Just A Few Of Our Final Thoughts...

So we’re coming to the end of our trip in Japan. Now we’d just like to review what we and others think about Japanese marketing. What's the most interesting? And what kind of marketing is the most effective?

An interview on a few classmates' thoughts:

Jessica's Thoughts:

Personally I think that word of mouth is the best form of advertising. I don’t often watch t.v., so I don’t get to see commercials and I generally ignore the contents of the advertisements on the train and the only reason I ever accept any handouts on the street is to get free tissues—and I don’t think I’ve ever really looked at what those tissues are advertising. By now many of you may know that my two favourite things are shopping and desserts. So here are a few of my experiences with marketing in Tokyo, having to do with shopping and eating.

On the night of the cooking party, I saw a sign waving in the wind, advertising milk pudding. It was for the Fujiya Ginza cake shop right across the street. It sounded so good that a bunch of us ran across the street to take a look. It looked so good! But we were just about to make dinner so I didn’t buy any. Kim and Steph had bought some and said it tasted even better than it looked. I had to try it!

The Secrets of Japanese Marketing-Pudding

I kept thinking about that pudding and returned a few times to buy it, but to my regret, the shop was either closed or didn’t have any pudding. Today was my lucky day, because the store was open and they had milk pudding! I was so excited to eat it, but we decided to find the Kanagawa river first, to sit down and eat.

We decided to take the bikes instead of paying the fare to ride the train to the next station and found ourselves getting a bit lost. With all the winding roads in Japan, we couldn’t tell which way the road would actually take us. After a few roundabouts we finally made it—after an hour of biking around the neighbourhood! I was so excited; because I could now sit down and enjoy the pudding I had bought. Unfortunately I sat down and found out that they hadn’t given me a spoon. I was determined to eat the pudding though, so I made do. I tried making a makeshift spoon with cardboard…it tasted a bit odd. So I resorted to eating with a piece of chocolate, which got a little messy. But you know what? It was worth it. Turns out, the pudding was really as good as Kim and Steph said! In this case, word of mouth paid off.

The Secrets of Japanese Marketing-Me&Pudding

Sweets paradise is another place I heard of by mouth. But unfortunately this experience didn’t turn out as well as I had hoped. My friend told me about the dessert buffet and said it was delicious. And I suppose it was, but too much dessert doesn’t make a person feel very good.
You know when you go to buffets you want to have a little taste of everything. Even though I love desserts, I can only take so much. I’m lucky that the cafe mostly served mousse cake—which I'm not a very big fan of. It allowed me to narrow down my choices and not stuff myself sick….well not as sick as I would’ve been anyway. But it looks like a few of us ate a bit too much...

The Secrets of Japanese Marketing-sweetsThe Secrets of Japanese Marketing-cake

My final example of my experiences with Japanese marketing is of one I experienced with my host family. They had seen a commercial advertising cheap clothes, so they looked up the address and decided to take me to a few bargain shops. The first shop we went to was called “Don Don Down on Wednesday". This shop was really neat; it sold cheap fashionable clothes and had a unique system to identify the prices of clothing. Each price was designated to a fruit or vegetable. Therefore, if you grabbed a piece of clothing with a grape tag on it, it cost 100 yen, whereas if it had a banana tag on it, it cost 4000 yen. The already cheap clothes are even discounted more on Wednesdays...hence the store name. We found that the store really met our expectations after seeing the commercial.

The Secrets of Japanese Marketing-dondondownThe Secrets of Japanese Marketing-100yenThe Secrets of Japanese Marketing-dondondown

However, the second bargain shop that we went to wasn’t as cheap as the commercial made it out to be. I found clothes in the shop selling for what seemed to be its original price. It was a second hand shop, and the prices they were trying to ask for seemed expensive even for a normal shop. We were a bit disappointed with this shop and quickly left.

The Secrets of Japanese Marketing-jumblestore

It seems every type of marketing has its ups and downs. Sometimes you can make some great finds, but on the other hand, you may be let down. When advertisements don’t paint a realistic picture, they can end up with some disappointed customers. And we all know, word of mouth works both ways. If someone tells you that this place is awesome, you’ll probably go. If someone says its awful then you most likely won’t check it out.

Chris's Thoughts:

What I thought was the most effective Japanese sales tactics were:

The staged discounts on food products in the hours before the stores were closing. It seems that most stores do this, especially on fruit (which is very expensive in Japan) and bakery products. As a travel tip, I saved a lot of money (usually around 50% off) on very tasty Japanese melon by buying it at the grocery store after 11:00.

