In Japan, I recently had the opportunity to conduct Leadership, Marketing & Finance Workshops for a Japanese CPG company. It was a lot of fun (and work).
Instead of talking about Unique Value Propositions, Global Branding, Lean Start-Up, and other topics, I thought I’d share my observations as a tourist and consumer and how that translates to companies wanting to market to the Japanese.
1. No Free Wi-Fi
Living in the San Francisco Bay Area, we take free wi-fi for granted. It’s like air or running water. In Japan, I was surprised that free wi-fi is very rare. Wi-fi is widely available, but it’s almost all password-protected.
Implication to Marketers: The Japanese value privacy and security even more than Americans. Technical products need to address this issue front and center.
2. Subway Entrances Are On the Honor System
The Shimbashi Station in Tokyo (as well as others) require you to buy a ticket, but there really isn’t anything preventing people from cheating or entering without a ticket.
Implications to Marketers: The Japanese people have an honor-based (or shame-based) culture. I think this means marketers probably worry less about store crime and fraud.
3. Customer Service Is Very Important
No matter where we visited, we found the customer service to be very high quality. People were polite, courteous and sometimes went beyond the call of duty.
Implications to Marketers: If you want to have a service business, do not skimp on customer service.
4. It’s All About Team
I was surprised not to see any sports jerseys of any kind in Japan. We did see some team t-shirts, but never with an individual player’s number and name.
Implications to Marketers: There seemed to be fewer Japanese celebrities and individual heroes, so best not to base marketing strategies on celebrity endorsements or individual fame and achievements.
5. Snacks Abound
We were stunned to see beverage vending machines on just about every street corner in Tokyo and Kyoto. In fact, you can also find snacks everywhere. They rely less on big supermarkets (we didn’t see any) and more on smaller convenience stores and local restaurants for their food.
Implications to Marketers: Their distribution channels will be more complicated and harder to penetrate quickly.
In my short trip to Japan, it was clear that the differences in their culture, habits and values make it a unique market to enter. This shouldn’t be surprising to anyone, but it’s another reminder that when entering a new market of any kind, your product and marketing has to be tailored to the customer.