10 Japanese Marketing Strategy Case Studies to Study & Steal

10 Japanese Marketing Strategy Case Studies to Study & Steal

Start planning now. A well-planned, well-executed campaign in conjunction with a widely celebrated special day could give your business or ecommerce shop exposure to Japanese audiences who haven't yet heard of you.

As we discussed in a previous article about marketing in Japan, Japanese are chronic savers but are willing to spend to mark an occasion

Online shops, restaurants, and malls throughout Japan know this Japanese consumer mindset, which is why they spring to action well in advance of each month's national holiday or other nationally observed annual event or occasion. 

Today, we're covering case studies of successful Japanese marketing strategies for Japan's special holidays, including Golden Week, Children’s Day, and more.

Discover what Japanese consumers are after and find out what you can do to break into the Japanese market, boost sales, and grow brand recognition, too. 

Case Study #1. Gran Blue Fantasy’s Golden Week promo event

Golden Week consists of 5 consecutive national holidays (April 29 to May 5) and is celebrated yearly in Japan. During non-pandemic years, many Japanese use this opportunity to go abroad and online retailers often promote outdoorsy items in the weeks leading up to this date. 

However, during the height of the pandemic, many Japanese stayed at home. 

In response, Gran Blue Fantasy, an app game, hosted a Golden Week Campaign event for all their players, providing raffled prizes for those who logged in each day of Golden Week and the opportunity to "rank-up" if they played during a designated time. 

Gran Blue Fantasy’s Golden Week promo event

Image source: https://granbluefantasy.jp/

While some of the uncertainty around the pandemic has faded, it is still an ongoing concern. And many will be opting to stay closer to home during this week-long national holiday. 

Looking at last year's data, products that sold well had to do with items that helped individuals have fun at home. Product keywords for top-selling items had tags like "preserved foods" and "drinking at home." 

Key takeaway: Adapt your marketing to the current times. Recognizing that many people would be staying home during Golden Week due to the pandemic, Gran Blue Fantasy successfully tailored its campaign to engage users in their home environment. By offering incentives like raffled prizes and special ranking opportunities for daily logins, they capitalized on the increased at-home activity. This case study highlights the effectiveness of responsive and flexible marketing strategies that align with changing consumer behaviors and preferences, particularly in times of uncertainty.

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Case Study #2. Tokunaga Koinobori Co., Ltd., Children's Day promo event

Children's day in Japan is often celebrated with the hanging of carp streamers if you have a male child (鯉のぼり= koinobori) and/or displaying a samurai doll in your house. 

Tokunaga Koinobori Co., Ltd., a company that creates carp streamers, hosted an Instagram campaign in the month leading up to Children's Day, asking social media users to post a picture of their child with carp streamers in the picture. The conditions were to (1) follow their official account and (2) use two specified hashtags to enter the judged photograph contest. The top prize was a barbecue set. 

Tokunaga Koinobori Co., Ltd., Children's Day promo event

Image source: https://www.instagram.com/p/BiMjNssAYrX/

Social media campaigns with high participation on Children's Day tend to be those where parents engage in an activity with their children and then post to Instagram about it, using a designated hashtag.

Key takeaway: Create a campaign that allows users to have fun, show off a little, and possibly win a prize—this is a popular social media marketing and advertising tactic in Japan.  

Case Study #3. HAIRCO STORY’s Mother's Day promo event

Japan celebrates Mother's Day on the second Sunday of May (May 9), the same as many other countries worldwide. It isn't a national holiday, but it's universally celebrated in Japan by buying carnations or other gifts to mark the occasion. 

Last year, HAIRCO STORY, a hair products creator, ran an effective Instagram campaign for Mother's Day. Anyone could enter to win free HAIRCO STORY products, provided they (1) followed the company's associated accounts and (2) reposted the original campaign post to their Instagram account. 

HAIRCO STORY’s Mother's Day promo event

Image source: https://www.instagram.com/p/B_roBHPJNhs/

This type of promo is less focused on making sales as it is on growing their following on Instagram, but such marketing efforts can bring swift results for brand recognition and getting in front of people in Japan that might not have found you on their own.

Key takeaway: Avoid being too sales-focused during campaigns. A lot goes into the buyer's journey, and the more fun you can insert into your digital marketing campaigns—thus improving your brand image in the eyes of your potential customers—the more opportunities you will have in the future.

Case Study #4. Magiclin’s rainy season campaign 

Rainy season in Japan is a seasonal weather occurrence that sweeps upwards from south to north, affecting everyone during the months of June to July. It's a dismal time when we're all indoors more, battling with mold, and longing for sunshine and no more rain. 

