7 Tips on How to do Marketing and Advertising in Japan

newsonjapan.com -- Feb 22
Marketing and advertising in Japan is no easy task. Japanese customers are one of the most meticulous in the world.

This market not only looks at the brand name, but also at the quality, reputation, and value over price of products and services. Japan is also the third largest economy in the world. With this kind of competition, a new business entering the market must know the characteristics of the Japanese consumers.

Japan is one of the major sources of technological developments in the world. With its digital advancement, it also has one of the largest percentages of the population who are internet and social media users. 94% of its 125.8 million people are internet users, while 81% are active in social media. By this data, you, as a business owner, already know that the way to promote your business is by going digital.

Of course, this information will not be enough. You have to know what the Japanese customers are looking for. What do they like? What are they like? If you have these questions in mind, then you are a step closer to successfully promoting your brand in the Japanese market.

Luckily, we have experts who have already answered some of the most important questions a business owner has to know. In this article, we have compiled the best tips for marketing and advertising in Japan from Mr. Arthur Sabalionis and Mr. Joon Kim the founders of AJ Marketing - leading marketing agency in Japan. Let’s take a look!

7 Tips for Marketing in Japan

  1. Look Through The Magnifying Glass: research on every aspect of the Japanese’s way of life
  2. Shift, Transform, Adapt: shift your business according to Japan’s current digital transformation trends
  3. Maintain the Seller-Customer Experience: maintain a seller-customer relationship by exploring live selling
  4. Companionship Makes Everything Better: utilize Japan’s culture of group thinking and group consciousness
  5. Market and Advertise Like a Pro: avoid rookie mistakes new businesses make when entering the market
  6. Authenticity Wins the Prize: collaborate with authentic local influencers who already won Japan’s heart
  7. Find Yourself a Local Partner: having someone on-the-ground is key to succeeding in a foreign market

Tip #1: Look Through The Magnifying Glass: research on every aspect of the Japanese’s way of life

The Japanese population has its own stapled values and traditions that even globalization cannot erase. The Japanese are known for their values of interdependence, respect for elders, dignity, and formality. But, even if you already know this, this information is not enough to launch a successful marketing campaign. You have to pinpoint what they look for in a brand and what would make them stay loyal to it.

For example, the crowded city of Tokyo has made it the center of renters in Japan. In turn, people in Tokyo opt for space-saving and renter-friendly products. Aside from this, Japanese value luxury as it is one of the largest luxury markets in the world. The Japanese market also values brand reputation – negative reviews are given a lot of weight by customers. You may think this information is a lot to take, but there’s more to know about the Japan market.

The Japanese market also values localization and the use of their language. The laws in Japan require in-language content even if the advertisement is for a foreign brand or company. Let’s take a look at this example from KitKat.

KitKat was originally launched in the United Kingdom, but this brand is now known throughout the world. One of the major contributors for its success in Japan is the transliteration of its name, from “KitKat” to “Kitto Katto”. “Kitto Katto” sounds like the phrase “kitto katsu” which roughly translates to “never fail”. By adapting its brand to the Japanese language, KitKat managed to become the favorite chocolate brand in Japan. Aside from language localization, KitKat also used the flavors popular in this country, such as matcha green tea and red bean.

Although the Japanese value local products more than western ones, they still tend to accept new brands which they think mirror their way of life. This example proves that looking through the magnifying glass and examining each part of their culture, behavior, and preference will lead to a successful marketing strategy.

Tip #2: Shift, Transform, Adapt: shift your business according to Japan’s current digital transformation trends

The COVID-19 pandemic has identified a problem in Japanese businesses – these businesses face challenges in a remote setup. Through this discovery, Japanese businesses started to shift their operations from physical to digital. Several studies found out that the way to raise Japan’s economy is by utilizing digital platforms.

