Archive for the ‘Marketing/advertising’ Category

Marketers capitalize on university entrance exam time

Wednesday, January 15th, 2014

This week there is something weighing heavy on the minds of many students who’d like to advance to college: the National Center Test for University Admissions. It’s being held Jan. 18-19. Those with their heart set on a particular school who don’t get a good enough score may choose to spend a year, or in some cases two or three, studying as a rōnin. With this immense pressure, a little luck is traditionally gotten via charms from shrines or temples, but the trend has built up for companies to release seasonal products in support of test-takers. Well, maybe some are more support than others. . .

First, a quick primer on recurring key concepts and vocabulary:

Cherry blossoms: The school year starts in spring in Japan, just when cherry trees are exploding with pink. Of course, they also represents the kids fulfilling their potential.

Daruma: Symbolizes perseverance and bring good luck. The dolls come with blank eyes; you draw one pupil when you set a goal and the other when you accomplish it. I’m sure there are lots of one-eyed daruma hanging out with high schoolers right now!

Koala: They don’t fall out of trees and in Japanese that same word for “fall” is also used to describe “failing” a test.

Kohaku: The colors red and white are good luck!

Non-slip: The verb “to slip” in Japanese can be used to mean slip up and “fail” a test, so friction is desirable.

There is no better way to kick off this list than with a product said to be a pioneer of the test-taker support boom: KitKat. In Northern Kyushu dialect, the name of the candy bar with the “have a break” slogan appropriate for kids chained to their desks, sounds just like the words, “You’ll win for sure!” People realizing this pun apparently boosted sales of the candy on their own in the early 2000s to the point where it was noticed in-house at Nestle. Nationwide campaigns started in 2003.

Fast forward to this year, where the company is collaborating with 15 universities to present inspirational messages on “Kohaku pack” KitKats (which come in milk and white chocolate). “(-ω-1) If you see a face in an equation, that’s a break,” says mascot Chibunny of the Chiba Institute of Technology. Bouhsear from the Osaka University of Health and Sport Sciences says, “-ing, let’s go one step at a time in progressive tense!”

But that’s not all Nestle is up to this season. Singer-songwriter Miwa has been recruited as the campaign girl, and the catch phrase — “The cherry blossoms will surely bloom!” — is apparent in her music video of the test-taker support song (above) as well as the roll cake she came up with for “Saku Saku Cafe” (“Blooming Cafe”) inside Nescafe Harajuku.

Vanilla ice cream and heart-shaped chocolate accent a pink cake rolled around cream and a cherry blossom-shaped dollop of red bean paste. The cafe also serves meals re-creating favorites at five university’s cafeterias including taco rice and a chicken nanban bowl. It’s open through Jan. 19.

From left: Koala March cookies; Tenoritama's Piyo-chan packages; and

Student supporters (from left): Koala’s March cookies; Oinori-tama Piyo-chan packages; and Triumph’s lucky underwear

For those still feeling peckish, here are some other snack/food related promotions:

Crunky teamed up with private cram school Meiko to use their mascot Professor Daruma to impart inspirational messages in their “test-taking share pack.”

• Daruma-themed Koala’s March cookies mean you can give your friends a double boost of luck with a special message written in the spot provided on the back of the package. (Speaking of Koalas, though, if you want to be really hardcore, you would have gotten your hands on one of these bookmarks made from koala poop at Higashiyama Zoo in Nagoya. If that doesn’t guarantee. . . something, then I dunno what will.)

Chicken Ramen came up with two flavors that work in punny inspirational messages. Yuzu koshō (“Don’t give up on the school you want to get into!”) and garlic chicken (“Go get your chicken and success!”) went on sale Jan. 6.

• Tenoritama rice seasoning’s chick character Piyo-chan prays intently with a different expression depending on which one of three packages you pick up. The renamed “Oinori-tama” (a pun on “praying”) will be on sale until Feb. 28.

Natto Queen 2013 Karen Miyazaki recently appeared at an “pep rally” encouraging students at prep school Waseda Yobiko  to “Stick to [their studies] like natto!”

