The Wild and Wacky Wonderland of Japanese Marketing

The Company
11 July 2019

The Japanese have a culture that seems to inhabit opposite ends of an extreme. A land deeply-rooted to its history and traditions, it is also one of the most economically and technologically advanced societies around. We all love the Japanese for their traditions, especially their food. But what can we say about the wild and eccentric ways their marketing works? 


Japanese ads have a way with storytelling. When it comes to delivering a product ad, Japanese ads tend to have greater freedom with dabbling in the abstract. They focus on inciting a feeling. In comparison, American and Western ads are regularly geared towards delivering a concept.  

Often, global audiences watching a Japanese ad for the first time can be overwhelmed by the lack of context. Yet, the ad remains memorable for one reason or another. Japanese storytelling in advertising revolves around twists. Whether the emotion incited is humour, sadness, or happiness, Japanese ads always deliver a twist to their content. 

This is what draws the audience in, regardless of language and culture. 


Assimilation to the local culture builds a connection and trust with your brand. KitKat, for example, has swept Japan by storm. It’s the only place one can find unique flavours like matcha green tea, strawberry cheesecake, and purple sweet potato. The development of these flavours came about to cater to the palate of the local consumers, enhancing the appeal and relevance of the chocolate brand to the Japanese. 

Their product localisation has helped KitKat remain the top-selling chocolate brand in Japan since 1973.  

In addition to their diverse, local product range, their name has further aided their success, enabling them to build unique local campaigns. 

KitKat sounds like the Japanese phrase “kitto katsu”, which means “you will surely win”. Due to the closeness of their name to the local refrain, many parents and customers were purchasing KitKat as a token of good luck and support for students undergoing their exams. When KitKat learned of this they capitalised on the growing trend. Collaborating with Japan Post, Nestle launched a campaign that (briefly outline the campaign here – ideally in one sentence). Needless to say, the campaign was a great success. Today, people are sending KitKats to over 600,000 exam-taking students for luck each year. 

Eccentric Endorsements

Japanese advertisements have often the topic of conversation for their wild ideas and even wilder execution. There’s something to be said about having Arnold Schwarzenegger promote ramen noodles, coffee, and energy drinks to a Japanese audience.

Schwarzenegger fans in the West were utterly confused by these advertisements featuring their favourite Terminator, but Japanese fans delighted in them. Affectionately known as “Shuwa-chan” by locals, Schwarzenegger’s ability to not take himself too seriously and embrace the gonzo attitude Japanese ads portray has led to great success through the years. 

Celebrity endorsements succeed in Japan because of the positive feelings gained from collectivism. The Japanese are known for their love for their country and culture, and liking the things liked by the masses incites positive emotions in audiences. What’s more — seeing international celebrities backing their local brands builds brand trust. Combine this with a wacky idea and clever execution, and you get a successful marketing campaign. 

A lasting impression 

Japanese advertising, one way or another, tends to leave a lasting impression on its audience. Its execution might seem too out-of-this-world to Western countries, but they produce great results on the local market. At the end of the day, they still leave a lasting impression on the global market, and we certainly remember Japanese ads when we see them. 

That, at its core, is really all a business can ask for.

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