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Employee Spotlight, Yukari Takehisa: “There is simply no ‘one size fits all’ for deriving local market insights.”

In the Employee Spotlight series, we meet with Convosphere’s team members to find out who they are and what their job roles involve. In this interview, we talk to Yukari Takehisa, our Japanese Insight Analyst based in Tokyo.

Where are you from and where are you based?

“I am originally from Japan but spent six years of my childhood in California and Connecticut, US. When I was 14 I relocated to the UK. I lived in London for nine years where I graduated from my master’s degree. I’m now back in Japan, residing in central Tokyo near the bustling city life of Meguro and Shibuya.”

When did you join Convosphere?

“I started working for Convosphere in December 2020, initially on a part-time basis before going full-time earlier this year.”

What are you responsible for in your role?

“I am mainly responsible for projects involving Japan and APAC, helping clients better understand Japanese consumers and their behaviour. I enjoy combining my native cultural knowledge with my experience of social intelligence to give our clients valuable and actionable insights that can really help them in their work.”

What’s the most challenging thing about being a social media insight analyst?

“Finding the signal in the noise; successfully identifying the most relevant and significant information for each client. We lean heavily on AI tools when appropriate but they can sometimes be limited, especially in non-English projects. As insights analysts, we need to accurately determine the most relevant information within the data, not just textually, but also taking into account cultural influences and behaviours of consumers in a specific market. There is simply no ‘one size fits all’ for deriving local market insights.”

Convosphere's insight analyst Yukari Takehisa
Yukari during a hiking holiday in Izu Islands, Tokyo.
In your view, which are the main differences between the US and Japan in the way people use social media platforms and online message boards?

“Social media in Japan tends to be more anonymous and private compared to the US. Of course, there are exceptions depending on the social channel, with Instagram enjoying popularity as a content-sharing platform. But, in general, audiences prefer using aliases to discuss their lives and communicate on social media. Forums such as 5chan/2chan are widely used as a ‘safe space’ to engage in controversial or taboo topics anonymously. On the whole, Japanese people don’t feel all that comfortable speaking their mind publicly because of the conformist and collective nature of Japanese society.”

Which are the main social media/tech trends in Japan?

“Similar to the rest of the Western world. Covid-19 has changed the way we use technology in everyday life. Working and studying from home has become the norm, and people of all ages readily use Zoom, Skype, Microsoft Teams and other conferencing applications. More time spent at home also means in-home entertainment services, such as YouTube, video streaming services, and TikTok, have seen an enormous uptake. With a large ageing population, Japan has been a bit slower in terms of moving from analogue to digital, but the pandemic has accelerated this shift.”

What do brands who want to launch in Japan need to understand about Japanese consumers and local culture?

“Japanese people are trend-sensitive and love to follow the latest craze – be it fashion, food or tech. Celebrity endorsement and influencer campaigns resonate well with Japanese consumers and have long been commonplace in advertising and marketing, across all B2C industries. The first step for any brand that wants to launch in Japan is gaining an in-depth understanding of the local culture as well as the latest trends. Without a finger on the pulse, brands will struggle to connect with local audiences.”

What do you most enjoy about your job?

“Without a doubt, the best part about working at Convosphere is the multinational team. Most of the projects involve team members from all over the world, and although you might think the different time zones make collaboration difficult, they don’t – we’re all so used to working flexibly and remotely. Learning about different social listening trends from the team allows me to broaden my knowledge on the global digital and social media landscape. Plus, getting to know each other across borders is exciting in itself.”

What does a typical day look like for you and what are you currently working on?

“Due to the time difference, I start work around noon and adjust my schedule so that I can end my day around the time the London team go on lunch. This way, I can have meetings with my Europe-based colleagues at night and still have time to work when they are around, to ask any questions and catch up. My current project involves analysing the social media performance of an FMCG client and their competitors for the Japanese market. After work, I go out with my friends for dinner or stay at home and relax.”

What are your biggest professional challenges and how do you overcome them?

“Identifying and communicating Japanese data into English. Japanese as a language is very context-heavy and more complex than English, which is why automated translated tools cannot be relied on. Gathering relevant Japanese data can be a laborious task. We have to manually sift through large volumes of data to check accuracy and collect the correct information before we can start to generate any findings and insights. Even though I am fluent in both languages, having to frequently switch between Japanese and English can be challenging, but taking regular breaks helps me stay focused.”

Can you share a funny expression/proverb in your language?

“二階から目薬. Literally translated to ‘eye drops from the second floor’ – to explain when something is ineffective or pointless. It’s one of my favourites.”

What do you enjoy doing outside of your job?

“Travelling, but that’s not really possible right now as things are. I also like role-playing games. I started in university when I joined a gaming society through a friend, but now I’m just as nerdy as the rest of the group. I like to play JRPGs and life simulation games, and I’m about to complete Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild for the second time around, before the sequel comes out later this year, hopefully.”

Do you have an interesting fact about yourself?

“When I say I enjoy travelling, I seriously mean it! I have travelled to every Western European country, and every continent apart from Antarctica. My favourite places so far are Egypt, Zimbabwe, Maldives and Croatia. I love experiencing the local culture and nature and entice my inner explorer. I’m also a big Disney fan, so I visit Mickey in the Disneylands around the world whenever I can. My ultimate dream is to tour the world before I turn 30.”