• From Aqua has water bottles with caps that click into a position that allows you to drink instead of coming completely off, but for some reason around this time of year the sound of that click, “Kachi!” is a pun on “victory” and the cap not “falling” off is imbued with the same significance as a koala staying in a tree.

• HKT48 and Lotte tied up to produce gum and throat drops “for you, who are doing your best.” The just barely test taker-oriented drops contain Honey and Karin (which is an herb, I guess) for your Throat. Are there 48 per package?

If that seems like a lot, it’s probably only the tip of the test-taker marketing ice berg. Perhaps the biggest indication of that is that it’s not only food companies cashing in.

• Triumph International is selling “Kanapan,” a short way to say “My Wish Will Come True?! Underwear.” Apparently the brand was perceived as lucky by some shoppers, which is how the campaign was born. These undies’ high waist is meant to prevent chilly tummies (and thereby the common cold) and they come in red, pink, or black for ¥1,995.

• While we’re on the topic of underwear, Seirogan (an herbal treatment for diarrhea) hopes that students will be free of gastric distress as they challenge the exam. To that end they are giving away 555 (a somewhat involved pun) pairs of “certain victory” lucky test-taking underwear in a unisex style.

• Seirogan may be intent on keeping students out of the bathroom, but Bathclin wants them in it, and more specifically in the bath soaking with their test-taker support salts that are the fruit of analyzing and recreating the scent of the type of cherry tree in Japan (from Okinawa) that blooms the earliest.

• “All you test takers out there, let’s get through this exam with Febreze!” Former pro tennis player Shuzo Matsuoka lends his presence to Febreze’s campaign, which encourages students to blast all the flu and other viruses out of their room after practicing with this interactive website.

• Coolens released lightweight “non-slip” glasses made with “slipless rubber” at the temple and a special nose rest designed especially for Japanese noses, twice as soft as other nose rests, that will also, of course, keep the glasses from slipping as students bow their heads to pore over their textbooks. ¥5,900.

JR Nakatsu Station in Oita Prefecture uses sand on the rails to keep the trains from slipping, but as they do every year, they set some aside as “slip prevention sand” for students during the test-taking season. A total of 1,180 charms containing the sand were blessed at a local shrine and passed out last month.

Tokyo Disney Land and Sea are offering cookies and stationary supplies with messages like “Gōkaku deki-mouse yō ni” instead of the usual “dekimasu.” (“May you pass [the test.]“)

Masahiro Kuwano developed his own unique good luck item, the levitating “Ukari-Masu” (which involves a few puns, but the main thing is that the square cup floats and and one of the meanings of the verb “ukaru” is “to pass [a test]“). Sales have been picking up over the past couple years; he sold 300 in 2013 for ¥945 apiece.

If the test taker nearest you actually just needs to get out of the house, an aquarium in Yamaguchi Prefecture has formed a “test-taking cheer squad” featuring Holacanthus passerOctopus cyanea, Rhinogobius sp. and Patiria pectinifera. Why those particular creatures? Well, the reasons are pretty elaborate in some cases, but mainly, because their names or shapes have some kind of connection to “passing.”

Anyway, we here at Japan Pulse really, really hope everyone meets their academic goals this testing season, and we won’t even make you buy anything.

BONUS: Pokohiro rounds up some types of encouragement boys want from their girlfriends as they are about to face the Center Test.

1) “Let’s pass together.” (He calls this “So cliché” but then admits that it really does feel nice to hear.)

2) “If you fail, I’ll break up with you.” (Ah yes, tough love. Very motivating.)

3) “If we end up at different universities we might cheat on each other.” (Pokohiro reinforces this dire prediction by stating that he personally never saw a couple who attended different universities last.)

4) “It’s OK if you fail.” (Of course, not everyone’s personality is suited to threats. Some guys just need to be reassured. Aww.)

