Archive for the ‘New products/services’ Category

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.

Soymilk cream to give dairy cream a run for its money?

Thursday, July 4th, 2013

Press conference to launch soymilk cream

Various company reps stand proud at a news conference to launch soymilk cream

Soymilk drinks have been trending in recent years in Japan. Increasingly thought of as a healthier alternative to milk, soymilk is also a convenient substitute for those who are lactose intolerant. But have you heard of soymilk cream? Created by Osaka based Fuji Oil, this new ingredient was introduced with great fanfare onto the Japanese market in April this year and since then, products containing the ingredient have been appearing on the market.

Made with the USS (Ultra Soy Separation Technology) invented by Fuji Oil, soymilk cream is created using a centrifuge that separates a mixture of pounded soybeans and water out into soymilk cream and low fat soymilk; a process that closely resembles the way dairy cream is created. Just like regular cream, soymilk cream can be used to thicken and give a creamy taste to soups or sauces and can even be whipped. It can also be used to make mayonnaise (by adding salt and vinegar) or cakes, acting as a replacement for egg whites.

The catch is that, though it has been released for sale to food manufacturers and restaurants, it’s not yet available as a basic ingredient in stores. But the fact that both Nikkei Trendy and Tokyo Keizai picked up on the launch  indicates that this latest novelty ingredient has the potential to have a big impact on Japan’s food industry. Nikkei Trendy reported that though the product officially went on sale in April, they’d already sold out due to pre-orders from food manufacturers.

So where can you get a taste of this miraculous new ingredient. Well, expre-su cafe in Tokyo Station sells a weird and wonderful sounding strawberry vinegar soymilk cream concoction to passing commuters. Furthermore, just last month Cold Stone Creamery launched an acai and soy gelato containing the stuff. With a healthy, organic image and a slightly inflated price, the product looks to be aimed at the high-end health conscious market.

Fuji Oil might do well to concentrate on selling the ingredient to manufacturers marketing luxury products. Tokyo Keizai has pointed out that a drought last year pushed up the price of soy beans and that the falling value of the yen has the potential to do further damage to companies producing soy products. It’s not all doom and gloom though, currently the market for dairy products in Japan is worth two trillion yen, while the soy product market is worth ¥300 billion, meaning there’s huge room for expansion.

The latest funky food flavors, coming soon to a konbini near you

Tuesday, July 2nd, 2013

Japan is known for its seasonally flavored foods. Swing by your local konbini in the fall and you’re likely to encounter limited-edition beverages, snacks and candies that weren’t on the shelves a few months earlier.  Some companies pump out more flavors than others, with Nestle’s Kit Kat chocolates alone having dozens of varieties. This summer, manufacturers are debuting a number of interesting flavors to entice convenience store shoppers.

  • As if summer needs to be any hotter, Tohato will begin selling habanero pepper and lemon-flavored corn chips in late July. We’re excited about this one, despite the sinister face on the bag. The company will also be debuting yogurt-honey Caramel Corn and arrabbiata-flavored chips, which arrive in Japan this month.
  • A few weeks ago, we reported on our taste test of the Pepsi-flavored cheetos, which hit the shelves Monday.
  • More directly on the beverage front is Suntory’s Boss Black Sparkling. Best served cold, this carbonated coffee hopes to refresh and awaken those gulping it down on a hot summer afternoon. (Note: If you preferred your fizzy coffee hand-poured, Excelsior Caffé has begun offering a “Perriespresso,” which combines Perrier sparkling water with the chain’s espresso over ice.)
  • The average konbini has a pretty impressive array of instant noodles, but how many of them would satisfy a hankering for Italian? Maruka Foods is now selling peperoncino-flavored instant yakisoba, which combines the convenience of instant noodles with the Italian pasta sauce made form garlic, oil and chillies.
  • A few weeks back, Luna began selling its mint-flavored yogurt. This seems like it could be a crowd-pleaser, with the soothing mint and cooling yogurt making for a perfect way to fend off afternoon drowsiness during the dog days.
  • For dessert, check out Kabaya’s ramune-flavored chocolate  that fizzes just like the soda pop.

Japan by the numbers (06.25.13)

Tuesday, June 25th, 2013

Euglena — the little single-celled organism that could save the world

Saturday, June 22nd, 2013

Euglena, a simple, single-celled organism that grows in fresh water, trumpeted as a solution to food shortages, a potential replacement for fossil fuels and a way to reduce CO2 emissions, has been making headlines lately in Japan. Stock in Euglena Co., a company founded at Tokyo University in 2005, has soared 10-fold this year and the announcement made last month by Osaka University in collaboration with Euglena Co. that a film made from a carbohydrate found in euglena called paramylon is effective in healing wounds, is bound to further boost the huge buzz around this rapidly expanding bio-tech company.

A euglena smoothie available at Juice Zone in Shibuya

A euglena smoothie available at Juice Zone in Shibuya

Euglena, which are also known in Japanese as midorimushi, are 1mm long thin organisms that give water a greenish hue when they multiply in ponds. Though often classified as algae, they are in fact a curious mix of plant and animal, able to both photosynthesize like a plant and consume food like an animal. Incredibly, these slightly fishy-tasting oddities are teaming with almost all the nutrients humans need to stay alive, including vitamins C and B2, calcium and iron. It’s not hard to see why Mitsuru Izumo, co-founder of Euglena Co., saw its potential as an ingredient capable of solving the world’s hunger problems.

