Yosuke Suzuki: A Catalyst for Marketing Innovation with Strategic Prowess

Yosuke Suzuki: A Catalyst for Marketing Innovation with Strategic Prowess

Yosuke Suzuki , President

Yosuke Suzuki


Leaders in marketing services are visionaries who navigate the ever-evolving landscape of advertising, branding, and consumer engage­ment. They combine creative brilliance with data-driven insights, harnessing the power of storytelling and technology to connect with audienc­es in meaningful ways. In an era of constant change, marketing service leaders are the architects of brand success, shaping the future of marketing with their ex­pertise and foresight.

Yosuke Suzuki, President of Wieden + Kennedy (Tokyo/Seoul), is one such industry luminary with a dynamic professional journey spanning two decades characterized by a commitment to driving impactful innovation within organizations. With roots in Japan and exposure to diverse cultures, Yosuke Suzuki's strategic prowess was honed through pivotal roles at BBH Japan, Naked Communications, Dentsu, and Coca-Cola. His leadership ethos is anchored in adaptability, a keen eye for identifying strategic assets, and the nurturing of collective intelligence within his team.

In an exclusive interaction with CEO Insights Asia, Yosuke Suzuki enlightens us more about his professional journey and his leadership traits.

Brief us about your professional background and experiences, highlighting the key milestones that have shaped your career journey.

My professional journey has been marked by a diverse range of experiences, driven by a passion for making a meaningful impact in the organizations I've been a part of. Born in Japan and living in the US and UK, I developed a fascination for understanding diverse cultures. Being a Japanese kid abroad and returning home highlighted the importance of connecting across backgrounds. This outlook extended to understanding how businesses operate, leading me to pursue a career that's fulfilling and valuable to daily life. Marketing emerged as my common ground, rooted in innovation and influencing various business facets. I firmly believe that marketing transcends advertising; it's about fostering innovation within a company.

Throughout my career, I've worked in various companies, and my decision to join them has never been based solely on their brand reputation. Instead, I've prioritized whether I could truly be useful within those organizations and whether I could affect positive change or influence their direction. This mindset has guided my journey from my early days to where I am now.

A pivotal milestone in my career was at BBH Japan, starting as an account executive, and honing strategic thinking skills. Another significant moment was my time with Naked Communications, where I joined a startup, deepening my understanding of diverse business facets. Subsequently, at Dentsu, I crafted strategies in English and Japanese, expanding my global perspective by collaborating with different countries. Teaching and coaching young planners underscored the importance of persuasive argumentation in strategy. My career took a turn when I moved to Coca-Cola Japan as an in-house strategy and creative lead, focusing on enhancing their presence. Later, at R/GA Tokyo, I led as Managing Director, launching the office (at the time of launch, I was Executive Strategy Director), a pivotal juncture in building an organization. Today, as President at Wieden + Kennedy (Tokyo/Seoul), I remain committed to influencing growth and aligning with the organization's vision, striving to make a meaningful impact in various realms.

I firmly believe that marketing transcends advertising; it's about fostering innovation within a company

What is the motivation that fuels your daily routines?

My daily motivation revolves around the pursuit of meaningful impact. While my career trajectory may have started in a more conventional account/strategy role, I have consistently been a strategist throughout my professional journey. Even as I transitioned into a more business-oriented role, the bedrock of my approach has remained rooted in strategy. For me, strategy is the compass that guides us in creating

experiences and services that resonate with people. It's about pinpointing the right direction to ensure that what we offer is not just functional but also enriching.

Interestingly, my inclination towards this mindset can be traced back to my childhood and the profound influence of my father. My father often reminded me that I was no different from anyone else and that I wouldn't necessarily change the world. However, he emphasized that there was one meaningful thing I could do—make the people around me happy and useful. This principle has served as the foundation of my life's purpose. In essence, I've embraced my father's wisdom, firmly believing that my purpose lies in contributing to the happiness and utility of those around me.

How would you define Wieden + Kennedy as an organization and its current position in the market?

Wieden + Kennedy is an organization dedicated to fostering an environment where creativity thrives. Our core mission revolves around inspiring, challenging, and supporting creative minds to produce work that holds significance in culture. What sets us apart is our inherent human touch, placing a profound emphasis on people and culture.

In our approach to marketing and branding, we stand apart from the conventional practices of simply seeking attention or raising awareness. While these are common objectives for many companies, our distinctive focus lies in whether the work we put out into the world contributes to building the brand itself and nurturing a trust-based, thought-provoking relationship between the brand and its customers.

In essence, Wieden + Kennedy epitomizes the concept of being a ‘human’ company, which influences our unique attitude and approach. We acknowledge that, like all human endeavors, there may be aspects that are both positive and challenging, reflecting the complexity of human nature. However, this very humanity is what allows us to bring authenticity and depth to our work, setting us apart in the market.

Can you tell us about your leadership approach and the guidelines or methodologies you follow as a leader?

Management, in my view, is a mindset that adapts to the unique nuances of each business environment. While the core principles of leadership remain consistent, the execution varies significantly due to differences in business styles, talent, and resources. A key aspect of leadership is identifying the strategic assets available within the organization, recognizing gaps, and finding ways to harness the collective intelligence of the team. It involves motivating team members by providing them with a platform to excel and pursue their own initiatives.

I assume various roles depending on the project's requirements, ranging from strategist to mentor or supporter. Flexibility in leadership is crucial; titles and hierarchical norms should not hinder one's willingness to help and guide the team when needed. Leading by example is a powerful method of on-the-job training (OJT), where team members can observe and learn from experienced leaders. This approach fosters development without making individuals feel inferior.

The paramount goal of any leader should be to elevate the team. It involves recognizing and appreciating the team's efforts, motivating them, and ensuring they have the tools and support needed to succeed. It's about being self-aware, trusting the team, and being ambitious, not just for personal gain but for the success and recognition of the entire team. Leadership should inspire and empower others rather than seeking personal credit.

As a successful leader in the industry, what advice would you offer to budding industry leaders?

For aspiring industry leaders, I would like to offer some insights. First and foremost, consider the idea of positioning and context. While you may hold a prominent leadership role, like being the boss, it's vital to think beyond titles and hierarchies. Your true position within the organization goes beyond the formal designation. To effectively lead, you must be adaptable and able to as­sume different roles as circum­stances dictate. Moreover, be ambitious but not greedy. Strive for success, both for yourself and your team, but avoid the pitfall of seeking per­sonal recognition at the expense of others. True lead­ership is about uplifting and s u p p o r t ­ing those a r o u n d you.

Yosuke Suzuki, President of Wieden + Kennedy

Yosuke Suzuki, President of Wieden + Kennedy (Tokyo/Seoul), epitomizes visionary leadership in marketing services. With a diverse two-decade career spanning diverse cultures, he blends innovation with strategy. His dynamic leadership ethos fosters adaptability, identifies strategic assets, and nurtures collective intelligence, driving meaningful impact in an ever-evolving industry.

• Hobbies: Traveling and motorsports

• Favorite Cuisine: McDonald's and Coca-Cola

• Favorite Book: Autobiography books

• Favorite Travel Destination: Los Angeles

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