 

J-blip: Tsutaya launches one-stop ‘lifestyle’ bookshop

Monday, November 18th, 2013

Tsutaya's new book store meets all your lifestyle needs

Tsutaya’s new book store meets all your lifestyle needs

Following on the success of Daikanyama T-Site, an upmarket complex targeted at an older demographic of book lovers and one that included satellite boutiques for cameras, bikes and pets,  bookselling behemoth Tsutaya has opened  a new similar envelope-pushing book store in Honjō-Waseda, Saitama.

By offering objects for sale related to a particular hobby or interest, the concept of the new store, which opened its doors on Nov. 2, is to sell not only books, but also a new lifestyle and, of course, to maximize profits.

Make no mistake, though. The lifestyle being hawked here is a far cry from the tony Daikanyama T-Site. Catering to a more suburban and middle-class set, the store is divided into seven zones: cookery, interior decorating, beauty, kids, business, the arts and travel. In the cookery zone, cooking utensils and tableware are laid out next to cookbooks and in-store cookery demonstrations should further whet consumer’s appetite for purchasing more than just a recipe book.

As more entertainment content — be it books, DVDs or games — becomes digitized and downloadable, could this mark the final chapter of the bookstores? The writing is on the brick-and-mortar wall.

Psssst! Wanna bottle of fresh air?

Thursday, October 10th, 2013

Frisk is taking the phrase “like a breath of fresh air” quite seriously — or rather not seriously at all.

The breath-mints brand’s latest online campaign involves a lottery to win a grand prize of seven bottles filled to their brim with exotic air (or, if you’re a cynic, seven completely empty bottles).

The Frisk Select World Fresh Air Collection campaign is promoting the introduction of the brand’s newest flavor — Fresh Herb Mint — as well as the return of Frisk Spearmint. And, doing what must be one of the most enviable jobs, one Frisk employee is being sent to seven scenic destinations across the world, just to pump air into glass bottles.

So far he’s been to Waipio Valley in Hawaii to collect air of a “mysterious atmosphere.” You can watch a rather exhilarating video of the process.

Yes, who wouldn’t want this man’s job? He’s being jetted around the world to simply don a lab coat and white gloves, and then stick an air-compressor tube into a bottle for 15 seconds.

His next destination will be Canada’s glacial Moraine Lake for some “romantic” air, which will be followed by South America’s Iguazu falls (healing air), England’s Oxford (intelligent air), Matterhorn of the Northern Alps (freezing air), Tanzania’s Kilimanjaro (wild air) and finally Tasmania (beautiful air).

To prove that the air really has been obtained and make anyone with a desk job feel completely inferior, sad and jealous, a video of the air-collection at each destination will be uploaded onto the campaign site.

The Frisk Select World Fresh Air Collection is being described as a gift for people suffering the daily stress of modern life. Quite how it will help, though, is unclear. Perhaps it’s just a case of positive thinking: The bottles are NOT empty, they are full!

Five sets of bottles can be won, as well as 50 original Frisk gift boxes. To enter the lottery, you just fill out the form here. And do it before 11:59 p.m. on Oct. 31, when the opportunity to win will vanish . . . into thin air.

Cinderella stories inspire women to find their prince on social networking sites

Monday, July 29th, 2013

Omiai has a strict privacy policy to alay women's fears about online dating

Omiai has a strict privacy policy to alay women’s fears about online dating

According to a recent study by Trend Soken, the phenomenon of the “Social Cinderella” is one of the driving forces behind changing attitudes towards internet dating among young women. “Social Cinderellas” are women who snag “high spec guys” (i.e. well-educated, good-looking men with high salaries) via social networking sites. As stories about these fairy-tale romances spread, more and more women have begun to warm to the idea of internet dating.

Out of the 500 single women in their 20s and 30s interviewed for the study, 81% said that they felt had few chances for romantic meetings in their daily lives and 58% believed that social media was an effective tool for finding their dream man. Columnist Ai Azawa states in the report that modern Japanese women are throwing themselves into their work and are also really into self-improvement, as a result, they’ve got higher standards and are not particularly interested in settling for the men in their immediate social circle.

