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You Are Naked Too

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I was seated comfortably at a table at one of the many extraordinary sushi restaurants in São Paulo.

The offerings were incredible, beginning with steaming miso soup, the traditional Japanese staple that begins with the delicate dashi broth made from dried kelp. Then came charred chu-toro, sea bass with shissô (an aromatic herb), surf clam, soft octopus, exquisite yellowtail belly, sand perch and shrimp. Perfectly grilled garlic and wallops of yuzu make an appearance in some dishes.

Since I took a trip to Tokyo, I have been fascinated by Japanese people and their culture – especially sushi restaurants. Wanting to experience authentic Japanese sushi, I went to Liberdade, the district in São Paulo that is home to the world’s largest Japanese community outside of Japan.

I have tried quite a few sushi restaurants run by Japanese people, especially in London, and it’s striking to me how high the standards always are. Their concern for people visiting their restaurants can’t have been taught overnight. It must be in their culture. It’s also their cuisine. Japan relishes its status as the nation with thirty- two three-starred Michelin restaurants, the most of any nation in the world. Thirteen are in Tokyo alone, beating Paris with its ten. After Paris comes another Japanese city, Kyoto, which is tied with New York at seven.

It must have something to do with their kaizen. It’s Japanese for „good change,“ or perhaps more precisely when applied to business, „continuous improvement.“ Kaizen encompasses both productivity improvement and the humanizing of the workplace, in which every worker is empowered to contribute to improvement and add value in all business processes. The practice nurtures the company’s human resources and recognizes the value of workers in identifying and implementing improvements. Employees from the boardroom to the customer service desk participate in kaizen, as well as external stakeholders when applicable. Most people know the concept of kaizen through the Toyota Production System (TPS), whose main objectives are to eliminate human overburden (muri), inconsistency (mura), and waste (muda).

Seated at a table in the Japanese restaurant in Liberdade, I feel I’m the center of attention. The entire experience is pleasurable – the tasteful décor, the appetizing aromas of the sauces and cooking smells, the hushed attentiveness of the servers as they glided from table to table. The Japanese respect the fact that no matter how fast technology may change, there are certain fundamental values that don’t change: when shopping, buying a car, or eating in a restaurant, the customer wants to feel appreciated, have a pleasing sensory experience, and be on the receiving end of kindness and enthusiasm.

In a Japanese restaurant, it would make you feel like tipping them a lot. But you can’t. They refuse to accept tips. Their kindness is simply something they do for the love of serving others. We see the opposite in US where the salary often are based on tip money of how well your service was given. You can often spot a sincere smile, where you smile with your eyes. Love and money shouldn’t be mixed.

It was the same thing I had felt with my conversations with Eloi and his company I interviewed – the upholding of traditional values like good personal relationships, respect, and people skills that so many companies have forgotten. But in São Paulo I didn’t just rediscover what worked but had been forgotten; I also discovered what the world had not seen before; how marketing can transcend and turn into a movement.

There is a reason why the Peter’s bike movement has become so successful. There is something else at play here than you cannot possible understand using traditional marketing concepts. It was codified by Simon Sinek at a TED talk. The movement follows the exact same pattern as other successful movements. It’s the perfect example of the power of meaning and emotions. It’s your purpose, your why, your cause, and your belief. The bank in São Paulo created all that through their bike project.

People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it. This is based in the science of biology. Our newest brain, our neocortex, is responsible for all our rational thoughts but our old brain, the limbic brain, is responsible for all our emotions and behaviour – and that part doesn’t understand logic.

Also based in biology is the human hormone oxytocin, often referred to as the „bonding hormone.“. Acts of human generosity release oxytocin, and it makes us feel good. But oxytocin will not be released sending an email. Only real relations between people and people can do that.

In a naked world the impact is much greater than people might believe. This is not just a change in marketing, but also how we behave as humans, when you’re making everyday decisions.

Let’s say you’re going out to a restaurant tonight. You and your companion – spouse, friend, business associate – are feeling adventurous and want to try someplace new. You’re looking for excitement, delicious food, and a memorable experience.

You see an advertisement for a restaurant. It’s a slick pitch. The place looks good. You think maybe you should try it.

But an inner voice says, „Make a phone call. Get some opinions.“

You call your best friend. She says, „Are you kidding? I wouldn’t go there even if you paid me. The food is terrible. The service is lousy.“

Then she mentions another restaurant. You’ve never heard of it before because they don’t advertise. But your friend is enthusiastic. „It is an amazing restaurant. An experience you will not forget. The chef has even written a cookbook teaching you how to make some of the restaurant’s delicious dishes, you can borrow it from me if you like,“ she says. „The restaurant is out of the way – you would never know it was there unless you looked for it. But everyone loves it. Let’s call for a reservation!“

Two businesses. In this example they’re restaurants, but they could be any business – bank, car company, phone company, apparel retailer. One company buys slick ads and tries to hide behind an expensive marketing campaign. The other is ’naked.’ It buys no traditional advertising. It relies on word of mouth and its own record of community involvement. Its marketing is transparent and interactive. It doesn’t preach to its customers; it listens to them. To use an old-fashioned phrase, it lets its products and services speak for themselves.

Naked marketing provides a powerful alternative to the old-school methods of one-way broadcast advertising. There are many more ways both to engage your market and to spend your marketing money – ways that can bring your customers closer to you and make your brand a part of their lives in a way that’s organic and even collaborative.

In a transparent world, we are all naked. The old guard, the people who prefer to repeat what might have worked yesterday, will face a new paradigm that some of them probably cannot adapt to. But it’s going to be a better world. In a transparent world no one can lie. Companies will be more responsible and honest. And when more banks start investing in bikes for the public, we’re going to have better lives.

Of the one hundred biggest economies in the world, sixty of them are not nations: They are corporations. A change in the corporate world might be the best way to change the whole world.

São Paulo showed the rest of the world how empty words on a billboard could be transformed to something much more, and actually change a city. It was a win-win for its people and the companies that dared to go new ways.

It’s a movement. But people need to move it. There are still too many business managers who are afraid of challenging the status quo, and instead run their businesses and divisions in the safest possible manner. And there are too many numbers guys who look only at creating short-term shareholder value. Are you ready to be naked? Do you have anything to hide?