5 Questions with Rakuten Director of Global Marketing and Branding, Rahul Kadavakolu

Masahito Namiki, Interbrand Chief Executive Officer, Japan interviews Rahul Kadavakolu, Director of Global Marketing and Branding, Rakuten. Rahul discusses the vision for the brand and how recent initiatives are enhancing the business and driving growth on the global stage.

What is your growth vision for the Rakuten business?

Rakuten is a new-generation Japanese company with a clear global vision backed by a solid philosophy. We have grown globally by adopting new business models and nurturing start-up talent to advance various efforts, ranging from the development of new open platforms for e-commerce to experiments with drones, chatbots, and AI.

We are always looking to expand into new markets and find new avenues for business growth. Today, we have grown our portfolio to over 70 businesses, that span e-commerce, digital content, communications, and fintech—bringing the joy of discovery to more than 1.1 billion users worldwide.

Going forward, we will continue to evolve our business model and develop deeper integration of our diverse services to maximize the customer experience.

Interbrand Rakuten 5 Questions

How is this vision reflected in your marketing activities?

Strategic marketing at Rakuten is very closely aligned to our businesses. It is not a mere support function that sits behind the business, but an important lever that runs beside the business. As part of our strategy, we are focused on building a strong brand in global markets. We just completed phase one of a rebrand and brand unification initiative, which will bring all of our services and businesses together under the Rakuten brand name.

As of July 1, Rakuten became the Main Global Partner and Official Innovation and Entertainment Partner of the world-renowned football club, FC Barcelona. We also announced our partnership with Shakira, making Rakuten the main presenting sponsor of Shakira’s upcoming El Dorado world tour.  All of this has happened in the past 4-6 months.

This should give you a sense of all the action. This is just the beginning and we have a long way to go. We are also making significant investments in building our marketing infrastructure and technology. What is important is that we have a clear business vision and we, as a marketing unit, are all set to enable and support that vision. 

Interbrand Rakuten FC Barcelona

What was the motivation for your recent rebrand?

It’s much easier for our customers to engage with a single brand that offers multiple services, than multiple brands with different offerings. In addition, a unified brand is much easier for us to manage. This, we believe, will help us further expand the Rakuten brand and introduce the power of our membership strategy to our global consumers.

How will this rebrand help your customers understand Rakuten and engage with the brand more?

The true power of the Rakuten brand comes to life when all our businesses and services are connected through our unique ecosystem. We deliver a seamless, engaging experience that provides true value to our customers. A strong brand, membership, and data strategy sits at the heart of our connected services.

FC Barcelona is a high-profile sponsorship strategy—how will you leverage this to enhance the perception of the brand?

The strategy revolves around two very critical objectives: One, to build and raise awareness of the Rakuten brand in global markets. Two, to communicate our philosophy and vision to the world. We could not have chosen a better partner than FC Barcelona to help us achieve these objectives, as we share similar values of optimism, professionalism, and empowering local communities.

Rakuten was built with the vision of empowering consumers, merchants, and society through the capabilities of the internet. This empowerment philosophy resonates very closely with FC Barcelona’s values. Apart from entertaining millions of fans around the world with their unique and innovative style of play, they also take a strong community-driven approach to running the club and developing new talent.

We truly believe that this partnership will help us build the Rakuten brand and communicate the vision and philosophy that define us.