We're going around the world in 88 Octopuses.
Well, maybe not exactly 88 – but our tentacles are spreading all around the globe to drive the green energy transition, faster, cheaper, and better for people in all sorts of places from Texas to Tokyo, from Paris to Wellington, New Zealand.
Today, we’re heading to Japan, where I sat down to chat with marketing genius Yohko: Octopus Energy Japan’s Head of Marketing. Fresh out of helping bring some of the world’s most beloved video games to market at Playstation and EA, Yohko’s now laser focused on bringing greener, cheaper energy to Japanese homes at OE Japan.
But first, a little bit about energy in Japan.
Energy In a Nutshell: Japan
The Japanese energy market currently heavily relies on fossil fuels with over 70% coming from oil and gas. Roughly 20% of its electricity comes from renewables, mostly hydro, and the decision of the Japanese Government to commit to net-zero emissions by 2050 means that a large-scale adoption of renewable energy is a must.
Once Octopus Energy decided to expand to Asia, Japan was its first choice, and in Tokyo gas we found a partner with a similar vision for renewable energy expansion in the market. Now we are taking on the incredible challenge of helping Japan transition to renewable energy by bringing super customer-focused, smart energy to Japanese homes. We're laser focusing on solar and EV expansion, and with the latest rollout of our EV tariff in Japan, a greener day is on the horizon.
Greg on one of his visits to the lovely Japan office
The Japan office has almost 100 people, filling out the cosy place so much they’ll be moving into a bigger office this year. Yohko is the Head of Marketing at our office in Tokyo.
I handle all things marketing. Essentially, this means that everything that the public sees about Octopus, is created or managed by me.
At Octopus Japan, Yohko oversees and manages each aspect of the Marketing department – speaking directly to customers, creating digital marketing, webpages and blogs, email campaigns and much more. The Japan office is still in its infancy, and much of her day to day involves shaping our incredible customer experience.
Like the rest of the world, Japan is suffering through an energy crisis, so I want to make sure that customers get cheap and green energy, and are 100% informed about their bills. This way they can manage their energy and bills more wisely.
The team in Japan having a little office fun after-hours
Yohko was born and bred in Hokkaido, the 2nd biggest city in Japan in the northern area of Japan. She has had a fascinating career journey, starting at Japanese advertising agencies and moving on to spend the majority of her career working in the videogame industry, starting at American company Electronic Arts (EA) and ending up at the Japanese Playstation.
The best part about working in the video game industry, was working alongside the development teams and watching them create something out of nothing. I love the way they think.
Although it isn’t just the engineers that make the games as special as they are: ‘It’s all about teamwork. From the engineers to the coders and writers - they’re all crucial to the final product’. Yohko worked on world-famous games like FIFA and Battlestar as a product manager and marketer.
Part of the fun of marketing is that it can be so wild. One minute you’re researching the demographics of a community, and the next you’re writing an elaborate storyline and campaign for a product. It’s a super creative job.
Yohko in the office alongside our awesome UK press team
The Japanese market has been a renegade in the videogame industry, and Yohko was right in the mix of it. She spent a lot of time thinking about longevity, and budgeting to make sure the next big game could be made. Long-term vision like that helped bring us incredible games like The Last of Us.
In 2020, Covid hit and amidst the chaos and uncertainty, Yohko felt she had to make a change.
I was reviewing my life and values and was looking for a new challenge. I spent hours and hours on Glassdoor, which is kind of sad in hindsight,’ she laughs, ‘looking for new job opportunities. Octopus stood out to me, for their values and unique approach and before I knew it, I was pressing the ‘Apply’ button
The Japanese energy market is quite different to European markets. Currently, the adoption of green energy is very low, and most of the market relies on fossil fuels (over 70%).
We still have a long way to go compared to the US and the UK. We need to invest more in renewables, and grab the general public’s attention. We’re just getting started, and with Octopus we have the potential to make a huge impact.
Just as the Japanese energy market is unique, the Japanese energy consumer is too. ‘Japanese culture really values hospitality, efficiency and following the rules. This means our customer service has to be impeccable, at all times. Japanese people are also generally quite conservative and traditional, so it’s important that we are a brand that people trust.’