Euglena Co. has been mass cultivating the stuff since 2005 and euglena is now not only available to buy as a vitamin supplement, but has also been successfully marketed as an ingredient in confectionery.

Fancy a euglena cookie? There’s even green-tinted euglena ramen sold at a restaurant adjacent to the University of Tokyo campus. Just last month, euglena lattes and euglena smoothies were introduced to the market.

But wait . . . there’s more! Because the organism grows by photosynthesis, it’s capable of reducing CO2 emissions. Euglena Co. carried out a successful experiment in 2009 at a coal-powered thermal power plant in Okinawa. Passing waste emissions through a euglena culture tank, it was observed that the organism thrived, thus demonstrating “an effective and potential solution to the global warming,” according to the company’s website.

If that wasn’t enough, the company is now developing jet fuel, yes, jet fuel, made from euglena and plans to produce a steady supply by 2018, a promise that has boosted speculative trade in Euglena Co. on the stock market. Furthermore it was just announced that the company won the Japan-U.S. Innovation Awards’ Emerging Leader Award, pushing the profile of this high flying bio-tech company even higher.

Pulsations (06.14.13)

Friday, June 14th, 2013

Here are the latest Pulsations, links to fresh stories and visuals about Japan, shout-outs to fellow bloggers, and highly clickable stuff that we think you might enjoy.

In no particular order, they are . . .

Visual Pulse

Kazuki Yamamoto takes latte art to the next frontier (from Spoon & Tamago): You may have seen latte art before, but probably not like this. If you’re a big enough fan, follow his Twitter page, where he posts daily photos for you to enjoy alongside your cup of joe. Recent caffeinated creations include a version of Dali’s “The Persistence of Memory”.

Tokyo Toy Show . . . for little people and grown-up kids

Thursday, June 13th, 2013

Bandai's new line of water guns enables players to shoot around corners.

The 52nd annual International Tokyo Toy Show, which kicked off today at Tokyo Big Sight, is featuring 35,000 products from almost 150 companies from around the globe. Organizers estimate the four-day event will attract at least 160,000 visitors.

At a press preview on June 13, one notable trend was smartphone- and tablet-compatible games and interfaces. Some allowed players to interact with their environment and other gamers.

Another was the emergence of figurines and merchandise spinoffs from popular phone apps.

But the show clearly wasn’t just for kids. Many companies showcased toys aimed at the child inside. And who knows? Maybe Ultraman, Sailor Moon and Mazinger Z can one day appeal to a new generation.

The Tokyo Toy Show is open to the public June 15-16. Admission is free.

[Photos by Mai Hasebe and Eric Ruble]

Tweet Beat: #真4, #ソクラテスの死, #キスの日

Thursday, May 30th, 2013

The Twitter Japan blog releases a list of top hashtags for each week. Tweet Beat investigates the buzz behind the hashtag. 

Demons and Samurai

“Shin Megami Tensei IV,” the first numbered title in the Shin Megami Tensei role-playing game series in 10 years, was released on May 23 in Japan. Between the anticipation of the release date, the build up of PR like the 10-minute gameplay video above and the tweets of fans buying and playing the game, it’s not surprising that the hashtags #真4 (“shin”) and #メガテン4 (“Megaten” is the series’s nickname among fans) would trend.

“Shin Megami Tensei” is known for its brutal difficulty. One player finds a humorous way to say he was annihilated in the tutorial. This time around, the characters are samurai from the Mikado Kingdom, but they still become stronger via the series hallmark of negotiating with demons for help. The game is due out in North America July 16.

“The Death of Socrates” as re-created by Japanese students

Jacques-Louis David painted “The Death of Socrates” in 1787. According to Plato in “The Apology of Socrates,” the great thinker was sentenced to death by poison for “act[ing] unjustly in corrupting the youth, and in not believing in those gods in whom the city believes, but in other strange divinities.” David’s work is said to be somewhat historically inaccurate, though it is nonetheless famous.

In fact, it’s so famous that some Japanese students decided to re-create it as a photo the other day. Once tweeted May 25, with the hashtag #ソクラテスの死 (“The Death of Socrates”) the image promptly blew up (on a popularity trajectory that had it beating out a tweet from kawaii idol Kyary Pamyu Pamyu by some metrics) as people expressed their interest in giving it a shot, wished they had enough real-life friends to be able to pull it off or just laughed.

Taking creative photos like this has been a popular hobby lately, it seems. You may remember Makankosappo but have you seen the “Attack on Titan” meme yet?

Kiss Day

May 23 is #キスの日 (Kiss Day). No, really! It commemorates the first time a kissing scene was shown in a movie in Japan, which, by the way, was the premiere of Yasushi Sasaki’s “Hatachi no Seishun” in 1946. People tweeted a lot of kissing pictures, whether of celebritiesDisney characters, dolls or their single selves. There is also plenty of fan art, even some featuring Harry Potter characters.

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