BRINGING A SILICON VALLEY START-UP ATTITUDE TO THE JAPANESE MARKET

Jay Trinidad, McDonald's Japan
Before he took on the role of McDonald’s Vice President of Digital for Japan, Jay Trinidad worked at a series of small internet start-ups. He thrived on the fast pace, working in small groups and playing a big part in start-up success stories.

When the job possibility opened up, the Philippines-born Trinidad was excited at the potential of working for the biggest restaurant in the world but not entirely sure the fit would be right.

“Coming from start-up land, one of my biggest concerns was the pace of innovation,” he said. “It’s a big company.”

But he was intrigued by the possibilities of working for one of the world’s biggest brands. He relished the thought of working on projects of a massive scale, where one small idea can be implemented to have an enormous positive impact worldwide.

“I was also attracted to using online skills to drive offline business,” says Trinidad. “It’s new territory that hasn’t been 100 percent cracked yet.”

And he had a personal attachment: wonderful memories of McDonald’s where he ate his first-ever hamburger as a child. As he was growing up in Hawaii and later California, McDonald’s meant rewards for getting good grades at school, birthday parties and get-togethers with friends.

So he took the job and as it turns out, the role of McDonald’s Digital Lead for Japan feels like running a start-up within a larger corporation.

The Start-Up Atmosphere

“I’ve found that it’s moving as fast – if not faster – as my start-up life,” he said, having worked at Square, Gengo and Google. “Every week is a new week.”

Trinidad’s role is to look after McDonald’s digital properties in Japan, from mobile apps to internet presence and social media. This includes its website for mobile, tablet and PC, and social properties such as Facebook, Twitter and Line – all of which have huge markets in Japan.

Keeping up with Japan’s highly mobile-connected consumers is a big part of the job. It’s a market saturated with state-of-the-art phones and a place where people spend large amounts of time on the move, commuting on trains and using their mobile phones to stay connected. The mobile wallet, while new in many other markets, is a long-accepted and widely used payment method in Japan.

Taking the Digital Experience to the Next Level

Since his arrival in April, Trinidad oversaw the launching of the McDonald’s App that is now number one in the Food and Beverage category in Japan’s Apple App Store, with more than 10 million users – also making it the largest mobile app for any restaurant in Japan.

The McDonald’s mobile app has three core functions: a news function that allows users to read content and learn about new products and services; a promotion function where offers and discounts are distributed; and a store locator. The ability to pre-order and pay via the app is under development.

Next-generation offerings that he is working on include in-store, self-order kiosks – which are already common in Japanese ramen shops and other restaurants – and augmenting McDonald’s offerings, such as a digital Happy Meal that links toys with digital games and experiences.

McDonald’s Push for Mass Personalisation

McDonald’s push for ‘mass personalisation’ in customer service creates an overarching vision for the digital team. “McDonald’s is laser-focused on the customer-first experience. It’s about creating convenience at their fingertips and developing locally relevant and engaging apps.”

He adds, “Digital is fundamentally transforming the concept of convenience and speed. Digital marketers are constantly competing against time, in making online transactions faster and more intuitive.”

Trinidad thrives on the pace of the work.

Keep Experimenting & Learning

Leading the digital side of McDonald’s in Japan means keeping up with new and localised burgers, drinks and shakes. “There’s always something new – like a black squid ink burger, a teritama burger, a tsukimi burger, a McFizz, or a McShake. If you’re not used to that pace, it can be pretty daunting. To succeed, you need to embrace the pace and be constantly ready to take on new challenges. I find it very exciting.”

Just like in start-ups, Trinidad gets to build a digital team in McDonald’s Japan. “I get to start from scratch. For me, zero to one is a lot more interesting than 1000 to 2000.”

Also, he enjoys the freedom to try new things and experiment with fresh ways of delivering on the customer-first mission.

“To bring that Silicon Valley methodology and that three-month-old start-up feeling to a company that has been in Japan for 45 years, that’s the exciting part – and the challenging part.”

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