Thesis Award.*1 We spoke with Mr. Hirosue, who said, “Our customers want to play outside with their kids, so we figured they would want a sunscreen.”

This was originally motivated by digital advertising targeting the end of the rainy season, which kicked off efforts to understand customers

First off, I’d like to ask about your impressions and reactions to winning the first place prize with your advertising thesis.

My first attempt at writing this thesis came last year (2016), but this didn’t go very well. Ultimately, it wasn’t until 2017 before I felt like the initiative had come to a conclusion of sorts, which allowed me to finally finish the paper. When I received the award, the dominant emotion I felt was more one of embarrassment than anything.

The subject of your thesis deals with the marketing for Biore UV. Can you please speak of the sequence of events that led to these initiatives?

From our data, we learned that in many cases sales of Kao products are considerably affected by the weather and the outside temperature. For example, our Cape hairspray sells well during the rainy season. If you analyze blogs that write about hair, it appears that this is because customers use it to curb their hair from getting frizzy due to the humidity. Therefore, we engaged in prefecture-specific digital advertising linked to the start of the rainy season. Looking at the results of this sparked conversations on topics like “Well, if it works for the start of the rainy season, wouldn’t it also work for the end of it?” and “What if we tried this for UV as well?” This is what started our digital advertising initiatives for Biore UV.

The brand has managed to retain a high market share, but did you have any challenges for this?

Back then we had ten or more SKUs, so even when we ran commercials we couldn’t produce commercials for all of these. Given this, we figured that we would be able to boost sales of individual products just a bit more via targeted communications. We saw this as our challenge.

Morimasa Hirosue, Data Science, Digital Marketing, Kao Corporation

How did you go about zeroing in on the target for this?

In the beginning (2015), we talked about wanting to create opportunities for our Mild Care Milk product that had just been released a little while ago. Yet even if we were to run promotions for this we had failed to grasp the target, and did not have any hypotheses for this either. So to start with we decided to take a broad look at the word “sunscreen,” and tracked down blogs to do this. When we did, we noticed that the word “children” frequently came up. Since Mild Care Milk was a product that was perfectly suited for use on children, we naturally decided to base this around “children” as our focal point. The following year (2016) we decided to launch another product, our SPF50+ Nobi Nobi Kid’s Milk, for which we also used this same focal point as well.

So you analyzed blogs to understand your customers, based on which you zeroed in on your target. After this, you delivered advertisements at times that coincided with good weather. You used di-PiNK*2 to deliver the advertisements. What sort of advantages do you feel it offered?

I found that its greatest advantage was the fact that it allowed us to do everything from analyzing the people who purchased particular products to delivering advertisements, performing surveys, and measuring the results for metrics like purchase rates via a single platform.

Communication centered around intangible concepts aimed at customers and measuring results using original data

Looking at your thesis reveals that you soundly cycled through the marketing PDCA, such as by measuring the results of your aforementioned ad placement and publishing digital coupons as a distribution measure based on your reflections back on this. In addition, in 2017 you launched the information site “sotomo” as part of your communications. This is a genuinely useful site that hardly feels like advertising at all.

Our customers don’t want their kids to get sunburnt. They want to do things like play with their kids and go outside, but it’s not that they have some special desire for sunscreen. That being the case, right from the start our focus should naturally be on playing together with your kids. The sequence goes like this: We say “sunny days are perfect for outings,” then from there we tie this into “these sorts of places are potential outing destination,” then lastly we bring up sunscreen. If you simply say “This product has these sorts of features,” the message doesn’t really get through to customers. This is what we were carefully focused on.

I think that the important questions here are what sorts of things customers are interested in and what sorts of things they want to do. I feel that this principal is the same whether you’re talking about sunscreen or hairspray.

How do you perceive the results in a broad sense based on the fact that you have your own owned media?

When you go on outings with your kids, clothes get dirty and so do hands. I get the feeling that translating intangible concepts customers have of things like “outings” into content allows us to engage in communication that serves to support customers through other product brands when it comes to not just sunscreen, but also laundry and washing your hands.

After deciding on a direction of playing up “parent / child experiences” and “support for child growth,” you used SCI user profiling analyses (Fig. 1). How do you feel about the analytical contents and techniques?

In most cases, when we consider the profiles of customers who use our products, we perform surveys by asking questions. This is important because we learn an absolutely incredible amount this way, but we are only able to ask for the opinions of a limited number of people and so essentially all this allows us to do is validate our hypotheses.

On the other hand, analyses via SCI made it possible to use a wide variety of consumer information to perform analyses from multiple different angles. As such, unpacking this allowed us to validate our hypotheses and sometimes even arrive at new interpretations in a certain sense.

Fig. 1

How did you go about measuring results?

It is extremely difficult to gauge whether online content has produced results. But we worked together with the people at INTAGE to measure the results of our content, through which I learned a great deal. For example, using information on the purchase logs of people who visited our website—as well as their purchase inclinations, actual purchases, purchase rate, and so forth—allowed us to gauge the actual results in terms of what the people who saw our content bought (Fig. 2). In addition, we can also figure out how people feel about our content via questionnaires on people who have been exposed to the site, thus searching for clues on how to make improvements from this.

Fig. 2

Visualizing customers from a technical perspective on data and supporting our team’s marketing PDCA

INTAGE provided support for this sequence of initiatives for Biore UV. What sort of assessment do you have of this?

Well, one assessment I have of this is that it made it easier to measure the results. It allowed us to set targets tied to purchasing patterns, which was extremely helpful.

Moreover, even though we had data, there were tons of things that we didn’t understand just on our own.

The people at INTAGE provided us with support for visualizing this so that we could understand the data in a technical sense. As a result, this made the reaction from our customers somewhat more visible. This was important for us.

What sorts of expectations do you have for INTAGE going forward?

I think that the question of how you view the market is an important one. We must be quick about finding the answers to questions like “Is this a brand that we unexpectedly find ourselves in competition with?” or “Is this type of person a potential customer?” and work out an approach for this. Having said that, I feel that we cannot just make determinations on our competition or (customer) attributes based solely on hunches or subjective impressions.

I do not necessarily mean to say that you cannot present a hypothesis unless it is rooted in data, just that I think it is rather important to validate these based on data. I would like for the people at INTAGE to continue to support us in this regard on into the future.

Mr. Hirosue from Kao Corporation and Kengo Shiomi, a Sales Analyst / Manager at INTAGE Inc. (left side of the photo).

Thank you very much.

Conducted on March 1, 2018 at INTAGE’s head office

  • *1 Marketing Case Example of Repeatedly Working to Understand Customers, Developing Content, Measuring Results, and Deriving Challenges: The Challenge of Creating a Market for Biore UV
  • *2 di-PiNK
    This is a DMP that integrates online data with real data. Said data includes DoCoMo location information and service usage information, questionnaire response data, consumer purchase data retained by INTAGE, media exposure data (including for television and newspapers), third party data provided by partners, and more. Using di-PiNK offers clues to understanding user needs and customer profiles, and makes it possible to visualize insights (new discoveries) into consumers. In addition, by increasing the sophistication of communications to consumers on the basis of this, it makes it possible to engage in seamless communication with both existing users and potential clients.

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