The Word Works

Consuming Japan : Consumers


Internet Surpasses TV as Stimulus to Purchase

Published By: John on 02/01/07
Categories: Consumers Media Senden Kaigi

73.4% say information found on Internet stimulates desire for purchase. Only 56% say the same of TV.image

Due diligence requires us to note that the research results reported here are from an Internet research company, Ibridge, and reported in the February 2001 issue Senden Kaigi. Still the results are striking.  Answers to Question No. 1 “From which medium do you first learn about new products or services?” show TV trailing the Internet by only 3.4% (75.8% vs. 79.2%). Other media fall way behind, with newspapers at 27.6%, radio at 4.8%, magazines at 21.0%, transit ads at 3.0% and in-store at 11.2%.

It is in answers to Question No. 2 “Which medium most makes you want to purchase new products or services?” that the gap widens, with TV at only 56.0% vs. the Internet at 73.4%. Falling still further behind are newspapers at 18.8%, radio at 1.6%, and transit ads at 1.6%. Magazines do a bit better on this question, at 28.4%, as does in-store at 22.2%.

The gaps widen still further in answers to Question No. 3 “To which medium do you turn for more information before making a purchase?” Here the Internet scores 57.6%, followed by in-store at 19.6%, TV at 12.6%, magazines at 6.6%, radio at 0.4% and transit ads at 0.2%.


Sex(less) Appeal

Published By: John on 09/01/06
Categories: Consumers Marketing

Her name is Nimatsu Mayumi. She is 46 and produces a popular e-mail magazine for those seeking relief from sexless marriages. She married a doctor and had a son; but her husband was constantly busy and almost never came home.image

Her story is a familar-sounding one to many middle-aged Japanese women, whose husbands spend most of every working day away from home, then, when they do come home, are too tired to do much but sleep. It was fifteen years ago that she became part of a group of women planning an event at a childcare center. That group expanded into a nationwide network with over a thousand members. In 1995, she founded her own marketing company, whose annual sales now exceed 100 million yen. Then, returning to where she started, wanting to do something to address the frustrations of housewives like herself, she started a e-mail magazine, offering advice on their sex lives to people with similar issues. There are plenty of issues to be addressed in the more than 100 e-mails she receives each month. There are women who say that it’s been years since they had sex with their husbands, and men who say that they can’t get it up with their wives. There’s enough material here to fill the book she is writing to urge young women not to settle for sexless marriages. And Nimatsu herself? Her first husband is history. Four years ago she married a man seven years younger than herself. (Source: Asahi Shimbun morning edition, 9/1/06, p. 14)



Matsutake Laundering

Published By: John on 08/31/06
Categories: Consumers Hit Products Marketing

Where else but in Japan would your evening paper (Asahi Shimbun, August 29, 2006) front page a story headlined “Matsutake Laundering: North Korea to China to Japan.”image

The story is no joke. Matsutake mushrooms are a seasonal favorite in Japan. Fall without Matsutake would be like Christmas without a turkey. But as shown in the chart reproduced here, in 2005 Japan only produced 39 tons of the 2881 tons of Matsutake consumed in Japan.  783 tons came from North Korea and 1,655 tons from China. But Japanese upset by North Korean nuclear sabre rattling are seen by the merchants involved as a threat to this lucrative trade. The result, a lot of North Korean mushrooms are slipped across the border to China, for reshipment labeled as Chinese mushrooms to Japan. That’s a violation of Japanese labeling laws and a cause celebre in Japan. Still, it all goes to show: Where there’s a buck, a won,  a yuan or a yen, there’s a way.


Smiles None. TV Huge.

Published By: John on 08/23/06
Categories: Consumers

The images you see here were produced by Japanese 6th graders asked to draw a typical meal at home. The Asahi Shimbun’s headling reads, “Meals lacking conversation.” The subhead notes that people appear only as stick figures.image

Reading this story, I remember an article I cited in my book on Japanese Consumer behavior.

“In ?eTractors, Television, and Telephones: Reach Out and Touch Someone in Rural Japan’, William Kelly describes the impact of TV on traditional household organization. In traditional households in rural Japan, he writes, the center of family life was the chanoma or family room. Family and household hierarchy were clearly delineated by the seating arrangements around the open rectangular where the family shared its evening meals and entertained its guests. The place of honor was the seat with its back to the tokonoma, the ceremonial alcove where seasonal flowers and paintings might be displayed.

