Lately I have been thinking about a big question relating to communicative branding: How do we make our consumers feel relevant to our products and services?  Traditionally, marketing has been all about repeating and repeating product names and features, repeating again, pushing and shouting at the consumer via the mass media.

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This approach is losing effectiveness.  We are heading towards an era in which brand perceptions are shaped by customers, instead of forged by the seller.

Still, many marketers use the traditional approach to sell, pounding away: “We are good!  We are unique!  Therefore our products are good! ”  The consumer has become cynical and resistant to such overt pitching.  So the question becomes, once you define your brand attributes, how to release them into the market and have your target audience “feel” relevant to your product without having to promote it too hard in a sea of competing messages.

These two commercials are excellent examples of “letting brand attributes go” without over selling:

 
In these commercials, relevancies are key.  The first commercial sells permanent markers and lets the meaning of “permanent” go. The concept of permanent in relation to their products is not perceived until the end of commercial, at which time it achieves a great, humorous, almost transformational relevancy.  The other commercial takes a similar approach: it is all about “relaxation,” and does not promote hotel services until the very end.

In each, the brand attributes are so relevant to us that we experience an empathy with the product by the end of the commercial.

Sometimes, we should not push our services and products too hard. In the long run, creating a sense of relevancy could be the most effective way to draw your customers’ attention to your products and services, without aggressive promotion.

Are your brand attributes communicating? If not, contact LakeOMedia!.

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I wrote about some great ads by Heinz some months ago–ketchup is an indispensable component for American food culture and the ads were created in such a way that the red color stimulates your five senses… Ketchup is truly one of the iconic products identified with United States.

So how does it work in Japan?  Can Heinz take the same marketing approach in the Japanese market?

Compare the screenshot of the Heinz website in the U.S. to screenshot from its Japanese website:

 

heinzus1

heinzjapan

 

Heinz has a long-established brand in Japan.  Born and raised in Japan, I find that the brand can even evoke in me sort of a warm nostalgia.  Using a few childhood memories and that ever-present miracle the Net, let’s examine how Heinz brand images differ between the United States and Japan.

While Heinz is instantly identified in North America with ketchup, camping & backyard barbecues, the brand image of Heinz in Japan is associated with cold nights & cozy families.  Why the difference?  Because for the Japanese consumer, Heinz is identified with its demi-glace (for beef stew) & white sauce (for casserole), both dishes perceived as comfort food.  Even now, after so many years, I have memories of eating casserole around the family table, feeling warmly secure against the cold and darkness outside.  So their brand is tied to the concept of “high quality homey comfort food.”

 

stew

 

Ketchup has long been indispensable for the Japanese household, but it is considered more an ingredient than a condiment: consider the widely popular and wonderful spaghetti Napolitan pasta (Only in Japan- spaghetti with ketchup.. YUM! ). 

napolitan

If you go to a McDonald in Japan and order french fries, you might be surprised that there is no ketchup around. Yes, you can ask for a packet or three.  But for many Japanese, eating french fries WITHOUT ketchup is where it’s at.  What a country!
Here is a website page by Heinz Japan clearly showing the brand attributes localized for the Japanese market. It’s a bit slow loading (make sure to scroll down and click the red arrow ) but all together quite fascinating:  

CLICK HERE

heinzjpstory

So if you explore Heinz Japan’s website, you get that sense of comfortableness of being at home, cozy and secure, enjoying a lively affluent lifestyle. That’s how Heinz has positioned itself in Japan for many years and their brand premise has remained remarkably constant.

Lately, however, Heinz Japan has been aggressively promoting their ketchup products as well.  Will they be using camping and backyard barbecues?   They have implemented a very interesting viral campaign, which I plan to introduce later in this blog. 

Interested in promoting your services/products in Japan? Contact LakeOMedia!

Someone asked me.

“How do you say “CHANGE”  in Japanese?”

The Japanese word is “Henkaku” and is written below:

henkaku1

For the sake of argument, let’s say Obama were to implement the presidential campaign in Japan.  Should his keyword “change” be translated to the Japanese characters above for key messaging in the campaign?

From marketing perspective, the answer would likely be NO. It should stay in English, as “CHANGE,” and not be translated into the Japanese characters “henkaku.”

The English word “change” is a very common in Japan, and it brings the same attributes as it does in the United States.  It immediately clicks with everyone, similar to how the word “OK” clicks across languages and regions of the world.  Whereas “henkaku” implies mechanical innovation or methodological improvement, “CHANGE” implies something fresh, pro-active, a significant departure from what went before, and even, something better to hope for in the future. 

Below is a graphic that has became popular in Japan.  You can see the attributes in play:

obama-card

When you go into the Japanese market, it is critical how you communicate your own tagline. In many cases, direct translation does not necessarily communicate your message in the market.  Sometimes,  Just like “CHANGE,” a simple, universal term can effectively resonate outside the United States as well.  Knowing the difference can spell the difference between successful localization and not.

Special thanks to Mikal Anderson of LakeOMedia and TokiOMedia for his contributions to this article.

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I often blog about how to localize your brand for the Japanese market. You should carefully examine if your brand attributes need to be localized. 

However, some companies can stay with consistent global brand attributes: Ritz and Oreo are the good examples. You see the cultural adjustments here but these TV commercials clearly show the same product attributes.

Ritz commercial

Ritz commercial in Japan

 

OREO commercial

OREO commercial  in Japan

Marketing in Japan? Contact LakeOMedia!