Archive for February, 2010

Hay fever ad campaign nothing to sneeze at

Tuesday, February 9th, 2010

“What is the true identity of this HanaBlo beauty?”

That’s the tagline for a teaser campaign promoting the hay fever medicine HanaBlo (literally, Nose Block) manufactured by Fumakilla, a company better known for its household pesticides. The campaign for HanaBlo features an attractive woman who is saved from sneezing by a chirpy gent in a pork pie hat who turns up, removes her mask and rather presumptively sticks a cotton swab doused in HanaBlo up her nose. The mystery lady is grateful, and for good reason: Japanese hay fever is a hardcore affliction and many Japanese are doomed to wear surgical masks when they’re outdoors to reduce symptoms.

In the advert, her face is visible, so surely her identity is easy to guess – or is it? The campaign’s effective use of social media  is clearly having the desired effect since Twitter users and bloggers have been buzzing about her identity since the campaign launch on Feb. 1. A quick look at Twitter reveals that most people think she’s comedienne Miyuki Torri, whose stage persona is rather off-kilter, very unlike the elegant woman in the campaign. The hunch makes sense: Despite her good looks Torri is rather orthodontically challenged and the mystery woman doesn’t show her teeth in the ad. How this syncs with the product is anybody’s guess.

All will be revealed on Feb. 15.

Japan by the numbers (02.08.10)

Monday, February 8th, 2010

Pop goes the cash register

Thursday, February 4th, 2010

Photo credit: 177/Flickr

Photo credit: 177/Flickr

When supercool French music/fashion label Kitsune opens its temporary storefront in Omotesando next week, it will be the latest brand to dot Tokyo’s cityscape with a pop-up shop, those small, ephemeral retail venues that hip brands erect in high-traffic hot spots. The idea of a pop-up retail is usually to generate buzz and give the unsuspecting consumers who stumble onto the place the illusion of inside knowledge. Pop-up stores frequently sell limited-edition goods, as well, so an added exclusivity is built right in.

Last year saw a number of successful campaigns: Louis Vuitton built an underground lair in Ikebukuro while Ace Hotel set up an enclave inside Isetan Department store. Brand [RED] set up shop inside Harajuku’s Gap outlet while forward-thinking architecture firm, Klein Dytham, designed a temporary gallery, bar and livehouse at the top of the H&M building for Vitamin Water’s Japan launch.

Pop-up retail has been around for a while. Long enough, in fact, that scenesters like Kitsune now feel they need to differentiate themselves for the concept. They’re also incorporating locally-made materials, which will add value for many of Japan’s shopaholics. Some say the pop-up shop idea is played out, or rather becoming common enough to lose its edge. Fine with me. Perhaps it’s time for the pop-up shop to go family friendly.

Will Palro be befriended by the public?

Thursday, February 4th, 2010

We all imagine that the first country to embrace domestic humanoid robots en masse is going to be Japan. But which robot is going to be the first to capture the public’s imagination enough to become an indispensible household item? Fujisoft is pinning its hopes on the new humanoid robot named Palro, which was showcased this week.

Palro has two things going for it. Standing at a diminutive 39.8 cm in height and speaking in a helium-pitched voice, it’s unthreatening and cute. Perhaps the bigger plus, though, is that Palro can be programmed via an open source Ubuntu operating system.  Consumers can not only download new functions (for example, a dance program), but they can also create their own C++ programs  so its functionality isn’t limited to the original program.

Palro is equipped with moving arms and legs, a 3-megapixel camera, Wi-Fi capability and microphones. The tricks it performed at Fujisoft’s recent demo included acting on voice commands, reading out news and weather reports, and dancing. Palro will also be able to interact with household devices such as televisions or cameras. Nifty, yes, but crucial?

Continue reading about the humanoid robot Palro →

Real estate and railways

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010

Tama Home store on the platform of the Yamanote line in Shibuya

Tama Home store on the platform of the Yamanote line in Shibuya

Last year we reported that cosmetic stores had been popping up on train platforms, allowing busy women to stock up on beauty products while they wait for trains. Now it seems the idea has caught on with real-estate vendors Tama Home, who have installed themselves on the Yamanote Line platform of Shibuya Station.

The shop doubles as a café for busy commuters, offering coffee at the low price of ¥200, or for free if you don’t mind filling out a questionnaire. Visitors can also get advice from shop staff about real estate and probably will hear a lot about the benefits of buying a brand new Tama home.

The marketing concept of having Tama Home on the train platform might be down to the fact that home is pronounced “houmu” in Japanese and the same word means station platform, making it a neat little pun. But why place a real-estate agency in Shibuya, an area renowned attracting footloose youths who are not necessarily potential home buyers?

Tama Home’s advertising used to concentrate on appealing to couples with young children with a typical commercial showing a happy family innocently singing a simple song about the joys of living in a Tama Home: “Happy life, happy home, Tama Home!” Falling birth rates must have put a dent in their staple market because they’ve now recruited the dashing Takuya Kimura to appear in a new series of advertisements. Most decidedly single, he’s depicted struggling with the confines of a tiny bachelor pad and yearning not for a mate but for more space.

While the Tama Home platform store is built to resemble a train carriage, for sheer perfection of product placement, nothing beats the Gatan Goton store located on the platform of Tsuruhashi train station in Osaka. Gatan Goton (the noise trains make when they roll over rails) sells model train sets for enthusiasts both young and old and even has a little model railway set out in the center. Houses purchased at the store go for considerably less than those at Tama Home.

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