“Traditionally, that was the seat of the senior male, the household head. When TV was introduced, however, the tokonoma provided a convenient place for the set. To be able to watch TV, the household head shifted his seat to one side, disrupting the traditional hierarchy of places. The voice of the TV newscaster began to compete with the household head as a source of authoritative pronouncements (Kelly 1992:84).”

I also recall Iwamura Yoko (?????q)‘s Changing Families, Changing Diets (??????????A??????”??) (2003) in which the ADK researcher notes how women born since 1970 have stopped cooking for their families, it being so much less trouble to pick up something from a convenience store or, if well-off and gourmet, department store food hall.


Why are so many unmarried?

Published By: John on 05/30/06
Categories: Consumers

Of Japanese in their early 30s, 40% of men and 30% of women are single. Why? This chart illustrates shrinking opportunities to meet a suitable partner.image

According to the Asahi ShimbunMay 26, 2006 morning edition story from which this chart is taken, Low income is a barrier, opportunities to meet are few. The numbers in the hearts are the average number of women, aged 20-34, married in each of the years in the periods covered (1970-74, 1985-1989, 00-02). The cakes tell us how they got married. From top to bottom layer: (1) meeting at school, during part time work, or during club activities, (2) through friends or siblings, (3) at the workplace, (4) through omiai, arranged meetings between prospects.  The bar-chart at the bottom shows why men and women say they don’t get married. Again, from top to bottom: (1) Haven’t found the right person, (2) Don’t see the need, (3) Fear loss of freedom and fun, (4) Want time for hobbies and recreation, (5) Not enough money to marry.


Social Communication Takes Off

Published By: John on 05/01/06
Categories: Consumers Marketing

Writing in the April 1, 2006 edition of Senden KaigiDentsu corporate identity planner Yoshiro Okada makes the case for social marketing in Japan.

Okada begins by writing that social communication is imperative to counter the consumer distrust created by a continuing series of corporate scandals.  He argues, first, that corporations need to renew consumer trust by communicating ideals that consumers can believe in. Second, they should note that today’s stakeholders are constantly reevaluating companies and their brands, so continuous communicated is needed. Finally, he asserts, public expectations concerning the role of corporations is changing. It is no longer enough to make and sell good products. Companies must communicate their commitment to public as well as corporate welfare, understanding public welfare in terms broader than economic growth alone.


Japanese CVS reinventing the corner store

Published By: John on 04/17/06
Categories: Consumers Marketing

In a market where CVS are literally almost everywhere, chain owners search for growth is leading them away from the male-oriented fast food that has been their stock in trade to fresh food in small quantities for women and seniors.

imageThe 4/16/2006 morning edition of the Asahi Shimbun frontpages a story about convenience stores. As the chart shown here illustrates, CVS total sales growth (the blue bars) is slowing, and sales growth at existing stores (the red line) has dropped sharply year-on-year. Historically, chain store customers have been 70%  male and heavy consumers of the prepackaged ready to eat or heat and serve food products. In their search for new growth, CVS chain operators are testing new stores that target women and seniors with fresh vegetables and fresh meat, sold in small quantities tailored to the needs of singles, DINKs and empty nesters.


Proper Dreams

Published By: John on 04/13/06
Categories: Consumers

What should Japanese consumers be looking forward to in the year 2010? Nikkei TRENDY suggests…image

The 250th issue of Nikkei TRENDY is a retrospective looking back over the hit products and trends of the year 1987-2005. The cover headlines the story “We look ahead to everyday life in 2010! Proper Dreams for Japan.” What are those dreams? The first is space travel. TRENDY predicts that by 2010, flights into outer space will be widely available at about the cost of a high-class, luxury automobile. Other new products and services will appear. Examples include buttonless cell phones, homes whose lighting and heating costs are zero, treatments that eliminate baldness and wrinkles, highways free of traffic accidents, and shopping centers transformed into towns. The optimistic science-fiction world of the 1950s is alive and well in the pages of Nikkei TRENDY.

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