Staff Reporters
Jun 29, 2020

Asia-Pacific Power List 2020: Ken Nishimura, Mandom

Ken Nishimura drives the marketing that has made Gatsby a great among men's grooming brands across Asia.

Asia-Pacific Power List 2020: Ken Nishimura, Mandom
Asia-Pacific’s 50 most influential and purposeful marketers

Ken Nishimura

Director and managing executive officer / chief marketing officer

Mandom may not be a household name, but many of the Japanese company’s products can be found in households all across Asia-Pacific. And Mandom won’t be talked about in the same breath as traditional powers like Sony and Panasonic, but the company is nonetheless a good example of a Japanese brand that has built a successful international business. This is thanks in no small part to strong branding. Mandom’s best-known brand is Gatsby, a male grooming lineup that is available across 12 APAC markets and has reported sales of 300 billion yen (US$280 million). Nearly as widespread are two lines targeting women, Bifesta (skincare) and Lucido-L (hair styling).

Although the company’s brands were well established before Ken Nishimura became CMO in 2018, his tenure coincides with a period of robust financial results and a great deal of interesting marketing activity. Nishimura has been with Mandom since 2008, following a stint with Dentsu. He spent time in a Singapore representative office early on before returning to Japan, where he took charge of corporate strategy in 2017 before becoming CMO. His remit now includes all marketing units, a direct marketing division, a group marketing strategy division, and a public relations division.  

The Gatsby brand has made its name with quirky and funny advertising. For example, the ‘Kawaii Tweak Hazard’ showed male ‘victims’ of AR photo tweaking by their partners and families. It paired badly out-of-tune singing with images of guys sporting dog noses, enlarged eyes, and cartoon cucumbers over their eyes. The campaign, by Dentsu, won two Spikes in 2019 (a gold in film and a silver in digital). As hilarious as it is, the video also perfectly encapsulates the no-nonsense aesthetic the brand cultivates; the big finish of the song has the men wailing, “I want you to see the real me!” 

The brand also displays a knack for localising its approach. Its line of pomades is popular in Indonesia, where riding motorbikes makes it tough to maintain a hairstyle without some product, and the brand’s marketing there reflects this. In Japan, in contrast, Gatsby personified armpit smells as a series of anime characters. Late last year the company debuted a refreshed brand identity across all its markets under the rubric, ‘I’m all ready’. 

Nishimura’s team drives awareness of Mandom’s products in ways other than advertising as well. For example in 2019 the company created news with a survey of working women in their 20s and 30s, which focused on their priorities and concerns when it comes to making an impression on other female coworkers. In addition, since 2006 Gatsby has produced a student design competition. In 2019 the Gatsby Creative Awards drew 1,707 entries from students in 12 markets throughout Asia in categories for commercials, art, dance, music and photography. 

Mandom is active on the PR front as well. Just this month, it got coverage for an R&D effort to develop products that use alpha-ketoglutaric acid to hold hair in place even under high-humidity conditions while still looking natural.

Asia-Pacific’s 50 most influential and purposeful marketers


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