Marketing to a Japanese Audience? Take the Subtle Approach

By Ann Chen
Aug 5, 2020 · 3 min

When going global, adaptation to each international market’s needs, norms, and nuances is key. Localization can help with that.

marketing to a japanese audience

If you’re marketing your business to a Japanese audience, you likely already know that the Japanese love everything anime and everything American. The former is well-entrenched in the country’s culture and has ties to national traditions. The latter is most certainly foreign - mysterious and a symbol of splendor and success. But just because the Japanese know and love both of these constructs, doesn’t mean that they understand them both on a deep, native level. Anime? Sure. But Americana? Less likely. 

Know who you’re marketing to

As such, when seeking to enter the Japanese market, it’s important to understand that your American blog posts, videos, and other content must be adapted, if not swapped out for new, carefully curated materials that meet Japanese audience members’ needs.

When going global, it’s important to understand that each market and culture has its own unique style and priorities. Different audiences prefer varying degrees of formality, tone, speed, and content quality. 

The American market, your home turf

The American culture is highly modern, characterized by a love for the edgy, the informal, and customer-centric brands. The American people are loud and proud. They are eager to adopt new trends and technologies but refuse to give up on the traditional, personal touch. 

When creating content for Americans, it’s okay to be pushy. In fact, it’s recommended. Be strong. Dazzle them with your brand’s added value, or super affordability. Make them instantly understand why your offering is better than that of the competition. After all, they’re busy living the American Dream and have no desire to wait for you to gradually build up to your selling point.

Japanese value brand quality & reputation

Home to the world’s third-largest GDP, Japan represents approximately 10% of the world’s economy. But what are Japanese consumers in the market for? While you may take note of the vibrancy of Japanese clothing, products, and yes, anime, when it comes to marketing content, the Japanese resonate with a far subtler approach. 

In Japan, a brand’s value and reputation are top selling points, as is their offering’s quality. The Japanese aren’t looking for the latest, the fastest, or the flashiest. They’re looking for smart solutions that fit in their tight living quarters; fewer, better quality, and more luxurious items that serve a purpose and make a statement. And they are always in favor of doing business with a brand that promotes positivity.

Practical guide for localization in Japanese market

Therefore,the language and messaging used in your American blogs, videos, and content won’t work in the Japanese market. But what will? Positive testimonials displaying trust in your brand have major selling power in Japan. So does creating “queue- curiosity.” When Japanese consumers are “made to wait,” they read the situation as being one of urgency and scarcity, and the product or service as a must-have, without delay. When a sample of Japanese shoppers was asked for their reaction regarding the formation of a queue, 88% said they’d be interested to learn why the queue cropped up. Of these, 60% said they would stop to find out more and 3% claimed they would join the queue before knowing what it was for.   

In terms of practical localization tactics, the following are a must for the Japanese market:

  • Translate to Japanese. This is a legal requirement. Make sure the translated content reads well in the target language.
  • Launch campaigns during the summer months, when locals receive annual bonuses and spending is at an annual high.
  • Use your content to build high-context relationships that gradually nurture towards conversion. Impress your target audience members with facts and figures.
  • Learn the cultural taboos, and stay away from them in your content.

Context, context, context

Sometimes, what may seem to be completely standard to American customers is out of context and irrelevant to members of other cultures. The job of a globally-oriented marketer is to create and adapt content that keeps ALL of its audience members engaged. 

Want to adapt your content to appeal to a Japanese market?

Ann Chen is BLEND's newest APAC Business Development Manager. With over ten years of sales development experience marketing linguistic products, and a Master's in translation studies, Ann's a whizz at helping global brands identify the right localization solutions to suit their business needs.  When she's not researching Asian Pacific's leading companies, Ann enjoys traveling the world and learning new languages. Reach out to connect with Ann on Linkedin.

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