The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan

I work for a marketing company, so it’s fair to say that I’m in marketing. The promotion and sale of consumer products is an exciting line of work but, when you think about it, in a sense we’re all in marketing. Or perhaps more accurately, we all do marketing. From our clothing to our grooming to what we share or “like” on social media, our choices are all parts of how we present ourselves to the world. These all send clues to others as to who we are, or how we hope to be perceived. This is marketing of ourselves, and it happens whether or not we make a conscious effort to control it.

As many of you reading this can attest, the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan (ACCJ) provides many opportunities to market ourselves and our organizations at a variety of events. Clearly, networking events are organized for the explicit purpose of putting ourselves out there and expanding our circle of acquaintances and friends. But in an era when many people interact with others more through Facebook than face to face, I want to take this opportunity to share with you an experience I had a few months ago. It reminded me of the importance of personal marketing in the “real” world.

This past December, there was a contingent of Asian Americans who were all elected officials from the United States. The ACCJ hosted a breakfast meeting at the Tokyo boardroom, and several ACCJ members were on hand to share their ideas and experience with these officials. Naturally we introduced ourselves. Delegate Aruna Miller, a member of the Maryland General Assembly, had a memorable marketing technique; she had colorful enameled lapel pins attached to the business cards she was handing out. To show my appreciation (and, to be honest, to be able to fit the card into my meishi case), I took the pin out and put it through the button hole of my coat right away.

Later in the day, after eating lunch, I was out for a walk and heard a very animated voice on a distant loudspeaker. My interest piqued, I started heading toward the sound. After a few turns and heading down toward the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan in Kasumigaseki, I realized the source of the sound was of the black uyoku (right wing group) buses parked in the street. It was then that I remembered that December 8 (in Japan) is the anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. I suppose that the phalanx of police around the bus emboldened me, so I decided to walk closer to the angry sounds coming from the bus.

Stopped by the red light at the crosswalk, I turned to the man next to me (who I quickly made judgements about, based on how he was marketing himself in his suit and tie), and said, “Well THAT guy sure seems angry!” This Japanese gentleman smiled and replied, “Yeah! I’LL say!” Noticing the pin in my lapel, he asked if I had something to do with Maryland. I explained that I didn’t, but had met a Maryland official at an ACCJ breakfast event a few hours previously. This really broke the ice, as it turned out my new pal had been to a few ACCJ events. The light changed and we continued our conversation as we crossed the road. Once safely on the other side of the road, we exchanged cards and learned that we have a mutual friend from his days at NTT DoCoMo (he’s now with a think tank). We agreed to get the three of us together for dinner. I had made a new and very interesting contact in under three minutes, and I owe it all to personal marketing.

Are you marketing yourself effectively? Are you active in the ACCJ and taking full advantage of the many opportunities to educate yourself and expand your network? While striking up conversations with strangers on the street may not be the best approach for everyone, I would certainly encourage everyone to make an effort to be outgoing, market themselves, and get to know some of their fellow human beings.

Deryk X. Langlais is director at Oak Lawn Marketing (Shop Japan) and vice chair of the Living in Chubu Committee.
Marketing of ourselves . . . whether or not we make a conscious effort to control it.