Movies as market research?

Last Sunday I saw the movie movie Maruyama, the middle schooler as part of CinemAsia film festival. A funny movie about a 14-year old boy going through your regular teenage angst in his very individual way. But what also struck me afterwards when I was preparing for a meeting I had this morning was:

“This would be perfect market research material.”

The movie focuses on life in a regular Tokyo neighbourhood, with many scenes taking place inside the different apartments of the characters in the story. And if you are a Dutch business interested in selling your interior design products that is one of the things you want to know: what do Japanese houses look like? Are they colourful? What type of interiors do Japanese people like? What kind of items do they use?

The meeting I was preparing for was part of some market research being conducted for a Dutch company. The company is eyeing Japan as a potential new market for them, and the students who had been asked to take on this research phase had a long list of questions for me. This list included the above questions on the look and feel of Japanese houses to find out if the items this company designs would potentially fit in a Japanese interior.

Of course, the best way to find out more about this is to go to Japan, see Japanese houses, find out yourself how people live and what they surround themselves with. But, that is not always the easiest thing to do.

The next best thing? Watching movies.

And, it’s a lot more fun than going through stacks of market research reports.

Who’d have thought watching movies could be a productive way of finding out more about a potential new market.

Admittedly, not every movie works as well for this purpose. But if you look for films that show what real life is like in a certain place, like Tokyo, you can find plenty of good movies that give a bit of insight into an average apartment in urban Japan. And that, of course, counts for any place you are researching.

PS, looking for some good suggestions for Japan? Try some of Koreeda’s beautiful movies.

A recipe for a successful work trip

Whenever I travel for work, I try to fit in as many meetings with people or organizations I don’t know in that place, of course focusing on CSR, sustainability and/or business in Asia. This may vary a little with related topics: so in Shanghai I also spoke about social entrepreneurship or when I was in Tokyo I spoke about sustainable urban planning.

It’s a way to find out quickly what topics are relevant in that location or market: after just a few coffee’s the same things start popping up, the same names. Or when they don’t: clearly it’s a broad and diverse topic that I’m exploring.

But one question that comes up when I’m back home is always:

“But, who do you talk to?”

Since another trip is close – even if it’s only two days to London – let me take you along in how I do this.

The reason for next week’s trip is the Global Supply Chains Summit for which I happily received a delegate’s place. The summit focuses especially on how business can deal with trafficking and forced labour in their supply chain. Topics which are complicated, but also tie in nicely to some other things I’ve been doing over the last few weeks such as the SER conference on due diligence and a training on the UN Guiding Principles on Human Rights and Business.

London is also a city where there seem to be more things happening when it comes to CSR and sustainability in Asia, so I’m taking the opportunity to spend a little bit longer and fit in a few meetings on these topics.

But how do I find people to talk to, with a limited local network?

The recipe for putting together an interesting work trip consists of various ingredients, such as:

  • social media
    I let people know I’m there via Twitter or LinkedIn:

    Sometimes this works, this time I didn’t really. But social media can be very powerful so I always use it.

  • sensitivity to related news
    Once I know a trip like this is coming up, I automatically become more aware of any news or things that pop that connect to it. So, when a China-related post pops up on the CSR Chicks mailinglist that I’m on (which is very UK-centric and I don’t keep track closely) it gets bookmarked to follow up on when I have time.
  • network
    Of course, I use my existing network: so I contact the agency I met with in Guangzhou that also has a London office, I check with people I know whether they may have suggestions.
  • local events
    I have a look at events that are organized worldwide: Green Drinks, CSR MeetUp – chances are there’s something going on, or this gives leads into further contacts. Turns out: there’s a CSR MeetUp London the night I arrive. Unfortunately, I arrive too late to attend but next time this will definitely be part of my itinerary!
  • coincidence & luck
    Some things are just luck: remember the above UN Guiding Principles training? Two of the participants were from the UK and are based in London.

And really, whether I go to London or somewhere more exotic such as Bangkok, Shanghai or Tokyo: the recipe of pulling together an interesting schedule is always the same.

Added benefit in almost all of these places: being able to mix business and pleasure. I’m looking forward to dinner with a Japanese friend next week as well, of course!

CinemAsia is in town!

Based in the Amsterdam region and no weekend plans yet? Then take your pick from the CinemAsia program for a film-filled weekend.

Whether you are looking for a Chinese blockbuster, animations, a Japanese food documentary, a love story, or something from the Philippines, South Korea or maybe Indonesia – you can find it in Amsterdam this weekend.

And, of course I can’t resist highlighting one of the films which has a responsible business theme to it. The movie Another Family portrays a South Korean story, in which a father confronts the company where his daughter was employed in one of the company’s factories. Having had poor health and safety procedures, the daughter fell ill and died after working here.

It is based on a true story in Korea, but could also have been a story from China or other Asian countries, where there are still regular reports of similar cases. Just this week, Dutch trade union FNV published about a case of a Chinese worker contracting aenemia after working with chemicals.

I look forward to catching some good films myself when I’m there on Saturday and Sunday. See you there?