Big In Japan- Eastern Marketing With Western Flair

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I recently surveyed all things Japanese when I was trying to find new marketing ideas and inspiration. After all, Japan is always unique when it comes to advertising, regardless of whether that advertising is good or bad. Besides, if it works for Gwen Stefani and Hello Kitty, it might just work for me, right? So imagine my surprise when I found that Japan’s marketing happens to look a lot like ours but cooler, more effective, and with better music.

Take this ad for Cola Shock for example, featuring Meisa Kuroki, a popular Japanese model and pop star. The ad features the adorable Kuroki working as a waitress in a very American-style beach-side restaurant. The patrons bark out orders for burgers and pizza and, of course, Cola Shock, while Jimmy Cliff’s “I Can See Clearly Now” plays in the background. Certainly, the makers of Cola Shock are paying homage to the 80s soda commercials from the United States while gently poking fun at them. The thin and gorgeous Meisa Kuroki winkingly serves the cola and vodka drink to cartoonish but fun-loving, loud, bossy Americans. Putting vodka inside a soda-and I think Chelsea Handler would agree-is an idea whose time has come, and the ad has a good time playing with the dumb American sterotype.
Leave it to the country who gave us Iron Chef to give us the virtual meal. Food fanatics and calorie counters alike could warm up to a marketing idea like the one cooked up by Japanese condiment king Ajinomoto. Their interactive site lets hungry visitors choose the size of their meal in addition to their choice of condiments-all to be discovered and enjoyed without gaining a pound. It may seem very Food Network-like in concept, but in execution, it’s totally Tokyo.
At least when it comes to iPhone apps, we certainly must be the front runner for innovation, right? Maybe not. Last week, Japan launched an iPhone app that allows users to download nine Japanese radio stations so they can take them anywhere in the world! And unlike the beloved NPR app, all of the radio programming is streaming live. Japanese Community Radio services launched the app last Wednesday, and it promises to include video broadcasting and, of course, advertising in future updates.
Lastly, QR bar codes are the sort of thing popping up all over Japan on various products. A supercool Japanese ad agency, SET, has responded to the trend by creating a QR code made entirely of Frisk Mints. What materializes is something hip that screams individuality and creativity; something we often see U.S. brands attempt but rarely pull off.
Before I say “Konichiwa,” lets turn it over to you. How do you feel about global marketing inspiring itself? Does Japan’s take on the American culture ring true, or is it off key? And where in the world do you look for marketing inspiration when you’re stuck in a rut?

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