Sep 14, 2016

Improbably, Lion builds affinity for detergent

The Japanese manufacturer is working to tackle P&G and Kao's lead in a market with extremely limited brand engagement.

Improbably, Lion builds affinity for detergent

Japan's kitchen detergent market is dominated by two major brands: Kao’s Kyukyutto and P&G’s Joy. The household penetration rate of kitchen detergent is nearly 100 percent. For newcomer Charmy Magica, which is owned by Lion, continuing to expand market share will be a challenge. Share stands at around 5 percent.

Differentiation is key, and an easy way to achieve that is simply to listen to the consumer. In March, Lion launched Magica Anti-bacterial+ and Magica Fragrance-free with reduced fragrance. Not many products present absence of fragrance as a selling point, but much of the feedback in the review columns of online shopping sites calls for products "without a strong scent".

In a nation of human dishwashers, product affinity is low

Over 20 percent of people in Japan wash dishes over five times a day, and electric dishwashers are uncommon. In May 2015, the nationwide penetration rate of dishwashers stood at an average of 28.4 percent based on a survey by Panasonic and Mitsubishi Research Institute. The amount of dishwashing by hand is in fact increasing, Yet many people feel washing dishes is more tiresome than cleaning or doing laundry, and it tops the list of “disagreeable housework”.

Is this reflected in product choice? Consumer affinity for kitchen detergents is low, and nearly 60 percent of people say that they use dish soap “without really thinking about it”. Brand loyalty is low and switiching high.

Accompanying its product launch, Lion employed actor Koji Yakusho as spokesman. The TV campaign was deliberately distinct from the usual detergent advertising. In one instance, as Yakusho makes a serious speech, the camera reveals that he is doing the washing up at the same time. It's fair to say that few people are excited by the standard TV spots, and Lion spokesperson Ayako Suzuki says the approach was simply to make consumers feel that "something new has appeared".

Detergent as a conversation driver

Charmy has also set out to achieve the seemingly impossible: to have people talk about a detergent brand on social media. The selling point of its Magica product is its 'effortless cleaning' properties, and Lion emphasises this through tie-ups with cooking recipe sites.

Through a partnershipwith major recipe sharing website Cookpad, the company introduced 'Time-saving recipes you can make in 15 minutes.' The recipes were a way to link to guidance on how to clean grease off of frying pans and dishes, and introduce the product. According to Cookpad, it was the first tie-up with a kitchen detergent, and one that set a record of doubling the number of estimated pageviews.

Charmy Magica’s packaging is also distinctive. With a black cap as its symbol, it was created in only a few colours with the aim of projecting a simple image. Packaging with a Scandinavian-style design has also been released as a limited edition. The limited edition represents one out of every 20 bottles and employs a design in which Lion’s corporate mascot is hidden. This is intended to encourage consumers to post photos to Twitter and Instagram, and Suzuki claims people are actually searching for the mascot and uploading it to social media when they find it.

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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