The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan


When I was in graduate school, one of my classmates was from Poland. In those days, before the Berlin Wall came down, he found attending classes in a capitalist economy both enlightening and heady.

I still remember how tickled he was when he read somewhere that the first rule of capitalism is “find a need and fill it.” In Make it Happen: Japanese Companies Need to Elevate Marketing as a Core Function to Succeed Outside Japan, Robert E. Peterson shows the central role of marketing to the first half of that capitalist proposition, and shares his passion for the subject.

Peterson’s book is written in a very accessible style, making it understandable even for a reader with no previous knowledge or experience of marketing. I felt some confusion about Peterson’s intended audience, however.

He is purportedly writing for Japanese—making the case for greater use by the Japanese of marketing as a business practice. Yet the book included pedestrian explanations of basic Japanese business and social practices that are unnecessary for all except complete Japan neophytes.

Additionally, after the section explaining Japan’s failure to effectively use marketing, the remainder of the book does not offer particularly compelling analysis tied to Japanese business. Rather, it is a more generic consideration.

Structurally, the book is divided into five parts: a primer on the marketing function, an analysis of the reasons Japanese companies struggle with marketing, the strategic basics of marketing, practical advice, and a checklist.

The explanation in part one on the importance of the marketing function naturally leads to part two’s analysis of why Japanese companies do not currently use marketing effectively. Alas, I did not find sufficient detail in the section to be convinced that this under-utilization is either unique to Japan or particularly problematic.

Perhaps I would have been more convinced if this section had contained one or two more concrete examples of business failures or sub-optimal business performance attributable to failure to use marketing.

What I did find especially useful in this book were parts three and five, the strategic basics and the checklist. In particular, the overview of strategic basics contained essential information and success stories that would enable any business to more effectively engage a marketing consultant to their benefit. Even a reader like me, with limited background in this area, could readily grasp the concepts presented.

The checklist offered a kind of roadmap to the same end, literally ABCs of the marketing process. Here, too, more detail might have been useful. Some sort of annotation of the items on the checklist explaining the reasons for each could have been helpful to aid in the reader’s appreciation of each item, making the checklist even more usable.

Still, Peterson’s affability and love of his subject matter are clear throughout the book, making it a quick, easy, and beneficial read.

Vicki L. Beyer is a vice-chair of the ACCJ Women in Business Committee.
What I did find especially useful in this book were the strategic basics and the checklist.