Magiclin, a division of Japanese soap company Kao, hosted a Twitter campaign during rainy season in 2019. The campaign rules consisted of (1) following their official account and (2) retweeting their campaign post (shown below). Among the retweeters, 100 lucky individuals would get the product shown in the campaign post. 

Magiclin’s rainy season campaign

Image source: https://twitter.com/magiclean_jp/

The campaign garnered 14,000 retweets. Retweeting has little to no effort, making it even easier to participate in than Instagram campaigns (where you typically need to manually repost a picture with a caption and add hashtags). 

Perhaps this is why corporate accounts have more success in gaining and growing their Japanese followers on Twitter over other social media platforms when it comes to Japan's consumer market. 

This Twitter campaign type is a popular marketing tactic in the Japanese Twitter-sphere and, of course, isn't limited to rainy season.

Other regularly seen marketing tactics for the season include shops hosting "rainy day" sales, where if you come in on a rainy day, you get 10% off your order. 

Additionally, rainy-weather goods or motifs and logos that help make light of this season are popular during these two months. 

Key takeaway: Twitter campaigns, where the rules consist of only following the official corporate account and retweeting a post, are easier for individuals to enter than Instagram campaigns, and thus typically have a higher opt-in rate. 

Case Study #5. Disney Tsum Tsum’s Father's Day promo event

Like Mother's Day in Japan, Father's Day is not a national holiday. Celebrated on the third Sunday of June, this year's Father's Day lands on June 20. Because there is no established gift associated with Father's Day, individuals are more open to making a wider range of purchases as a Father's Day gift. 

Disney Tsum Tsum, the game app, hosted a Father's Day event in 2018, by releasing a web-based service that allowed you to design your father's face as a Tsum character. To enter this campaign, Internet users(1) created your father's Tsum face, (2) posted it on Twitter, (3) followed the Tsum Tsum official Twitter account, and (4) used the designated hashtag.

Disney Tsum Tsum’s Father's Day promo event

Image source: https://twitter.com/disneygames_jp/

The winners, chosen by raffle, received a cash gift card. Individuals were encouraged to use the Tsum character as a Father's Day digital greeting card—and since texting one’s father on Father’s Day is something most were inclined to do anyway it likely played a significant role in this campaign's success. 

Key takeaway: An over-arching theme within the case studies we've listed here: Businesses first focus on growing brand recognition and trust over clinching sales. The focus is on influencing future consumer buying behavior.

Case Study #6: Rakuten Eagles' Tanabata-themed post

There are many festivals and holidays you can use for marketing in July. Most popular among them perhaps is 七夕 = tanabata, which is observed yearly on July 7 or August 7, depending on where you are in Japan. Tanabata is also known as the "star festival" as the origins of this festival celebrate the meeting of two stars, Altair and Vega.

A popular tanabata tradition is to write one's wishes on colorful strips of paper and hang them on bamboo branches. Shopping malls in Japan will often set up a bamboo tree in a gathering space and provide pen and paper so that shoppers can participate in the tradition. 

In 2016, Rakuten Eagles' baseball players each wrote down their tanabata wishes that were then posted to the Rakuten Eagles' Twitter account, piquing fans' curiosity. 

Case Study #1: Rakuten Eagles' Tanabata-themed post

Image: Twitter

The Twitter post stated that these paper wishes would be visible to fans at an upcoming date and time, announcing and attracting customers to the upcoming event. 

Key takeaway: You can use the concept of tanabata "wishes" to allow the personalities of those in your team to shine. Additionally, if you set up a tanabata wish-writing station, this is a popular way to draw people to a venue. 

Case Study #7: Volkswagen Japan's Mountain Day campaign

Mountain Day in Japan is a national holiday that will be celebrated on August 9 in 2021. During regular years, it is celebrated on August 11. 

According to the Statistics Bureau of Japan, 70 percent of Japan's landmass is mountainous. Hence, this legislated holiday is meant to observe and appreciate the blessings we receive from the mountains. 

By some reports, Volkswagen's logo looks like a mountain range, which VW's marketers have latched onto and used adroitly. 

Volkswagen Japan, in their 2019 Mountain Day campaign, asked people to post a photo with anything that looked like their logo + the hashtag #ワーゲンロゴ2019 (trans. "VW logo 2019"). Selected photos would be used in their next Volkswagen calendar—plus a chance to win an OSMO Pocket camera. 