Japan has one of the most developed digital infrastructure in the world. It’s leading in technology development such as robotics, and it has highly skilled workers. These facts led to the recommendation that businesses must now invest in digital transformation. This recommendation applies to both old and new businesses wanting to enter the Japanese market.

The digital behavior of Japanese must be taken into consideration.

Japanese internet users surf the net to purchase products and services, order groceries, and look at product comparisons. 94 million of Japan’s population use the internet to purchase products, and this population spends about $210 billion a year on e-commerce. This behavior by the Japanese market tells us that shifting your business digital can bring conversions and sales to your brand.

Now, how do you shift your business to the digital platform? You can do this by creating a business website, listing your products and services on e-commerce sites and applications, developing your own social media accounts, and exploring the emerging trend of live selling.

Tip #3: Maintain the Seller-Customer Experience: maintain a seller-customer relationship by exploring live selling

“Live commerce” or “Live Selling” is the act of promoting/selling products through live streaming, while the audience interacts with the seller via chat and comment function. This strategy is trending in Japan because of its convenience and its effect of maintaining a customer-seller relationship.

Through live selling, a seller, which may be an influencer, will show a product to their viewers in social media. They will show off each and every angle of the product, and they might even demonstrate how to use it. The seller can also state their personal review and comment about the product. After this, the viewers can comment if they want to buy the product, and a team will message the buyer later on to get their information.

Why is this trending in Japan? This is because people can still connect and interact with their favorite influencers even if they’re looking at a screen. Live selling mimics face-to-face communication, and still gives the customers the usual retailing experience.

The number of influencers selling online has increased more than 50 times in just two years, and it has been predicted that the domestic live commerce market will reach a scale of 10 trillion yen by 2024. One of the major reasons for brand discovery in Japan are live streams in social media platforms, like Instagram and Facebook.

Tip #4: Companionship Makes Everything Better: utilize Japan’s culture of group thinking and group consciousness

The Japanese have a strong sense of collectivism and group consciousness. These values are important to know, because they affect the way the consumers choose their products.

For example, in the United States, people grow up in an individualistic culture. Thus, they tend to make purchase decisions based on what would make them stand out from the crowd. Compare this to Japan where people grew up in a collectivist culture. Japanese consumers will opt to choose brands that will reflect the current norms and will reinforce their current position in the society.

Group consciousness is also important to know when creating a marketing and advertising campaign. The "bandwagon technique” can be deemed effective because it delivers the message that the product is used and supported by the masses. Words such as "everyone knows" and "people are lining up" are some examples of the technique.

Of course, utilizing group consciousness does not have to be taken too literally. For example, in this SoftBank Commercial with Justin Bieber, Justin need not say “people are lining up”. If you watch this commercial, the high school students all follow Justin as he walks from classroom to classroom, asking the students if they are getting the “Super Student” promotion of SoftBank.

This commercial gives the message that every high school student in Japan is now availing of the SoftBank promotion. After this commercial aired, students around Japan kept giving each other thumbs up’s, mimicking Justin Bieber in the advertisement.

Tip #5: Market and Advertise Like a Pro: avoid rookie mistakes new businesses make when entering the market

Japan houses thousands of brands. A new business entering the Japanese market must make sure that it stands out, and that its advertisements look like they’re done by a pro.

To seem more professional and consumer-attractive, you must avoid some rookie mistakes that new brands in Japan are vulnerable to make. First, do not make the wrong word choices. Some brands tend to use words that are familiar to them but not to the consumer. Your catchphrase must be easily understood and easily remembered.

Second, avoid putting too much information in your advertisements. It is essential that marketing content conveys what the product is at first glance. But, in many cases, brands tend to input too much information or words, making the impact of the core message weaker.

Lastly, do not ignore digital literacy when it comes to planning your marketing strategy. This is a common problem in social media marketing, because most often, marketing teams have little expertise in the influencer field. Lack of digital literacy causes their social media posts and content to be less effective and unfit to the platform. Your marketing team must be well-versed in the current social media trends in Japan to give it that more professional yet believable image.

