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Marketing in Japan: positives and negatives

by Chris Reed on Mar 12, 2012
I recently went on my first visit to Japan, staying in 6 different locations from Tokyo to Myoko to ski to really get a great feel for this amazing country.  I loved every minute of it and can’t ...

Blogger profile: Chris Reed

Chris J Reed has 25 years of senior marketing experience on both the client and agency side in the UK and now in Asia-Pacific based in Singapore. He is the CEO and founder of Black Marketing.

I recently went on my first visit to Japan, staying in 6 different locations from Tokyo to Myoko to ski to really get a great feel for this amazing country.  I loved every minute of it and can’t wait to go back.

From a marketing perspective it’s incredibly fascinating. Dentsu are headquartered there and they are one of the world’s largest advertising agencies but I bet you have barely heard about them. I loved the Dentsu Advertising Exhibition in the middle of their offices. It was amazing that they showed this all year round including weekend’s and they show the best of all advertising not just their own.

I hadn’t seen this amazing Puma advert but they included it in the best global work for the last year and I love it. I guess it appeals to my terrace passion and I love the irony of the song they are singing…can you guess it in the time it takes to watch the advert….!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mo2wFptAX3k

The bright neon marketing signs dominate every street and at night it makes New York’s Time Square look miniscule by comparison, there are loud, “see me now” signs on every street, 10 stories high.

Young Japanese have a real passion for selling too. Something I have never seen even in the supposed bastion of sales, America. There were many department store/bazars holding sales with many different branded retailers in, from Western names to Japanese ones.

Every single store, sitting next to each other had a young lady (they were all girls) standing on chairs and tables screaming and shouting for customers to come to their store rather than their competitors and the financial benefits of doing so.

The coolest thing about this was that every single one of them had the most amazing smile while they were doing it. They loved it! Loved the competition, loved the attention, loved the challenge. There was real pride and passion in their marketing of their brand.

I came across this very innovative way of marketing Kit Kat's in Japan which changed the landscape completely are how the brand was marketed

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B8m3-bysZPc

The only mis-marketing I experienced was the smoking and the credit cards. I was stunned that one of the most civilized societies onearth still allowed smoking in bars and restaurants. Worse than that, there was no non-smoking part. It was like going back in time many decades in the UK, it was very off putting as I hate smoke especially with meals. There was no customer empathy for those that didn’t smoke, Japanese and tourists alike. It was even harder to take as the Japanese have to be the most polite and helpful people in the whole world.

Whenever I was lost, (which happened a lot), on subways or on streets a Japanese person would come up to me, (usually young Japanese) and ask whether they could help in perfect English.

The other very bizarre anti-marketing experience was the fact that in one of the most technologically advanced countries in the world hardly anyone took credit cards. Retailers, restaurants, hoteliers, taxis you name it they only took cash!

That in itself would be just about ok….but then Japan also doesn’t have many cash machines! Certainly not ones that take foreign cards. A weird oxymoron!

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