Kim's Thoughts:

Most effective marketing technique among peers:

Tissues. How can anyone resist getting free tissue packs? Tissues are useful in a lot of ways. If you suddenly go into a toilet with no tissue paper, what can you rely on? You can rely on the many promoters standing on the street handing out tissue packs. Having interviewed some of the fellow foreign students while in our stay in Japan, Kelly says, “We are already on a tight budget, in the end saving just a little makes a big difference! I can receive about 10 packs just in one street.” Every single tissue pack has a little paper advertisement in them. Whether a person look at it or not is another thing, but the fact is that since it is a free, usable product, no one will reject receiving it.

JP's Thoughts:

This is just a little add-on of something that I thought would be nice to have before you take a visit to Tokyo and Kenshukan in the future. It relates indirectly to marketing through budgeting and planning ahead – two things that are often overlooked when in a new culture, exploring a lot of new surroundings on a day to day basis. Just ask the others who went here!

Survival Guide 101: A Marketing Approach

Tips before you leave home:

Always make sure that you have an adequate supply of cash before you leave for Japan. We'd suggest bringing extra money, just in case there are things that you want to shop for, or things that you unexpectedly buy that dip into your budget. The worst thing that can happen to you while you're in Japan is for you to be bound by the short leash (money-wise) and miss out on fun and activities that are once in a lifetime! There are plenty of ways to get money changed at the station or the airport, but you never know when things don't work out according to plan. There have been a few cases in our Senshu group of people requiring multiple dips into their savings, or having credit cards and debit cards not work at the machines, so if you're feeling uncomfortable or insecure about money issues, it's best to bring more than you need rather than less.

NB1: Budget more than you think you'll need by about 1.5-2 times. It gives you security, flexibility, and assurance that you will have what it takes to survive and enjoy your time here in Japan. It's a once in a lifetime experience, so it should be treated as such! If you're worried, Kenshukan has a very nice security box apparatus set up so that you can be at peace leaving valuables such as your passport, identification and money at the dorm without fear of losing it. Remember, to take advantage of all the good deals that you'll find while you're here, the first thing that you'll need is a supply of coin to back it up!

Upon arrival at Kenshukan:

Settling in can be done fairly quickly, and the dorms are quite safe relatively. Things to be careful of: There are stairs that you have to climb with your luggage (1-2 floors) so try to keep things lighter upon arrival. You'll want to have some extra space for souvenirs and such when you get back anyways, so one possibility that two of our group did was pack a small luggage inside a bigger one and only fill up the space part way. In that way, you can set yourself up for mass purchases or split bags if you're traveling around after the program finishes. (Ie. Traveling to a far location for a couple days and forwarding your other bag to the next destination for less hassle on the train/shinkansen).

NB2: Be prepared to walk a LOT! If you aren't used to doing much walking in Calgary, or if your walking is limited to just around the campus, it might be good to start breaking in shoes and getting your feet used to the extra foot traffic you'll encounter in Japan. Most of the transportation here is done by walking to and from train stations and around the areas in Greater Tokyo, so be sure to come well with your feet well worn in! The best opportunities to find good deals can be found on the streets; in our experiences, it seems like street shopping and passing by sidewalk salesman can net you a lot of good information and discounts!

Stuff to see and do around the station:

Need any necessities and grocery items? There's a great supermarket called “Life” right by the station, a stone's throw away for you to pick up good deals on stuff you might not want to bring all the way to Japan – shampoo, toiletries, etc. Prices are reasonable – and discounts are available as mentioned earlier closer to close time. Many people used Life as a real lifeline as a key to their successful stay here =)

Worried about cooking? I can't cook basically anything – when I was here in Japan last time, I didn't notice that one of the packages of sauce I bought was lined on the inside with aluminum and lit my microwave on fire... so I'm pretty much the opposite of kitchen-smart. There's a fair abundance of food restaurants around the station – from kaiten (conveyor belt) sushi which is amazingly high tech, to Italian, Indian and Chinese cuisine to fit your international dish cravings, and an abundance of ramen, donburi and Japanese set menu places to choose from around the immediate vicinity of the station. Everything is within a ten minute walk of the dorm/station, making things convenient and easy for you to settle right in or cater to your tastes. If having all this convenience right at your fingertips isn't considered great marketing, I don't know what would be...

NB3: I personally found this point to be the single greatest point of marketing and influence in my stay here in Japan. Whenever I needed something from a drink (easily obtained at a shop or a vending machine) to a bite to eat (restaurants were my best friends), to some entertainment (we often used the discount coupons for karaoke that were being handed out at the station by employees), having everything available so readily is a pure bliss to have, and almost a thing you'll take for granted after a few weeks living here.

