David Blecken
Nov 25, 2016

Pokemon Go and…Pikotaro? Dentsu’s ‘hit products’ of 2016

It's that time of year again.

He made the list.
He made the list.

Pokemon Go has unsurprisingly topped Dentsu’s annual list of ‘hit products’ in Japan for the year. The items in the top 20 ranking are not always ‘products’ in the strictest sense, but can include events and memes whose popularity gives an idea of the mood and interests of Japanese people.

The list is based on an online survey of 2,000 respondents carried out in October by Video Research. Respondents are presented with a list of 120 items and asked to state whether an item is popular, will become popular, is not popular, or is something they have never heard of.

Pokemon Go’s position at the top was to be expected. The AR game became a global sensation that, for a brief period at least, sent Nintendo’s stock skyrocketing. Nintendo is a shareholder in the Pokemon Company and Niantic, the developer.

In second place is the anime film Kimi No Na Wa (Your Name), a tale of body-swapping by Makoto Shinkai that unexpectedly took the country by storm, reportedly grossing US$174 million at the box office.

Other ‘hits’ that a casual observer may well have forecast include the Rio 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games, the iPhone 7, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Shin Godzilla (Godzilla Resurgence), Instagram, YouTube celebrities and drones also held a good share of the public’s attention.

Universal Studios Japan has risen dramatically in popularity in part due to the brand-building efforts of a former P&G marketer. Halloween also remains a highlight of the year for many, having shot to public consciousness as a festival only in the last several years, largely due to the social-media opportunities it offers.

More surprising (to outsiders at least) might be the popularity of a song by Pikotaro (the stage name of Daimaou Kosaka, a comedian). Entitled PPAP Pen Pineapple Apple Pen, a YouTube posting of the animal print-loving singer has drawn nearly 166 million views since September. For the uninitiated, a key lyric goes like this: “I have a pen/I have a pineapple/Uh/Pineapple pen”.

At the other end of the spectrum, the hometown contribution tax system also stood out for many. Here is the full list.

  1. Pokemon Go
  2. Kimi no Na wa (Your Name) movie
  3. Rio 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games
  4. The Hiroshima Toyo Carp professional baseball team winning the Central League pennant
  5. Pen Pineapple Apple Pen (PPAP) song performed by Pikotaro (stage name of the comedian Daimaou Kosaka)
  6. Kochira Katsushika-ku Kameari Kōen-mae Hashutsujo (This Is the Police Box in Front of Kameari Park, Katsushika Ward) Japanese manga comedy series
  7. Universal Studios Japan
  8. Shin Godzilla (Godzilla Resurgence) movie
  9. Halloween
  10. Sanada Maru (historical drama aired on public television broadcaster NHK)
  11. Hometown contribution tax system
  12. YouTubers
  13. Instagram
  14. Drones
  15. Japanese National Rugby Team
  16. Asa ga Kita (Morning Has Come) and Toto Neechan (Fatherly Sister) morning drama series aired on NHK
  17. Osomatsusan television anime series
  18. iPhone 7
  19. G7 Ise-Shima Summit
  20. Star Wars: The Force Awakens movie

Dentsu's chief spokesperson, Shusaku Kannan, explained that the initial list of 120 items is drawn up by the Dentsu Innovation Institute, although it is not clear how they are selected. Kannan said 2016 saw "lots of attractive products introduced to the market" and that "consumers started to develop new ways of enjoying each product and sharing through [social media]". Kannan said this is referred to as "content styling consumption" in Japan.

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