In my last blog post I discussed the ZARA marketing concept and the role of advertisement in general those days. I found out that advertising itself is still up to date but is referred to the social media and communication networks more often. Well, I have to agree that while my research I only focused on the countries in Europe because the Inditex group is present especially there. So let´s have a look on people from the other side of the world: the Japanese.
What about their buying behavior?
Does advertising play the same role like here in Europe?
What is different about them; and what do we have in common?
With regard to the stereotypes of Japanese, they are always kind and friendly, they never want to say something wrong or critical and they always obey their supervisors. However, in Japanese companies it is common that it is important what the lower and middle management decide. These teams inform the top management and boss about their decisions; and they usually agree with them. This seems quite striking to us Europeans, doesn´t it? In contrary to Western countries, the Japanese think that the best decision is those everyone can agree with.
As well the cliché of being very reserved and repressing the own opinion is not true (anymore). According to Dr. Parissa Haghirian, professor for management at the “Sophia University Tokyo”, Japanese people do want to be traded as individuals. Additionally, issues like quality of life and more self-referred imaginations of their life are changes in the traditional Japanese lifestyle- and therefore, in their buying behavior as well.
As a result of this massive development, the Japanese nation can be divided in consumer groups; and I want you to know about the three most important ones.
Babyboomer are Japanese born in the after-war-period between 1947 and 1949. Nowadays, they are about 65 years old and usually go on pension. They are a very lucrative target group because companies estimate their private saving (you know, Japanese used to be very close and spare).
Another very prosperous and lucrative target group. In contrary to the past few years, Japanese women now are able to earn their own livelihood. Therefore, companies consider them to be spend-happy shopaholics like in Europe and the US.
Japan´s new “upper class”. On the one hand, the “old rich” belong to this target group. They increased their wealth during the post war period. But on the other hand, also “steadily working rich” like lawyers and doctors as well as the “sudden rich” belong to this category. To my mind, the last Fujuso group is the most interesting one because people suddenly became prosperous through IPO (initial public offering) of a company or through unexpected success at the stock market.
As you might already realized, the Japanese´s demand is raising. They are willing to spend their money on new products and even are more impressible than European customers. Especially two trends of the Japanese buying behavior are observed by Dr. Parissa Haghirian: “The first trend is that consumers desire contact members with the same interests. Unlike Europeans which attach importance to environmental awareness of a company, Japanese customers want the firms to be involved in society (…). Therefore, Japanese firms are confronted with social expectations. Another phenomenon is the overwhelmed consumers. These people are busy and cannot be satisfied easily. Because of this difficulty, companies have to make the customer´s buying decision easy. (1)”
In order to these developments, Japanese enterprises created two marketing strategies.
Social Network Marketing
This concept is based on the desire of Japanese to socialize; be it singles, babyboomers or members of the “upper class”. Because more and more people live alone in single apartments, especially enterprises which support connecting their customers to others are successful. For example, imagine a Japanese building company which organizes workshops about building investment. They indeed kill two birds with one stone: on the one hand they attract customers and on the other hand the firm makes it possible to them to share their opinion with other course members.
How innovative! Would this concept also work in Germany? I think it could be, but I am not sure about this. Of course, Germany is also a developed country and our citizen also have the demand for socialization (at least 25% of the nation are members of facebook). But I am of the opinion that Germans are not as keen to buy as the Japanese; or they do not make their purchasing decision dependent on other people opinion. Perhaps, some firms will figure it out in future.
Marketing for overwhelmed consumers
An interesting example with regard to this target group is the marketing strategy of the firm “ranking/ranqueen”. Because people of this category want the company to disburden them in their buying decision, the subsidiary enterprise of “Tokyo Group of Companies” created a ranking of products sold between often and less often. So the customer can assume that these products are of good quality which was often bought by other consumers this week. In Germany, we already discovered this strategy; an example is “Amazon”. With the help of rankings and field reports, customers can make their purchasing decision easier because of getting a rough overview.
As you see, Japan and Europe are not that different with regard to consumer behavior. On the one hand, there are indeed differences because of other mentalities and character traits. But customer groups like “babyboomers”, wealthy and single persons also live in Europe as well as in the USA. Therefore, Japanese marketing concepts could be the future of those and Europe; and vice versa.
(1) “Innovative Marketing Strategies of Japanese Enterprises” by Dr Parissa Haghirian (www.japan.ahk.de)