A few months ago, it was announced that Facebook would have its first overseas development base in Tokyo and was looking to hire a Country Growth Manager. Excitement ensued. Since I recruit in this exciting niche, I was bombarded with calls and e-mails from candidates interested in being introduced to Facebook Japan. (And am still being bombarded) I noticed that an overwhelming majority of the candidates contacting me were:
b). Very, very American-ish Japanese
c). Fluent English speakers
d). Currently working as a part of a foreign company
This got me thinking.
Earlier, I met with a very polished, educated, and accomplished mid-30s Japanese candidate who, though he attended school in the US for several years, managed to really maintain his Japanese-ness about him. In short, he was a highly place-able candidate and a pretty nice guy. He was absolutely perfect for my clients seeking a Japanese guy who can think like an American, but hasn't adopted the 'American' way too much.
FACEBOOK IS WASTING THEIR TIME
I asked him what he thought of Facebook's entrance into the Japanese market and he told me that he didn't think they'd be successful here and they should leave now. (Ha! I loved his candor!) I asked why? His response was he didn't think their model matched how Japanese are, thus that it would probably only be popular among Japanese who speak English, or those who want to speak English. He thinks Facebook is wasting their time here and concluded by explaining to me why he didn't have a Facebook account and why he wasn't planning to sign-up for one.
After our conversation, it was very clear that he simply didn't think foreign companies really understood how to properly enter the Japanese market, at all. I would have to agree.
Japan is often viewed as some cool foreign market with loads of consumers who just can't wait to try out your foreign service/product. When the real truth is, Japanese consumers are pretty picky and when presented with a choice between foreign and Japanese, Japanese prevails. Also, many foreign companies fail here, quickly. (See Match.com) Most of the time it is because they either hired the wrong people to help them, and/or they didn't fully commit themselves to adjusting (I mean really and truly adjusting) the product/service and themselves to the market.