With a low bar to clear for entering this campaign, this was a crafty way to get their target audience talking about VW while also elevating awareness of Volkswagen in Japan.

Case Study #2: Volkswagen Japan's Mountain Day campaign

Image: Instagram

Key takeaway: Instagram campaigns where you only need to post a picture and a hashtag (zero marketing materials necessary) are a clever way to grow awareness of your brand—considered doubly effective because of zero pressure to make a purchase as part of the campaign structure. 

Case Study #8: Opportunities for beating summer heat and summer gifts

In Japan, schools' summer break lasts approx. a month, starting from July 21 or 22 until the end of August (length varies by region and city). 

Buying summer gifts for clients, friends, and family has a long tradition in Japan. Many individuals return to their hometown during Obon (often celebrated from August 13 to 16), and bringing a gift when returning home is standard. 

Unsurprisingly, the need for products and services that help cool and survive the scorching heat of summer are always popular for the Japanese market during this time. And social media campaigns that help individuals beat the heat or sympathize with everyone's joint suffering are immensely popular.   

Key takeaway: During August, the choice to travel or stick close to home + the summer heat are two events most Japanese are faced with at this time of year. Consider how your service/business can provide alternative options to either of these events to help your customers have a better summer.

Case Study #9: Pippi Longstocking & Respect for the Aged Day campaign

Respect for the Aged Day is a national holiday in Japan, which will be celebrated on September 20 in 2021. 

In 2018, the Tokyo Fuji Art Museum held a Respect for the Aged Day campaign to coincide with their exhibition of art related to the Pippi Longstocking novel. 

The first 50 people who visited the exhibit—accompanied by grandparents—received an original postcard on the spot! This part of the campaign ran for each day that the exhibit was open. 

Additionally, if you reposted/retweeted their campaign post on social media (FB, Twitter, or Instagram) with the hashtag #敬老の日はピッピ展 (roughly translated to "Respect for the Aged Day at Pippi Ex") and tagged and followed @pippiten, you would be entering a chance to win one of a variety of Pippi-related merchandise.  

Case Study #4: Pippi Longstocking & Respect for the Aged Day campaign

Image: Instagram

Key takeaway: Rewarding individuals who repost/retweet a campaign post from an official account, as shown by research in the Japanese market, is an extremely popular method in Japanese marketing to increase the visibility of a campaign or event. 

Case Study #10: Suntory Tennen's Disaster Prevention campaign 

Disaster Prevention Day, observed on September 1, is one of Japan's national awareness days, which began in 1960 to raise consciousness around behaviors and actions that could help reduce disaster fatalities.

Suntory's division that sells bottled natural water ran an informative and entertaining campaign around the theme of disaster prevention. While it wasn't held on Disaster Prevention Day itself, it's a great case study for it. 

In their February 2020 Twitter post, they stated that according to survey results from a pool of 10,000 individuals, 1 in 3 people had expired foods in their disaster-proof bags. Additionally, only 35.6% of respondents had sufficient water to last them during a disaster-related event. 

Case Study #5: Suntory Tennen's Disaster Prevention campaign

Image: Twitter

Suntory went on to urge individuals to check the expiry date of the goods in their survival stock and tweet a picture of the expiry dates with one of the # two tags #防災バッグ衣替え #サントリー天然水. (The two tags are roughly translated to "Disaster bag seasonal refresh" and "Suntory natural water.")

For the prize, 100 individuals—chosen by lottery—won a case of Suntory's natural bottled water.

Key takeaway: This campaign had high participation from users for a number of reasons: Disaster preparedness is something Japanese think about a lot, and we have many reasons for doing so. However, it's easy to forget about food expiry dates. This campaign prompted action on something that most Japanese feel compelled to think about and take steps to enact. Seeing others post pictures of non-expired canned foods and drinks likely appealed to the socially compliant nature of the Japanese—if others are doing it, I should probably be doing this too

In closing

You may recall, according to an Allied Architects' survey of 2,900 Internet users on social media use, the leading reason why Japanese subscribe to a corporate account on social media was "to enter a promo campaign hosted on social media." 

So, when marketing in Japan, keep in mind that campaigns and promotional events are a highly effective way of grabbing the attention of a savings-conscious culture among Japanese consumers.

Social media coverage is often equated to word of mouth in the minds of Japanese consumers. By understanding consumer behavior on popular social media platforms, you can not only get them to follow your company's account but also sow the seeds for future engagement. 

Ready to try your hand at running an online campaign like a Japanese pro? Use these case studies when marketing products in Japan. They might come in handy for your next social media promo to help you get more engagement for your business.

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