Social Media Marketing in Japan
Even the planet’s most successful brands have found it necessary to significantly adapt their marketing strategies when seeking to influence their Japanese audience.
The digital content economy in Japan differs greatly from that in the West. While Japanese consumers tend to be receptive to advertising, it is hard to earn their trust. They are more likely to respond positively to entertaining marketing messages than to a hard sell.
To find success in Japan, it’s certainly more important to engage your audience and to build trust than to portray your product or service as better than others.
You will require a tailored, localised approach to social media marketing in Japan, if you are to resonate with Japanese consumers. There is much to consider if you are to attract attention, build trust, gain traction in the market and achieve brand loyalty.
The importance of digital marketing in Japan
Japanese companies have been slower to embrace digital marketing than those in the West. There are several reasons for this:
- The resilience of the Japanese language and culture to outside influences.
- Marketing strategies have typically been evolved by older people with a limited understanding of digital platforms.
- Marketing departments have been optimised to tackle traditional marketing. Transforming both attitudes and processes has proved costly and time-consuming.
- Cultural tendencies within corporations have been hard to influence and have been slow to evolve.
- Written Japanese utilises a pictogram system that doesn’t always lend itself to the brevity required for certain digital messages. It should come as no surprise that emojis were first developed in Japan.
Having said all this, the marketing landscape in Japan has changed significantly in recent years. Brands are now embracing the potential of digital marketing platforms. Online marketing budgets now exceed those for television advertising.
Japanese culture and digital marketing
Consumer insight can help you to tackle cultural divides by enabling you to develop digital marketing campaigns, including social media campaigns, that communicate more effectively with your Japanese audience.
There is no doubt that Japanese consumers are less trusting of organisations than consumers in the West. This matters because such distrust ensures that consumers are more likely to be influenced by their peers when choosing what to buy.
Personal recommendations and reviews are hugely important as is a personalised approach to social media marketing. Japanese Influencers are also beginning to gain traction in Japan but are yet to achieve the impact that they have made in the West.
Japanese consumers are highly selective about the brands they choose to invest in and are less price-driven than many consumers elsewhere. Shoppers in Japan will often favour domestic brands that they already trust and so it can be hard to tempt them with new propositions.
While Japan lacks the cultural diversity of many nations in the West, it can be necessary to tailor messages to specific Japanese audiences. Geographical, social and generational differences must be considered.
But across all demographics, themes of cuteness (kawaii culture), silliness, and detachment from reality tend to resonate.This is perhaps one of the reasons why hard sell approaches often fail in Japan.
A more visual approach to marketing is required in Japan as Japanese consumers favour visuals over mere words. Kawaii culture is an important consideration when developing the visual content you need.
How to evolve a social media strategy for Japan
In recent times, the Japanese audience has become increasingly fragmented and noticeably more demanding. This landscape has delivered greater opportunities to connect with Japanese consumers via targeted social media marketing.
But content must be carefully conceived and localised. Here are the factors to consider when developing social media campaigns in Japan:
Exploit the right social media platforms
There are several social media channels that are popular in Japan, and they can all represent excellent opportunities. YouTube, TikTok, Twitter and Facebook are widely used as you might expect. But one of the most popular social media platforms in Japan is LINE which benefits from 89% penetration among women.
LINE is a messaging app that also offers a range of additional features. It is especially popular among younger Japanese consumers and offers several marketing options including sponsored stickers and sponsored chatbots.
Develop a marketing calendar specifically for Japan
Where content is delivered can make all the difference but when it is delivered could also prove crucial. It is vital to mindful of the unique traditions and festivities in Japan together with the themes associated with them.
Messages that align with and reflect cultural events will deliver greater impact. It is useful to evolve a marketing calendar that is attuned to important dates and events together with seasonal changes. The visuals and messages that will resonate in Japan will differ from those that work well elsewhere and must change to reflect specific dates on the calendar.
Utilise Japanese imagery
Using Japanese models and locations can significantly boost engagement with your advertisements. Japanese consumers tend to favour Japanese brands and can be alienated by imagery that is clearly targeted at another market. Japanese imagery is more likely to inspire trust and will imbue your messages with an authentic feel.
Understand your target audience
While Japan is a more homogeneous nation than many in the West, it does boast diversity and has become more fragmented. It could be a mistake not to tailor messages to specific groups and regions. While certain major brands have successfully adopted a universal approach to their marketing in Japan, it is often the most personalised content that will best resonate.
It is also crucial to understand how quickly trends can spread in Japan and to correctly position your brand. Japanese social media users like to follow trends and to conform but at the same time will shun what they feel is too commonplace. Your brand shouldn’t appear to be either too unique or too generic.
Tailor your USP
The aspects of your product or service that resonate in the West may not be the attributes that attract Japanese internet users. It is best to test your messaging before evolving a marketing strategy, regardless of the platform that you intend to use. Tailor your value propositions to the various target segments and closely monitor which messages achieve the greatest impact in each segment.
Japanese customers are less likely to leave feedback than those in many countries. This means that it is also vital to establish ways to gather information from your markets. You should remain committed to learning as much as possible about your target audience and to changing direction quickly if your messages are falling on deaf ears.
Creative video content
Video content is a powerful marketing tool in Japan, and it dominates social media marketing. Fun yet informative mobile video content with engaging stories attracts attention and builds connections with Japanese audiences.
Sound is an important aspect of video marketing in Japan, and the addition of text can enable you to incorporate calls to action. Japanese consumers crave information and so it is important to provide that too. You should never forget the significance of Japanese imagery.
Capitalise on organic social media
Reputation and trust are vital to success in Japan. Recommendations are hugely valuable and should be sought out. By constantly updating social media content you can demonstrate your dedication to the Japanese market and also establish your relevance. Advertising is important but organic social media can be more so.
Exploit the collective
In Japanese culture, there is huge emphasis on the group as opposed to the individual. For this reason, Japanese consumers will often make buying decisions based on what is socially acceptable or what is the norm within their group. They will favour brands that reflect what they deem to be their place in the group or in society in general. It can be highly effective to present your product or service as widely used in certain groups or sections of society.
Why it pays to seek guidance
Many Western brands have successfully adapted their marketing to appeal to the Japanese audience but achieving such success can be difficult.
There is no substitute for local knowledge when evolving digital marketing strategies. You can avoid a great deal of costly trial and error by engaging professional help when crafting content.
Japanese culture and markets are complex and nuanced. A social media campaign that proves highly effective for one brand may simply not work for another. You must decide whether you should adopt a generalised approach to social media across locations and markets or adapt your messages to appeal to specific groups. Experts in Japanese social media can help you to create the perfect strategy and content for your brand.
At Word Connection, we can certainly work with you to achieve success via social media in Japan.