The 2018 launch of Honkirin was a resounding success with initial year total shipments surpassing 300 million bottles.One of the primary factors that produced the immense sales volume was the internal reform Kirin Brewery carried out to become “the company that puts consumers first,” as championed by Kirin Brewery President Fuse.
Kirin Brewery introduced more than 10 malt-type new genre brands in the past decade. However, the company struggled to attract sales for every brand. As its market share started to shrink, Kirin Brewery turned to short-term fixes by releasing derivative products with impromptu promotions and without thought for building up the brand. The company was also worried about releasing products that would compete against its own brands. In short, the company was not providing products that customers really wanted. As a result, it was not building the brand from a long-term perspective of being a brand that customers would view as having high value.
One of the key reform strategies Kirin Brewery implemented to break out of this downward spiral was to focus its marketing on fewer products. Before the reforms, Kirin Brewery thought that decreasing its brand offerings would reduce its sales volume. However, it took a new tact of investing in a small, select number of brands, which it would then continue to invest in with a focus on developing and strengthening them for the long term. With this approach, rather than aiming to create a hit product now, the marketing department would advance strategies for the medium and long term and conduct Consumer-centric marketing to build a brand with a large customer following ten years in the future. The first brand Kirin Brewery applied this approach to was its flagship brand Kirin Ichiban that it relaunched in 2017.
The first step Kirin Brewery took in the development of Honkirin was to analyze its past products. The company applied what it learned to product development, the marketing plan, and every aspect of its Honkirin plan. Because Kirin Brewery had so many products in its portfolio, it had become difficult to get all departments aligned behind the one brand strategy. With Honkirin, however, the marketing and sales departments were communicating from the very early stages of the product development, and over time all of the departments came to understand the central role of the strategy and brand value. This enabled Kirin Brewery to effectively coordinate the sales promotions and activities it needed for success. Kirin Brewery was able to put in place the organizational structure for an all-encompassing marketing effort covering the full range of customer contact points. Theresult was instant and sustaining sales momentum.
Katsuya Nagai, the Marketing Department assistant brand manager in charge of Honkirin, believes marketing is key to building competitiveness. “We are confident that we can use marketing to create a competitive edge.” The Marketing Department combined Kirin’s manufacturing technology and its approach to quality with new knowledge and expertise learned outside the company to form the new organizational structure for delivering high brand value to customers. Kirin Brewery will also use the latest information and communication technology to further deepen customer understanding.
Kirin Brewery’s consumer centric marketing will be spread throughout the Group to strengthen the Group’s organizational capabilities and create industry-leading innovation.
Assistant Brand Manager of Honkirin Marketing DepartmentKirin Brew
Kirin Brewery Company, Limited
Mr. Nagai joined Kirin Brewery in 2005 as sales representative for supermarkets and other mass retailers. He then moved to the Marketing Department in 2011 to oversee brand management and product development for Nodogoshi Nama and Hyoketsu. Since October 2017, he has been involved in every aspect of Honkirin brand development from the initial production concept development stage.
Kirin Brewery is aiming to generate further growth by maintaining and building the strong appeal of its leading brands while leveraging ICT to create further added value.
Kirin Brewery is harnessing the latest technologies to further increase customer satisfaction. In 2018, the company introduced sales support tools using AI to maximize the effectiveness of sales sites and customer contact points. The new technology has the additional potential benefit of reducing man-hours needed for sales managers.
Kirin Brewery will continue to deepen the marketing use of its insights into customer preferences gained through direct customer contact. The company will also use social networks, e-commerce channels, and data matching between its in-house sources and external databases to uncover latent customer needs.