Akira Morishita

Head of Mobile

Akira Morishita is Head of Mobile at Bushiroad International, an overseas subsidiary of Bushiroad Inc. Before entering mobile app marketing, he began as a market researcher in the FMCG (fast-moving consumer goods) industry, where he gained extensive digital marketing experience. Akira later joined Bushiroad, where he spent the last few years focused on the marketing strategy and budget optimization for five mobile titles.

Check out the latest MH Comic.

In your own words, tell us about the app(s) that you manage?

Bushiroad was founded in 2007 as a content production and services company for trading card games. Bushiroad grew as it released titles such as “Weiß Schwarz” and “Cardfight!! Vanguard.” We have also produced music IP works such as “BanG Dream!“, “Revue Starlight,” “D4DJ,” and “From ARGONAVIS.”

How did you get started in mobile marketing?

As a new graduate, I joined a research firm in the FMCG industry. Since I did most of my market research only through the agency, I wanted to work near my clients to know what they were thinking, so I joined an advertising agency. There, I helped launch a mobile advertising organization when mobile advertising was in its infancy. My career has since shifted to mobile.

At the time, there were many major competitors in the mobile industry. Under the circumstances, we made proposals by thoroughly understanding our clients’ businesses—which helped us build a strong foundation of trust. The experience was humbling and provided valuable knowledge.

After this portion of my career, I gained extensive digital marketing experience, especially in marketing apps. I later joined Bushiroad Inc. when it launched its digital marketing team. Up until September 2021, I led digital marketing for all titles published. To help maximize the organization’s growth, I was promoted to Head of Mobile at Bushiroad International, where I currently manage the entire business with P&L (profit and loss statement).

What do you do in your current role?

As Head of Mobile for Bushiroad International, an overseas subsidiary of Bushiroad Inc., I oversee the entire mobile business. We have seven local members, including a producer for each title, a digital marketing specialist, and several community management specialists.
Currently, we have a localization team for apps we publish or release as cooperative titles in Japan. Specifically, we manage “BanG Dream! Girls Band Party! (Garupa),” “Vanguard ZERO,” “D4DJ Groovy Mix,” “School Idol Festival ALL STARS,” and the global version of “NJPW Strong Spirits.” In addition to mid-core games, Bushiroad International is currently working on hyper-casual games and hiring engineers globally.

What is the current organizational and operational structure of Bushiroad International?

As Head of Mobile, I oversee both marketing and development. Several producers are in charge of maximizing revenue and operating income for each title, but I also try to keep track of what is going on for each title. I regularly check which titles impact the mobile business’s overall revenue and profits the most. To give you an idea, we pay particular attention to which variables in which titles hold the most significant rebound in our income and expenses. 

Beyond this direct profitability perspective, we also consider other stances. For example, we allocate resources based on how well we align with investment decisions made globally from Japan. Since our organization comprises of seven or eight people, it makes sense to designate P&L responsibility to one manager.

Since our organization is divided vertically between marketing and development, we have to keep an eye on local optimization. For example, there could be situations when marketers need developers to “improve ARPU (average revenue per unit)” or “increase retention rate,” or when producers or developers need marketers to “increase installs” in order to meet their respective goals.

What are your thoughts on the relationship with producers, the organizational structure, and the role of the app marketer within that structure?

As I wrote in my book “The Most Basic Manual of App Marketing: The Principles of Smartphone App Monetization”, an app marketer is someone who maximizes the company’s revenue and profits by providing value to customers through apps.

If it is the marketer’s job to maximize revenue and profits, they need to understand profit calculation and some level of accounting. Without this understanding, a marketer would not be able to explain why an investment for a marketing campaign is reasonable. Even if they could explain why, they would only have answers to surface questions such as: “Have you recouped our advertising costs?” and “When can we collect?”

While it is important to monitor advertising costs, this alone is not enough to drive optimization. Marketers must also develop mindsets where they can describe the user journey after an install and can track metrics like how many users are organic vs from advertising, the total number of users, DAU, revenue, ARPDAU and LTV. Some gaming marketers in Japan only look at partial data and make decisions without a full picture. To maximize optimization and grow your app, identify why users play the game for the long term and discover the factors that attract loyal users to spend more money. A marketer should be able to say, “We will place all profits made in the last three months into this campaign. The expected value of revenue and profits is X, and this will give a lift that generates Y months’ worth of revenue in the future.” 

However, marketers do not always think this far. They often think, “it is the producer’s role to think that far.” When an organization divides vertically, slios tend to form. But when we lay out each KPI in a hierarchical structure, we find that the product development and marketing KPIs are interwoven intricately. So, if you were to divide an organization into sections vertically, you cannot always separate KPIs from one another.

An organizational structure in which everyone can think about maximizing revenue and profits would be better than a vertically divided organization. To achieve such a structure, the manager responsible for the P&L of the mobile business must balance marketing and development decisions. Bushiroad International’s mobile organization currently has just such an environment.

What are your thoughts and motivations behind your desire to take on the global challenge of moving to Singapore after assuming your current position?

It seems difficult to contribute to company revenue and profits without a swing towards global career planning—since the Japanese markets will inevitably shrink in light of demographic trends and other factors. Bushiroad has had a global mindset to expand revenue channels in the TCG (trading card game) market. That is why we have global offices in Singapore and the U.S. I naturally developed a desire to work there.

I also wanted to leave Japan eventually and compare Japan to other parts of the world. Many people say, “Japan is a good place,” but it is impossible to judge whether Japan is good or bad without relative comparison.

From the perspective of education and children, I think many people are interested in giving their children international experiences to make them competitive in the global arena. There is an overwhelming difference between the information available in Japanese and what’s available English. How well you stay up-to-date with the latest information differs depending on the language. There is also the advantage of communicating with diverse people through a widely used language. In this sense, I also want my children to learn valuable languages, ways of thinking, and cultural diversity as they grow up.

What advice can you offer marketers?

If you are the business manager of an app, it is a good idea to work from the perspective of how to allocate a limited budget and resources and how to lift KPIs.

Suppose you are a new marketer or someone who wants to take on the challenge of becoming a marketer in the future. In that case, you need to be aware of what digital marketing and mass marketing you can do in your field. You will need to understand that the KPIs that you can change through marketing (promotion) are limited.

Even when you consider maximizing revenue and profit and find a KPI that your organization is not responsible for, you must be able to directly give your opinion to the department that is responsible for that KPI.

Without providing value to customers, there is no way to maximize revenue and profit. If something needs to be changed in order to provide value to users, constructively put forward your request by making a proposal to the responsible department or creating an opportunity for discussion. Through actions, you will broaden your career. You can read more about the details that I could not fully convey in my book, “The Most Basic Manual of App Marketing: The Principles of Smartphone App Monetization” This book contains points of interest to those involved in mobile app marketing—even those who don’t deal directly with mobile games.