Staff Reporters
Jun 17, 2021

Asia-Pacific Power List 2021: Naho Kono, Rakuten

Rakuten has been charting new territory since April 2020, when it became the first retailer to launch a fully fledged telecoms business, and Naho Kono has played a key role in steering the ship to success.

Asia-Pacific Power List 2021: Naho Kono, Rakuten
Asia-Pacific’s 50 most influential and purposeful marketers

Naho Kono

Group managing executive officer and CMO
Rakuten Group and Rakuten Mobile
Member since 2020

Naho Kono was appointed to the Power List in 2020 for her exceptional achievements at Rakuten, the operator of Japan’s biggest ecommerce platforms. In the 18 years she has served at the company she has achieved several milestones including becoming the youngest woman to be appointed an executive officer, in 2013, and the first executive in company history to take the reins of its core ecommerce business from Rakuten’s founder, Mickey Mikitani, in 2017.

In addition to her executive position at Rakuten, Kono was appointed CMO of Rakuten Mobile in 2019, ahead of its launch as a mobile network. The brand had existed as a virtual operator since 2014. In an interview with the Financial Times in November, Kono explained that becoming a mobile network provided cross-selling opportunities with Rakuten’s other services, such as shopping, content and online banking, as well as powerful data to boost its advertising business.

But the pressure was on for Kono to find ways to win enough customers for Rakuten Mobile to justify the ¥91.8 billion (US$829 million) investment Rakuten made in it in the third quarter of 2020 alone.

Kono has helped Rakuten Mobile make significant strides. The carrier has focused on offering simple plans at competitive costs, such as unlimited data for a single fee, which Kono has noted is winning the favour of customers. In October, the network announced it would roll out cloud-based 5G services in main cities, available to all users with a suitable device for no extra cost. In April, in a major move to recruit new customers, Kono announced the operator would add Apple’s iPhone 12 lineup to its range, claiming Rakuten Mobile would offer the “most reasonably priced” iPhones in the country.

Kono has also spearheaded cross-promotional initiatives and campaigns to encourage Rakuten’s existing customers to use its mobile service, and vice-versa. For example, when customers sign up to Rakuten Mobile, they are offered the option to seamlessly apply for the Rakuten Card and Rakuten Bank. Meanwhile, with Rakuten Ichiba’s ‘Super Sale December’, she oversaw a campaign to give away shopping points for new Rakuten Mobile customers. As a result, the proportion of Rakuten customers who use two or more services has increased year-on-year, Kono said on the company’s fourth quarter earnings call. 

Kono has said that Rakuten Mobile subscription applications topped 4.1 million at the end of March.

Asia-Pacific’s 50 most influential and purposeful marketers


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