What to look out for on trains and in the town:

Trains can be crowded, so I'd be careful about how much you spend in a day. However, all the trains have convenient shelves up above the seating in case you can't fit in properly with all the bags of stuff you've got. The actual train itself is comparatively safe to other places in the world – I've had a friend who experienced a time when he lost his camera in the middle of a crowded fireworks festival by losing it on the ground. The number of people on the river bank made the people traffic like a stream, so he couldn't go back to look for it or try and pick it up – but when he got across to the other side of the shore where the lost and found was, someone had already picked up the camera and brought it across ahead of him – pictures and everything still intact.

Or the fact that waiters and other service people will chase you down for blocks if you leave your wallet in a public place. Their kindness as a collective whole knows no bounds from my experience, and while its slightly off the truth for sure, I'm just as certain others on the trip will feel the same as I do in this regard =)

NB4: In the town, the big sales and the small shops tend to have bargains that you won't find in the mainstream market. If one station area doesn't have something that you want, try to find another area and you'll likely find more variety and something that suits your preference. Shinjuku is a mini city in itself, Shibuya and Shinjuku hold a lot of places that you can hang out and shop, and Akihabara is a great place to buy electronics like an electronic dictionary (if you're looking to shop for a translator device here, they're great, or so I've heard).

All in all, this trip was an awesome and worthwhile experience, and I hope that assuming the desire is there, all of you reading this blog will have an opportunity to come to Japan (again)!


Did you hear that?...What is it?

Amongst the already intense immersion of lights and sounds that permeates life in
Tokyo it is not surprising to see that sometimes the loudest marketing is the most

So as you are walking down the street, ignoring all of the lights, pamphlets and
shouting; you begin to hear a song. “What is that?” You say to yourself, “it sounds
really catchy!” So you begin to look around, but you see nothing, however by now
the song is already stuck in your head and you wonder what exactly it was that you
just heard.

The Secrets of Japanese Marketing

A little later on, as you walk down a nearby street you hear the song again. This
time it is louder, and you can hear it approaching from behind you. You can now
see that the sound is coming from a large truck, and on the side is a large display
for a new album release.

You have just been the target of one quite unique (at least coming from our
Canadian background) aspect of Japanese marketing; the audio-emanating-from-
billboard-truck advertisement.

Now you know that that catchy song actually is, and if you enjoyed it or if the song
is now attached to a pleasant memory in your mind, you might just want to go out
and buy it!

You know, you can advertise all kinds of things with vehicles! Have you ever heard
of a "Yaki-imo truck"? This truck wanders around the city, selling delicious roasted
yams, while blasting a catchy tune. You may find one in Asakusa if you get the
chance to go!

I've also seen an icecream truck wandering around the city, playing a similar tune.
Unfortunately, I was unable to get a video of the truck, but the song went
something like this: "アイスクリーム、アイスクリーム、ホットドッグも。。。", which
is essentially "Icecream, icecream, and hot dogs too!"

You can hear these songs blasting from their vehicles from a block away! The song
lets you know exactly what they are selling, so if you are having a craving for
roasted yams or icecream you can just follow the sound of the music to satisfy your

Even if you're a foreigner who doesn't understand the song, then you'll probably
still be attracted the catchy tune. Afterall, we have icecream trucks in Canada too!
Although the songs are a bit different, we instinctively know that a fun, circus-like
song, traveling through the streets means that there's delicious food to be found!
And I don't know about you, but doesn't street food always taste better than
anything you can buy in a store?

Of course not all vehicle-based advertisements are loud sounds coming out of
trucks. Many advertisements are simply banners or billboards on the sides of trucks
or taxis. Or advertisements brought to you while you are using transit services to
get to your destination of choice.

The Secrets of Japanese Marketing

A crowded Tokyo train is filled with awkward moments and being crammed
together in close quarters is hardly a pleasant way to begin or end your day. Where
to train your eyes in this context is often an interesting question. One solution can
be found in the advertisements inside many trains in Japan.

The Secrets of Japanese Marketing

The Secrets of Japanese Marketing

For one, when you see the print ads you may notice that they seem more
informative than those in North America. Potentially, this is not only to give you
more information about the product or service in question, but also can help you
avoid awkward staring moments on the train.

The Secrets of Japanese Marketing

But as you look you also notice the television advertisements subtitled for you on
the in car screens! These probably exist for the same reason! Although, you may
not think that this is an effective way of advertising from an emotional point of view.
Advertisements will be quite preferable to many of those awkward train moments.

