Food for thought
We are starting to see brands succeeding – and trends originating – in ‘lower tier’ China before they then sweep across the wider country. To realise fully the potential of these regions, underestimated regularly by outsiders, Beijing and Shanghai’s realities must cease to be the default definition of China.
Japanese consumers understand the tropes and perceptions of other nations in a very distinctive and sometimes limited way. This is a real challenge for foreign brands which would otherwise safely assume that their products’ packaging speaks volumes about origins and quality to global consumers.
It doesn’t take a pandemic to make Tokyo a challenging place to live in the summer months. But when the trials of two people working from a tiny apartment in stifling heat got too much, I decamped to Okinawa and six weeks later am still here. If this sounds sybaritic, I am of course working no less than usual: I have merely joined the digital nomads who long ago understood how positive a move to Okinawa can be.
Japan’s experience shows how vital it is for brands to engage with how consumers are being influenced to reframe their view of themselves as they age. How can brands offer a diverse range of options that allow these older customers – usually with greater spending ability and financial stability – to stay inspired, forward-looking and active?
In the West, social media influencers are on the wane. Industry surveys show decreasing levels of consumer faith in influencers in both the US and UK. This stands in total contrast to China. Brands have never been more reliant on social influencers whether to drive awareness, positive consumer sentiment or ultimately sales. So what are Chinese influencers doing right?
A couple of years ago, I sat behind the ‘magic mirror’ of a Japanese focus group as they went through a conventional round of concept testing. A confectionary company was assuaging consumers’ guilt at indulging in sweets by emphasising that they used only free range eggs, milk from ‘happy cows,’ and fair-trade vanilla beans. This quirky messaging jarred spectacularly with the Japanese audience. This brand has been a rip-roaring success around the world for its stance on taking social action, and yet in Japan it hit a wall: hard. What could have gone so wrong?
For us, the yuzu is everything we love about Japan. Tangy yet mellow, the yuzu’s subtlety and nuance are a revelation: when you first taste it, it is both oddly familiar and yet an unforgettable surprise.
To shape conversations – or to engage people – businesses need to address notions of creativity, innovation, purpose and empathy. These motifs have been at the very core of the artistic process ever since. How can art help to master today’s challenges in branding?
Covid-19 has swiftly turned ‘social distancing’ into the phrase for us all to live by. We can see from China what the future might start to look like, as businesses are starting to reopen and citizens to emerge from their homes
Shibuya continues to rejuvenate at breakneck speed. Recent developments are part of the effort to safeguard its position as Japan’s top shopping destination, including Shibuya Stream, Shibuya Scramble and the new PARCO department store. Each of them is trying hard to differentiate themselves. Nevertheless, there are some unifying elements.
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In this series, we give our professional insight into the best ways to conduct market research in Japan and China, and the current status of these markets. If you’re thinking about entering or expanding your presence in East Asia, these articles are a must-read!