Marketing in Japan

Finding and targeting a new market in a different country poses an incredible challenge, but also offers a chance to gain invaluable insight. Globalization leads to a growing need for insider knowledge, and having a finger on the pulse of a foreign market will prove invaluable.

Japan in particular is a very technologically advanced and dynamic market, and takes patience to understand. There are many factors that affect marketing in Japan, but these are a few to consider:


In the area of retail, the Japanese market has developed a propensity towards two extremes, either very high or very low priced merchandise. On the lower end, marketing a retail store under the “100 Yen Shop” model, similar to the American version of a dollar store, attracts consumers looking for a deal.

On the other side of the extreme, there is a market for super malls, spacious theme parks that cater to a desire for luxury and relaxation. They have an affinity towards brand names, because they are a sign of social status.

Keep in mind when marketing to Japanese consumers that you are targeting to one of these two types: the bargain hunter and the pamper-seeker.

Go Mobile

Mobile advertising and mobile internet penetration in Japan has shown more growth than many developed markets, including the US and many European countries. More half of Japanese mobile users access internet on their phones, which is almost twice the percentage of US users. This is because in Japan they have better data coverage and flat-rate plans without fear of surprise expenses.

Needless to say, the market in Japan is ripe for mobile internet marketing. Don’t hesitate to take advantage of this opportunity as it continues to grow.

Language Is Everything

Running marketing copy through Google translate won’t cut it. Intended meaning can be lost through direct translation, and every seasoned marketer knows that the devil is in the details; the wrong phrase can turn a customer off, while the perfect word can catch someone’s eye. Ask someone who has worked in Japan and is fluent in Japanese for help, or do research in Japanese colloquialisms and interests. If you have the finances, it may be worth considering consultancy, as described below.

Consider Consultancy

There are hundreds of consulting firms that offer marketing services for products to be introduced in Japan. If you’re completely new to the market it may be worth considering a trial run of a consultant firm. Consulting firms can help you target and comprehend cultural interests of Japanese consumers, and hyper-localize your product.


Really take the time to do in-depth research on the market, particularly in relation to your product or service. Japanese pricing is higher than in the US due to price fixing and distribution systems, so there is a lot of opportunity for foreign business if you’re willing to take the time to understand Japanese consumer needs.

Do not begin marketing blindly unless you’ve had the help of a Japanese native speaker or a consulting firm to review your advertising angle. Approach the market with an open mind, and be willing to test and adapt your strategy.

Photo credit sprengben via Flickr