The founders of AJ Marketing believe that one of the best ways to show consumers of your brands’ digital literacy is through influencers. Through influencer marketing, the audience will see that your business is up-to-date in trends, and is trusted by key opinion leaders. Now, how do you choose influencers? This leads us to Tip #6.

Tip #6: Authenticity Wins the Prize: collaborate with authentic local influencers who already won Japan’s heart

Influencer marketing is a rising trend in Japan because of its authentic character and creation of interpersonal connection with the audience. This type of strategy also utilizes the word-of-mouth advertising to attract customers, which has been proven to be more effective than general advertising. Brands are also shifting to this strategy because it is less costly than TV advertising, commercial production, or billboard posting.

In Japan, the effects of social media influencers in brand research and discovery are apparent. More than 33% of Japanese internet users follow celebrities and influencers. For YouTube alone, an online advertisement with an influencer may reach 81% of the total population in Japan. Big and small businesses are discovering this strategy and are rapidly riding through the wave.

For example, iHerb which is a health food brand from the United States launched its product in Japan through the use of influencer marketing. iHerb collaborated with YouTube influencer Ellie Ames, where Ellie uploaded an unboxing video for her 127K followers. This video gained more than 18,000 views on YouTube, targeting health conscious ladies and families.

Another example is Daito Kentaku Leasing’s marketing campaign in collaboration with Azuking Toki and Too Ryo. They created a video called "Odotte-mita (I tried dancing)," which was quickly viewed over 2.3 million times and has received more than 51,000 likes. It was not a promotional video explaining their service, but rather a simple fun dancing video with their signboard and theme song in the background. When the both influencers released the video on their Twitter, it was retweeted more than 3,000 times in total and the company successfully spread their service and name to a broader audience.

These examples show that influencer marketing can give Japanese customers a sense of trustworthiness and credibility. Since trust has already been built between the influencer and their followers, it is much easier for them to convey the benefits of using the product than the brand themselves.

Of course, you cannot just blindly choose any influencer. There are different influencers for different areas of expertise, like anime, beauty, tech, fashion, and gaming. You now have to ask, “Which influencer best represents my brand’s values?” To answer this, you’d need the help of a local marketing agency.

Tip #7: Find Yourself a Local Partner: having someone on-the-ground is key to succeeding in a foreign market

Can you imagine yourself doing tips 1 to 6 all by yourself? It is possible, but it will cost you so much time and money. The way to do marketing and advertising in Japan is by partnering with a local marketing agency, like AJ Marketing. This makes the process of attaining success speedier, easier, and more efficient.

To be successful in digital marketing in Japan, it is essential that you understand, analyze and research about the country’s culture, economy, policies, and trends. This kind of research work cannot be done by solely using the internet. You’ll need people on-the-ground who already know the market and who live amongst them. AJ Marketing’s inside information can prove to be useful for businesses, especially new ones just entering the market.

AJ Marketing also specializes in influencer marketing, with a network of over 7,000 influencers in Asia. With the help of this agency, choosing the right influencer for your brand will be no sweat. AJ Marketing believes in assessing a brand’s values, identity, and image before selecting the right influencer to represent your business.

If you are looking to expand your business in Japan, check the AJ marketing blog for information about local Japan market trends.


Entering a country with one of the largest economies in the world would require strategy. To effectively penetrate Japan, you as a business owner need to do in-depth and on-the-ground research on Japanese culture, behavior, and perception. Aside from this, you’d have to ride with the developments of technology and digital transformation in the country. Lastly, you’d have to gain people’s trust by having your brand introduced by already-reputable influencers in Japan.

We hope that these 7 marketing tips from the AJ Marketing founders gave you an idea on how to expand your business in Japan. These tips can serve as your guide in launching a successful marketing and advertising campaign in this country.

Society Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7