Bringing some tradition to the office
The design team originally created a Japanese specific website with a lighter, more animated and colourful theme. Interestingly, eventually based on feedback from our customers they decided to simplify it back to the original. ‘The original Octopus branding is universal and even works well with customers here in Japan.’
The biggest lesson I’ve learned in marketing is to always be flexible and open to change. The golden rule is that there are no rules
The market and customer expectations are constantly changing and we have to be able to adapt. ‘When it comes to Japan, we cannot speak to the past as we’re setting the green energy trend and positioning ourselves as leaders. And we are now living in the age where you cannot do traditional marketing as its ineffective and feels outdated. What you have to do instead is become a people-watcher.
To work in marketing, you have to love people-watching. You have to be super curious about people and how they behave. That’s what helps us provide the best and most useful services and campaigns
Currently, Yohko is working on simplifying our Octopus dashboard. In Japan, the vast majority of people use an App called ‘Line’ which allows you to call, text and much more. Yohko’s team is currently working on ways to integrate the Octopus app with Line. The role comes with challenges in a forever changing landscape. ‘The best and most difficult thing about my job is to be comfortable in chaos. There are always so many things happening, at the same time.' Good marketing requires straddling a lot of different layers of the business. Sometimes it’s high-level strategy, other times it’s creative writing or customer services.
With the Japan office being so new, I sometimes feel like a mother with a small baby, trying to juggle a million different things
‘I always try to remind myself that I’m not the only one, and that it’s okay to make mistakes. I’m always learning and unlearning but that’s the rare privilege of working in a start-up. We’re doing this all by ourselves, all hands on deck and it’s great!’
Much like the other OE offices, the OE Japan office has one goal; what’s the best thing for our customers. The ultimate questions it always comes down to are ‘what does this mean for our customers and how is this helping our customers’.
Yohko and her team enjoying a day in the park
Much like the other OE offices, the OE Japan office has one goal; what’s the best thing for our customers. The ultimate questions it always comes down to are; 'what does this mean for our customers?' and 'how is this helping our customers?'.
Yohko tells me she is most proud of her team made up of 6 brilliant members. ‘They all work so hard, we all prioritise our customers, and I’m really proud that we have this shared work ethic and values’. Many of the team members hang out together outside of work and on the weekends and Yohko makes it a point to end work a little early to host a happy hour.
With a start-up it doesn’t matter what your job description is; everyone rolls up their sleeves and goes where they are needed.
Marketing specialist, Miyoshi tells me what it’s like working with the team in a business that is expanding each and every day: ‘It’s a fairly interesting environment with a mix of people from Tokyo Gas, a large traditional Japanese company, Octopus, a UK start-up company, and new recruits (both foreign and Japanese). It might seem like a weird combination, but it naturally creates a cosy environment.’
When a problem arises, it’s so rewarding to see the team come together and solve the problem at once
‘We definitely have the best snacks’. Yohko tells me laughing. The Japan office is probably much quieter than the UK or US offices. Everyone quietly and calmly goes about their work, occasionally punctuated by their CEO Hajime’s hilariously loud laugh. Just like Greg, Hajime can often be found walking or sitting in the middle of the office, chatting to people or randomly joining their video calls.
'He doesn’t keep himself separate, he is a part of the team and he has this great high pitched laugh that makes everyone in the office smile. I usually ask him what’s so funny and it always makes me giggle'.
Now what’s next for Octopus Japan?
They are focusing on growing fast and creating a super simple sign-up process, so we can help many more Japanese homes get cheaper greener energy. ‘We want to make it as easy as possible for customers to join us, and to manage their monthly bills and payments'.
Quick Fire Round
Best Octopus memory?
Spending my first 5 months in UK office to launch the Japan website
Favourite Japanese dish?
Sushi and Tako-yaki
Favourite local artist?
Hokusai (painting), Yayoi Kusama, Shigeru Mizuki(manga), Isamu Kaneko (tech) and Jo Hisaishi (music).
Favourite Japanese word/slang?
Meaning: inscrutable are the ways of heaven.
What’s one thing that only happens in Japan?
年越しそば : Toshikoshi soba which are noodles traditionally eaten on New Year's Eve in Japan.A major theory has it that these represent long life, so people eat them in hopes of longevity.
Must-visit spot in your city?
If you could teleport yourself to another Octopus office right now, where would you go?
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