TOKYO: Akindo Sushiro, the Japanese sushi chain, believes that "backcasting" is a better approach to marketing than more traditional techniques which rely on forecasting.

The latter process involves making an assessment of what the future will be based on current trends, while backcasting instead defines where a business wants to be and then establishes the actions needed to get there.

"We concluded that conventional marketing techniques are simply not up to scratch," Yoshihiro Morii, the company's chief marketing officer, told AdverTimes (in an article translated for Campaign Asia-Pacific).

He argued that these were time-consuming and showed very little return in terms of spending in restaurants – "and that's even if you get sufficient recognition among target consumers through TV commercials or other vehicles".

So the business has decided to take a different tack. "Because marketing is about reaching sales goals, we found it more useful to analyse what our customers have actually chosen and why they have visited our restaurants," Morii explained.

The chain has plenty of information to work with as it collects data from the 120m customer visits every year to its 425 conveyor-belt sushi restaurants.

It has invested heavily in technology – from electronic tags in plates that help assess demand for dishes in real time to a smartphone app that enables customers to avoid queues by booking seats and be alerted when they become available.

"By working backwards, we can refine our advertising messages to generate consumer recognition and spend," said Morii.

It does that via a content marketing platform that links email magazine and push notifications with consumption data at restaurants and which offers various incentives to each customer category.

"A conveyor-belt sushi chain has to cater for consumer needs that are as diverse as its line-up," Morii noted. "You must constantly develop new menu items and enhance services.

"And because we're mindful that any data is ultimately about the past, including the backcasting variety, we will likely have to tackle the challenges of deploying forecasting engines and the like to entice more customer spending well into the future."

Data sourced from Campaign Asia-Pacific; additional content by Warc staff