Japan is a country that enjoys western culture, but that is no guarantee of success with a product in the Japanese market. The long history of marketing to the Japanese is filled with stories of can’t miss products failing due to companies misreading the market. Here are five tips to help companies with marketing in Japan.
Less is definitely more in Japan. There is a cultural preference for smaller packages. Some of this preference is a practical issue stemming from smaller refrigerators and storage spaces. A variety of frozen products were unsuccessful until reducing their package size to fit inside the Japanese freezer. The same is true even for products where the Japanese consumption is greater than that of western people. Despite their using more of the product it sells better in smaller packages.
Western icons are popular in Japan, particularly those whose image involves wearing leather jackets or blue jeans. Movie stars perceived as being cool make excellent endorsement candidates for products in Japan. Arnold Schwarzenegger following the success of the Terminator movies and James Dean are a couple of examples.
Whatever you are planning to market in Japan, make sure the product fits the market. If you want young Japanese girls to buy your perfume, don’t market it with voluptuous blue-eyed blondes. Use models and images that resemble young Japanese women. If necessary, change the product to fit the market.
Marketers should plan for necessary modifications of their products to fit Japan. Smaller living spaces result in less tolerance for noisy appliances. Items that are too long to fit well in Japanese apartments or the wrong size for comfort will not sell.
Companies that can identify themselves with the Japanese perception of an idealized American life style find success in Japan. McDonalds and Coke are both very popular and selling a lot of product by tapping into this perception. Other companies as large as these two have failed to find success in the same market.
It is possible to gain entry to the Japanese market and achieve great success, but it requires a careful, well-thought out approach. Campaigns that overlook important Japanese cultural ideas are likely to fail. A good approach is to find your niche in the market rather than enter into direct competition with an established product. Aggressive tactics comparing one product to another are not well-received in Japan. What is normal in western marketing could be seen as inappropriate to the Japanese or not suitable for television.
This article on problems marketing in Japan was written by Jack Danny, expat in Asia.
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