Hiroshi "Mickey" Mikitani, Chairman and CEO, Rakuten, Inc.
@hmikitani_e

What is at the heart of your brand?

From a business perspective, a brand is a way we communicate with customers – a way to convey to them what we offer and why that is valuable. But brands are also something we all live and work with every day, so they can feel much more personal and encapsulate so much more than just a logo or a name.

In fact, the brand is a way we build a relationship of trust with our customer.

At Rakuten, this year we launched a global brand project to unify our businesses around the world under the single brand: Rakuten. We honed in on the “optimism” at the core of our brand and decided to express that with a new concept built around “believe in the future.”

We also made some bold moves this year in launching global partnerships with FC Barcelona, the NBA and the Golden State Warriors – moves that will ensure our brand will be seen by billions of people every month, with partners that share common values of teamwork and community.

But before we began to go external with the brand integration and the global marketing partnerships, we began internally. We began by talking with our team members around the world. The brand unification would begin with us, I told everyone. We must understand it, believe in the brand and behave in a way that is consistent with the heart of our brand before we can make overtures to the outside world.

This process will continue and, in fact, we may find the brand evolves over time as it connects with people around the world. But even with that outlook on the future, the heart of the brand should remain constant.

That leads us to the question: What is at our heart? What are the essential qualities at the core of our brand that cannot be compromised, wherever we go and whoever we talk with?

Our name. Rakuten in Japanese stands for optimism. It means we believe in the future. This is at the center of how we build a relationship of trust with our customers, It means that we all need to be thinking every day about how our products and services, and even the businesses we choose to invest in, can bring happiness to our customers and users and offer a new optimistic outlook on the future.

Our mission. We started as an e-commerce business in Japan. We now offer more than 70 services around the world. One of the elements that unites us is our mission to empower individuals and society through innovation and entrepreneurship. By helping people to excel and to realize their dreams, through innovative services and new business models, we are contributing to the enrichment of society itself. This also explains why we chose to partner with FC Barcelona, whose values are reflected in their slogan, “more than a club.” This passion to enrich society applies no matter what business or region of the world we operate in.

Our passion. A brand is not just a slogan or a marketing campaign. It is akin to a national flag. It is the symbol of who we are and what we hope to accomplish in the world. To live up to that status, we must embrace our brand and live it internally before we can confidently fly our flag every day around the world.

Branding is a process that attracts a lot of outside attention. But it is a process that must begin inside – in the heart of a company, with every single employee – or it will not begin to draw in anyone from the outside.