Apr 20, 2016

Buddhism and baseball: How Philips segments grooming customers in Japan

CASE STUDY: Philips follows a strategy of micro-segmentation as it aims to grow sales of its grooming products in Japan.

'Extreme shaver' Kotaro Tanaka
'Extreme shaver' Kotaro Tanaka

While grooming products are a relatively small part of Philips’ consumer electronics business in Japan, the company sees needs in this area diversifying. It currently operates four categories: hair clippers, beard trimmers, nose hair trimmers and body groomers, as well as shavers.

The market size of the other grooming products is one-tenth that of shavers and demand is still low. At the same time, “there are a wider variety of needs in grooming than we imagined,” says Sawa Kawanishi, who is in charge of grooming product marketing at Philips. As a result, the company classifies consumers into seven segments and approaches their targets by selecting media suited to each respective group.

Men's grooming marketing managers Takamasa Fujii (left) and Sawa Kawanishi

The clusters Philips sees as important prospective customers are as follows: Buddhist Monk; Baseball Player (elementary and junior high school student); Japan Self Defence Force (JSDF) Member; Senior High School Student; Super Fashion-sensitive; LGBT; and Active Senior.
These groups are not decided at random. For example, as you may expect, Buddhist monks need to completely shave their heads on a daily basis, and many own a hair clipper. Philips also notes that the LGBT segment in general has a high degree of interest in personal appearance.

To reach Buddhist monks, Philips periodically places ads in the special-interest magazine Gekkan Juushoku (Chief Priest Monthly). For JSDF members, it uses JDA Club, a free magazine distributed on JSDF bases. For LGBT, it markets the Philips brand by co-sponsoring Japan’s LGBT parade, ‘Tokyo Rainbow Pride.’ A new product that has 411 adjustable levels to cut the length of hair in 0.1-milimeter increments has been well received among the ‘Super Fashion-sensitive’ segment.

Encouraging consideration key to shaver sales

Philips has created a customer journey in an attempt to expand the sales of shavers, its flagship product. Philips shavers are the rotating-blade type. Two-way blade type products are the most common in Japan; convincing people of the superiority of rotating blades and winning them over from the mainstream is critical for the brand.

“In the various consumer surveys we conduct every year, we became aware that the ratio of consideration and selection to brand recognition was low,” says Takamasa Fujii, who is in charge of Philips’ shaver product marketing. “Whether a consumer has used the product or not affects his or her understanding of the brand. We enjoy a user satisfaction level of 85 percent, which is higher than competitor brands. In other words, if we can get consumers to move to the ‘consideration’ phase, it will lead to an expansion in sales.”

Why don’t consumers enter the consideration phase for Philips’ products? The company looked into the reasons, and discovered that it was “because the shaver has a different shape than the (two-way blade) shaver that consumers have used until now.”

Accordingly, the company laid out the concept that shaving can irritate sensitive skin, and touted the superiority of rotating blades with a focus on TV. Last year It also launched an online video series, Extreme Shaving Tournament, which communicated rotating blade shavers’ advantage of adhering to the skin even in zero gravity. The videos were shared 13,000 times on Twitter and Facebook, and prompted a 158 percent increase in visitors to the official site. The company also points to an advertising value equivalent (AVE) of 35 million yen (US$321,000).

Campaign's view: Targeting the groups listed above makes sense for shavers, and the 'tournament' was fun. But it doesn't quite solve the problem of how to raise sales of the other grooming products. Perhaps Philips could try using some of these individuals as ambassadors for good trimming in general. An 'Active Senior' tackling nose hair while diving with a shark, for instance, would take things to a new level.

English-language case studies from Japan are few and far between. In partnership with AdverTimes, a domestic marketing-industry publication, we aim to offer a better understanding of the type of work that resonates in the country. 


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