Azawa says that she often hears Social Cinderella stories. But how common are they in practice? Out of the 61.4% of respondents who claimed to regularly use social media, 16% said that they’d encountered a dreamy guy in this way and 9.4% said they’d even managed to strike up a friendship with the guy in question.

The study uses the term social-networking services to loosely refer to a whole slew of sites, from professional matchmaking websites to social networking sites like Facebook and Mixi, so it’s important to bear in mind that women are not necessarily signing up for dating services. One 26-year-old women questioned for the study mentions attending “meetings of social networking communities.” This could mean joining a group of people who meet over shared interests. Not necessarily aimed at encouraging people to hook up, social clubs tied to a hobby may be one of the ways that women are using the web to widen their social network as they fish around for potential partners.

There are also matchmaking sites linked into Facebook. — sites like Omiai, which currently has 270,000 registered members. Omiai caters to the Cinderella element by boasting that 2,313 of the members are guys who have annual earnings of over ¥10 million. As many are cautious about the perils of online dating, the company highlights its safety policy which allows users to remain anonymous while chatting with a potential partner.

Safety and privacy is a huge concern for Japanese women, so other social networking dating clubs take the risk out of going to meet with a stranger by bulking up the numbers. Pairs of friends who sign up for the rather unfortunately named Nikukai (meat club) service can go on double dates together at yakiniku (Korean barbeque restaurants). Nomitomi (drinking buddies) is a service that holds group mixers for singles, meaning singles don’t have to risk it alone with an unknown person.

Cashing in on Fuji fever

Friday, July 12th, 2013

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Lake_Kawaguchiko_Sakura_Mount_Fuji_3.JPG

Commemorative merchandise celebrating this majestic mountain has been flying off the shelves

Since the announcement that Mount Fuji, Japan’s most iconic landmark, had finally won World Heritage status on June 23, Fuji fever has swept the nation. As souvenirs commemorating the event hit the shelves, sales of Fuji-themed merchandise were brisk. Stores selling climbing gear to those who have been inspired to make the pilgrimage up Fuji have also been doing well.

Loft in Shibuya reported that sales of Fuji merchandise, which had been growing steadily prior to the announcement, suddenly shot up by 150% — the bestselling item being a Fuji-san folding fan that retails for ¥2,100. They’re not anticipating a downturn in trade either: When the shop gets a refit in September there’s going to be a special area in the new “Japan Souvenir” floor dedicated to Fuji souvenirs.

New products also went on sale to commemorate the occasion. Among these is a Mount Fuji wooden cup and ball game that costs a rather eye-watering ¥6,090, and a rubber stamp that incorporates elements of the famous 36 views of Mount Fuji, which would set you back ¥3,360. In addition, blue traffic cones with a snow capped peaks have suddenly popped up in car parks around the country. Formally sold mainly to businesses in the area around Mount Fuji, 300 of these cones were sold in the last month, three times the amount of typical annual sales.

The climbing season for Mount Fuji began this month and shops selling climbing equipment have been cashing in. Sales have also been boosted by the inspiring news back in May that 80-year-old Yuichiro Miura managed to scale the summit of Everest. Mizuno outdoor sports told Sankei Biz that sales of hiking gear for women are almost double that of last year, an indication that the yama girl trend is continuing to climb.

Mizuno outdoor sports store also runs hiking schools and a trip to Mount Fuji for July sold out almost as soon as it went on sale. But hordes of hikers heading for the mountain are putting a strain on local infrastructure. The authorities of Fujinomiya, one of the gateways to the mountain,  have announced that the toilet facilities available will not be sufficient to deal with the increased volume of hikers and are asking climbers to take their own portable toilets with them.

While toilets will be in short supply, Wi-Fi access in the area ought to be excellent. As of June, Yamanashi, one of the prefectures Fuji is located in, has 933 free Wi-Fi spots. Visitors surfing the web might want to download a free new app from Fuji-san Beno, which tells you what events are going on in the area during the day of your visit. More info can be found at Fujiyama Navi. The site launched July 8, and offers tours, hotels, and, of course, Fuji-themed merchandise.

