How can marketing to Japanese consumers win customers for your brand? Here’s what you need to know.
First and foremost, Japanese customers prioritize trust, reputation, quality and value. So, you’ll need to rethink your marketing strategy to reflect these values. Many foreign brands have already seen great success marketing in Japan. But in doing so, they’ve discovered what makes a Japanese audience tick.
WHAT ARE JAPANESE CONSUMERS LOOKING FOR?
Unlike in the US or UK, quality, value and brand recognition are preferred over affordability.
There are four key things to consider if you want to be successful in marketing to Japanese consumers.
- LACK OF LIVING SPACE
It’s common for people in Japan to consider all of their options before making a purchase.
This is partially due to limited living space. Tokyo in particular is a very crowded city, hosting 6,200 people per square kilometer (16,058 people per square mile). For comparison, there are 5,590 people per square kilometer (14,478 people per square mile) in London. As a result, people have less space to store things and need a good reason to buy something new.
So, when you’re marketing to Japanese consumers, you’ll need to convince them that your brand is a worthwhile investment.
- COST CONSCIOUSNESS
Recent economic struggles mean that cost consciousness is on the rise. This is especially true of the Yutori (Millennial) generation. 43.8% of people under the age of 25 work part time and earn around $100–$500 a month.
While this has benefited discount shops and afast-food restaurants like Walmart and McDonald’s (now common in Japan), the Japanese preference for value over price remains.
Spending on home improvements, TVs and other luxury goods is still high. With less money to spend, though, Japanese consumers would rather buy fewer, higher quality things. And they’ll shop around more than they used to, compare products online and save money by going out less.
Japanese consumers desire quality, especially luxury goods. In fact, Japan is one of the largest luxury markets in the world.
This makes Japan highly lucrative for luxury brands. Bvlgari, Salvatore Ferragamo and Gucci earn 27% of their global revenue in this market alone. Louis Vuitton, meanwhile, earns half its global profits from its 60 stores in the market.
So if you’re a luxury brand and you’re marketing to Japanese consumers, don’t question your higher price tag. Instead, justify it by proving your brand’s value. Champion your prestige, heritage and superior quality to convince consumers you’re worth the extra cost.
Honor and reputation are highly valued in Japan, so guarding both is crucial. Negativity about your products or brand ethics could be highly damaging because other people’s opinions hold a lot of weight. In fact, Japan is the only country where consumers see users as a more reliable source of product information than experts. According to the 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer, Japan ranked 26th out of 28 nations surveyed for their level of trust in institutions.
Because of this, user reviews and testimonials are essential for building trust. So it’s important to incorporate them into your content strategy.
Online verification in Japan is also very high, and search engines are the most trusted source of information. So it goes without saying that an effective Japanese SEO and digital marketing strategy will help drive overall performance.
HOW TO APPEAL TO JAPANESE CONSUMERS
When marketing to Japanese consumers, emphasize the quality and value of your brand. But what’s the best way to spread this message? Here are three things to keep in mind.
Despite their mistrust of institutions, Japanese consumers view marketing positively. According to a survey of seven developed nations, they were the most likely to express positive or neutral feelings toward advertising.
They were also more likely to rate advertising as eye-catching than Americans – and thought online ads were less distracting. This is good news for your brand since you can maximize both online and offline advertising.
- LANGUAGE AND LOCALIZATION
To connect with consumers, you need to speak their language. In Japan, it’s a legal requirement – even foreign advertisements must contain some Japanese.
The best approach is to strategically localize content that’s relevant to Japanese consumers. Doing this will quickly build trust, engagement and brand loyalty. You can even adapt your product or service to regional preferences to establish more of an emotional connection with Japanese consumers.
For example, KitKat’s localized Japanese name – “Kitto Katto” – sounds like “kitto katsu,” an inspirational Japanese phrase that means “you will surely succeed.” The brand capitalizes on this by releasing a special exam season flavor each year. The strategy is so successful that it’s now an annual tradition. 50% of students receive KitKat chocolate bars as motivational gifts before university entry exams begin.
KitKat also created over 300 limited edition flavors (like wasabi and melon). Some of these are seasonal, but others are unique to specific Japanese regions. They’re based on the fruits and food from the area and aren’t found elsewhere.
KitKat’s limited-edition strategy builds hype for the brand. Its regional localization, meanwhile, establishes an emotional connection with Japanese consumers. The result has turned KitKat into one of Japan’s favorite products.
So to break into the Japanese market, don’t cut corners when it comes to localization. It will be much easier to establish your brand.
- HOLIDAYS AND SEASONS
Japanese employees receive annual bonuses of nearly $3,000 during the summer months; as a result, spending is higher during this period. Spending is usually focused on luxury goods, leisure and travel. Therefore, summer is the perfect time to ramp up your marketing activities.
Christmas, New Year’s Day and White Day (a second Valentine’s Day in March) are other important spending holidays you could capitalize on. Similarly, spirits are high during cherry blossom season. As a result, many brands choose this period to advertise and encourage consumers to buy their products.
Understanding your audience is key to marketing in Japan on specific holidays. Find out which annual events consumers are most interested in, and build marketing campaigns around them. It can be a great way of integrating your brand into Japanese culture and ensuring your longevity in the market.
When marketing to Japanese consumers, it’s crucial to first understand their cultural preferences and then learn how to appeal to them with a specific and targeted marketing strategy.