Compared to Canada, the use of vehicles for marketing is far more used in Tokyo.
Why? Of course it’s probably due to the high population of pedestrians to advertise
to. As we said in another post, most Canadians prefer to drive than take public
transit. And while sitting in traffic, a Canadian will most likely be blasting music
inside their car—unaware of any musical advertisement that may be playing in the

Even for areas in Calgary that are highly populated with pedestrians, such as Steven
Avenue and Kensington, there are definitely not as many people to advertise to as in
Tokyo. So why waste energy on loud vehicle advertisements, if it’s going to cost you
more than you’ll gain? Here we see again how Japanese culture (and population size)
affects their marketing style compared to Canadian marketing techniques.

If you’ve never been to Japan before, you might be surprised at
first with some of the weird creations that are found just outside
a good number of the restaurants in the city. Instead of just having
a menu on the outside for you to browse through and check prices with,
they have actual displays that are made for ease of understanding and marketing appeal. These displays come in two main forms: plastic model
creations sculpted to ‘look’ like the real thing, and picture displays
that give people a preview of the selection in the store.

It can be best explained through pictures, so here are some examples that
we thought were especially eye-catching and appealing!

Japanese people really seem to like putting a lot of effort into the
making of displays that look visually appealing. The amount of care
that is taken to ensure that everything is in the right position is
almost as paramount to the Japanese as the actual quality of the food.
As a result, the products that you get are refined and enticing to the
eye. Don’t you think the dishes and drinks are scrumptious?

If you don’t mind taking the plunge for your money, there’s some mid-class
restaurants that should suit the authentic Japanese craving that you’d
want. These sets are quite traditional, but they include all the main
staples of the Japanese diet, and are sure to satisfy your stomach craving.

There are lots of stores in the Japanese mainstream market that specialize
in a specific type of dish, honing and perfecting it to the point where
it can succeed in the mass market of Japanese culture. In many ways,
this could be a good thing – if a store tries to diversify too much and
spreads out its selection, it will end up being lost among the myriads
of other stores that can outperform it in every type of food.
This particular restaurant sells some pretty delicious katsu!

Much in the same way that the previous restaurant focused on its
fried goods, this next store focuses in on soba varieties. Unlike
in Canada, where soba is a rarity, in Japan soba shops are plentiful,
and usually at an affordable price. Even the soba is designed to
look delicious and refreshing!

The variety of foreign cuisine is probably not as much as in Canada,
but when they do import foreign cuisine, they try to incorporate it
well into the culture as well as the style. This is a Chinese style
restaurant, but some of the dishes represent a more fusion style of
Chinese and Japanese cuisine. Nevertheless, the cool semicircle display
of tasty foods leaves you hungering for more!

Picture menus aren’t quite as eye-catching as the plastic food displays
(like those seen earlier), but they do include a very accurate and
appealing representation at a fraction of the cost. One added benefit
of putting everything on a poster is the lessened space requirement.
Still, the plastic food displays feel like they give more impact and
shock factor – something that maybe Canada would do well to try and
import into restaurant culture.

Food directories!!! If you want a glance at the different food types
available at any of the big malls, then you can try and look for the
restaurant/café legend which is usually found in the main floor and
restaurant floors of the building. Restaurants will pinpoint their
highlight cuisine to entice you to their shop.

One really surprising advertisement outside a crepe place we visited
was a theme song video playing on a small television outside of the
store. The song itself was probably about five minutes long, but we
cut out some of the footage. It was really interesting to see a full
music video advertising a product – there was an appeal and a wow
factor that isn’t really seen in Canada! Take a look:

A faint sound can be heard while walking towards the Mukogawa Station,
“shaka shaka shaka…” What could it be? Is it a musical instrument or
wind blowing onto the trees? No, it’s neither! It’s someone shaking a
package of what seems to be a big piece of chicken nugget!!
Let’s watch a reenacted experience that we encountered while at McDonalds.

The oversized nugget is called Shaka Shaka Chicken. This is an
attraction that is obviously not available in Canada and especially
not available in Calgary. Just a simple action of placing your
own preference of taste into the chicken, can make it that much more
interesting to eat.

Another enticement to food advertisement is the method that the food is
made. In Japan, foods are made in a lot of interesting ways. Usually
foods that are made mainly on stall type stores are very popular and
fascinating. For example, a very popular dish is the takoyaki.
Takoyaki is a popular dish that is made of batter, diced octopus,
and lettuce and so on. We were able to take a video of a stall that
was available in Asakusa.

At first you would think that the video is being fast forwarded until
you see the lady trying to pay for her merchandise. The pace that
the takoyaki maker is going at is at an incredible speed. This is an
appeal that lures customers to buy their food.

JP & Kimberly