More Fuji goods on our Pinterest board: Mount Fuji mania

Read more about the economics of becoming a UNESCO World Heritage Site at our sister blog, Yen for Living.

Photo by Midori via Wikicommons

Japan by the numbers (07.11.13)

Thursday, July 11th, 2013

Marketing that enters your brain through your nose

Thursday, July 4th, 2013

On Meiji Dori, between Harajuku and Shibuya, I recently came across a tall futuristic titanium-silver contraption staring down at the street with what looked like six portholes. When I got closer, I found it had a window display of small bottles with three signs below saying “touch here!”

Being the tragically curious Alice in Wonderland type, I did.

As soon as my hand passed over a sensor, a cool fragrant mist drifted out from a blower above and descended over my head. Naturally, I touched the other two panels . . . And then the first one again . . . and then the other ones again . . . then the first one yet again — and I was just considering doing it all again, despite how daft I looked with my nose in the air, when it happened . . .

I discovered how scent-marketing works: I saw the store behind the silver machine and walked straight in.

This is how @aroma, an aromatherapy and scent-marketing company, is enticing customers into its first Tokyo store.  And once you’ve been lured you in, there’s a whole range of essential oils for you to explore — this time invoked by 15 buttons.

Japan has no shortage of retailers selling essential oils, but @aroma has a few things that puts it notch above.

First is its gadgetry — the outdoors Aroma Shower mega diffuser is a novelty and staff will also let you test the store’s range of  sleek personal diffusers (battery and USB powered). But most impressive is its Aroma Oil Blender. Hooked up to 15 different bottles of essential oils, you can push a few buttons of your choice to create your own blend and it will be dispersed in a mist above your head. If you like your custom scent, the staff will make it on the spot for you to purchase (allow for a 30-minute wait, though).

@aroma products are marketed with a design-conscious consumer in mind; no flower-child or pot-pourri aesthetics going on here. The packaging is simple and brightly color-coded, while the naming of the essential-oil ranges is no nonsense — Design Air, Clean Air, Botanical Air or Eco Air.

And, as a Japanese company, it also focuses on native fragrances with three of its lineups. Botanical Air Japan includes a woody Mount Koya scent, a Kyoto cedar one and a Japanese citrus yuzu one. Sense of Japan uses fragrances associated with the country — including hinoki wood, perilla and sandalwood — and is named with words associated with Japanese tradition, such as Sei (purity) Miyabi (Kyoto aesthetics) and Iki (Edo aesthetics). The Message Aroma range uses Japanese phrases as names, including the virtually untranslatable Otsukaresama (the thing you say when you finish work — a concoction of hinoki, pine, marjoram, sandalwood, clary sage, and kopa iba) and Gambate (try hard! — spearmint, rosemary, niaouli, tea tree and lime).

But what about the aromas that lured me in the first place? It started with a floral Stylish Glamour, followed by an original blend called Scent of Tokyo. And when the real smell of Tokyo returned, the minty Eco Air -2 Cool Feel was enough to make me want to follow my nose into the store.


A whiff of scent marketing in Japan

Japan, it appears, is at the forefront of scent marketing. At least, plenty of scent marketers like to quote Japanese companies on the subject.

Skyword Scent Strategy states research carried out by fragrance producer Takasago. When computer users worked with different fragrances, it found the following:

  • 20% fewer typing errors with lavender-scented air
  • 33% fewer errors with jasmine-scented air
  • 54% fewer errors with lemon-scented air

Micro Fragrance is rolling out Japan’s largest-ever scenting program and using thousands of Prolitec diffusion systems to pump a Pomegranate Fusion fragrance into possibly the smelliest places in country — every single Maruhan pachinko parlor.

Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology announced in April that it’s working on a Smelling Screen display system, which will release different odors depending on what is being shown on the screen.

Japan’s household goods market is seeing a boost in scented goods, particularly fabric-softeners, which some people are preferring to the smell of perfume.  Lenor is even suggesting you mix laundry scent boosters to create your own personal aroma.

Japan by the numbers (06.25.13)

Tuesday, June 25th, 2013

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