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How to Advertise in Japan: Top 5 Best Strategies in 2024

Last updated on April 3, 2024

How to Advertise in Japan- Top 5 Best Strategies in 2023

Advertising in Japan offers an exciting opportunity, and the numbers speak volumes. Between 2017 and 2022, Japan’s advertising spending skyrocketed by over US$10 billion, with projections soaring to a staggering US$49.67 billion in 2024.

A closer look reveals most of this advertising investment in Japan goes into TV and video advertising. They’re followed by search advertising, digital marketing, and the eye-catching advertisements you see on billboards and trains.

But these statistics just scratch the surface of what makes Japanese advertising unique. It’s the deep-rooted values and consumer behaviour that really set it apart.

So, what makes advertising in Japan so unique? And more importantly, how can global brands not just enter but thrive in this competitive arena? Join us as we explore the top 5 strategies for success in Japan’s unique advertising ecosystem.

Top 5 advertising strategies in Japan in 2024:

1. Harness the power of cute

In Japan, cuteness is a tried-and-true advertising strategy embraced by many brands. Instead of opting for rugged or unabashed sex appeal, as often seen in Western ads, Japanese ads take a different route. They aim to forge an emotional connection with their audience by portraying a cute and vulnerable image.

To achieve this, Japanese advertisements employ various characteristics like shyness, animal adorability, child-like innocence, and even a touch of neediness. The ultimate goal is to make these brands seem more relatable and friendly to consumers.

Play Video about Japan’s Top 5 Most Effective Advertising Strategies - Ikea

A recent example of a brand effectively harnessing the power of cuteness is IKEA Japan. In their ‘Tiny Homes’ campaign, IKEA Japan introduced BLÅHAJ, a shark dressed in a suit, as their official spokesperson. The campaign followed BLÅHAJ’s adventures in a three-episode journey, during which he sold and renovated ultra-compact apartments in Tokyo.

By incorporating such an adorable character into their campaign, IKEA made a lasting impression on their audience, showcasing their understanding of what resonates with Japanese consumers.

2. Soft-sell prevails in Japan

When it comes to advertising in Japan, the conventional hard-sell tactics, which involve directly telling consumers why they should buy a specific product, are not well-received. Instead, Japanese brands aim to create a positive emotional connection with their audience, even if it doesn’t directly relate to the product itself. This approach is commonly known as “soft selling” and forms the foundation of many advertising campaigns in Japan.

Japanese advertising relies heavily on this soft-sell technique, using elements such as colours, symbols, aesthetics, and storytelling to craft a unique mood and atmosphere.

How to Advertise in Japan: Top 5 Best Strategies in 2023 - Doraemon Toyota

For example, Toyota ingeniously incorporated the beloved Japanese anime character, Doraemon, into their ‘ReBORN’ campaign, featuring real-life actors portraying these familiar anime characters. In these ads, the characters are depicted as live-action adults rather than animated children.

These advertisements achieved immense success not only in Japan but also across East Asia. This example illustrates how advertising in Japan can effectively capture attention without being overly pushy.

How to Advertise in Japan- Top 5 Best Strategies in 2023 - Doraemon Toyota
Doraemon himself is portrayed by French actor Jean Reno in Toyota's 'ReBORN' campaign

This approach works particularly well in Japan, where people share a deeper understanding of various topics and ideas, reducing the necessity to explain fundamental concepts. It’s a strategy that has consistently proven successful for many Japanese brands.

3. Win Japan's heart through the seasons

Seasonal advertising is a powerful strategy used by advertisers to connect with the Japanese audience. Japan boasts a wealth of diverse seasonal celebrations and traditional holidays, making it highly effective to tailor advertising strategies that match the seasons. This approach involves aligning promotions, commercials, and product development with the changing themes of the year.

During the spring season, you’ll often see ads featuring cherry blossoms, pink hues, and flowers, symbolizing fresh starts and opportunities. In contrast, summer ads focus on traditional festivals and products designed to provide relief from the scorching heat.

How to Advertise in Japan: Top 5 Best Strategies in 2023 - Starbucks Japan
Starbucks's Japan-exclusive sakura collection for spring

As autumn rolls in, advertisers shift their attention to highlighting the beauty of autumn leaves, fireworks, and the vibrant shades of red, orange, and yellow. Finally, as winter sets in, ads emphasise family gatherings, luxury, and indulgence, capitalizing on the festive spirit of Christmas and New Year.

If you plan to enter the Japanese market, it’s crucial to stay attuned to the current seasonal trends. This will enable you to create advertisements that seamlessly align with the ongoing festivities, ensuring your message resonates with your target audience.

4. Captivate commuters in Japan through 3D billboards

In today’s fiercely competitive landscape, companies are constantly innovating to capture the interest of consumers. One highly effective method embraced by brands in Japan is the use of 3D billboards, which bring advertisements to life in ways that traditional approaches simply can’t match.

This innovative strategy can be seen in the case of Nike Japan’s Air Max advertisement. They crafted a mesmerizing 3D billboard right outside Tokyo’s bustling Shinjuku Station. This 3D billboard showcased an oversized, vibrant orange Nike sneaker box that dramatically burst open to unveil a stunning array of Air Max styles in a dazzling array of colours.

By seamlessly integrating cutting-edge technology and design, these 3D billboards enable brands to set themselves apart from the competition and make a lasting impression on the minds of Japanese consumers.

5. Infuse fantasy to spark imagination

In Japanese advertising, it’s common to infuse a touch of fantasy into commercials, creating a surreal experience that captures the audience’s imagination. This trend draws a lot from Japan’s deep-seated love for animation and manga, which provide a fertile ground for creative scenarios brought to life by talented graphic artists.

A standout example of this imaginative advertising approach comes courtesy of Yamato Transport. They introduced a mail service that allows people to send small items conveniently. To promote this service, the company came up with a clever concept: they fashioned an enormous, fluffy cat installation affectionately named the “Vender Cat.” Customers could easily obtain a small box for packaging their items by pressing the cat’s nose. This campaign received widespread acclaim, thanks in large part to the whimsical charm of the Vender Cat. 

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