Blog | Friday 24 March 2017
Sarah Sharpe, DIT Marketing Assistant - UK Exporters, takes a look at the trend of influencer marketing in Japan.
Influencer Marketing is a Great Way for British Brands to Raise Their Profile in the Japanese Market
With so much information readily available on the internet, people are showing a tendency to block out the noise and retreat into the comfort of their own echo chambers. As public trust in traditional media is declining both globally and in Japan, consumers are instead looking for inspiration from their contact networks (i.e. from friends, celebrities or opinion leaders). This article takes a look at the influencer marketing scene in Japan and considers the potential for UK companies already established in the Japanese market to use the communications strategy as a powerful catalyst for business growth.
Influencer marketing, a marketing strategy which uses key individuals to promote a brand, is widely used in the UK and is similarly gaining popularity in Japan. Japanese Telecom giant Softbank has recently announced that it will be teaming up with Justin Bieber and Pikotaro, made famous by his YouTube hit Pen-pineapple-apple-pen (PPAP), for its next advertising campaign. Whilst using big names to promote a brand is no new concept, influencer marketing goes beyond traditional forms of advertising by using a multiplatform approach, with particular emphasis on social media channels.
Influencers are also not limited to famous actors, musicians, sports stars or fashion models; one of the benefits of social media is that it has given a voice to a greater number of people. A huge range of digital influencers in Japan work with brands - from models, actresses and TV personalities like Rola and Kiko Mizuhara to those who have made their name through social media such as vloggers Hajime Syacho and Sasaki Asahi. These influencers have up to several million followers on social media and have a digital presence on many platforms, the most common being Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, Line and personal blogs or websites.
Influencer Marketing as a More Authentic and Inclusive Form of Communication
Influencer marketing can also be seen as a more authentic and inclusive form of communication than traditional advertising as often brand promotion comes in the form of personal recommendations and genuine (or ‘genuine’) lifestyle choices, bringing your business closer to the people. In Japan, as in the UK, influencer marketing is no doubt an effective way to avoid the one-way communication of traditional marketing, to engage consumers in a more dynamic and personal way and to gain the trust of potential or existing customers. Whilst quality is undoubtedly the key driver of consumer trust – quality alone will not get a brand noticed. Influencer marketing, positioned at the intersection between corporate communications and popular culture, could be a way to pierce echo chambers, allowing your brand’s message to be heard and to circulate through different social circles.
British Brands Using Influencer Marketing in Japan
Dyson is one British company which is connecting with a diverse audience and boosting sales in Japan through influencer marketing. Whilst Dyson’s success dates back to the launch of James Dyson’s first vacuum cleaner in Japan over 30 years ago, the brand has kept customers close both through continued technological innovation and evolving marketing strategies. Dyson’s latest products are being recommended on social media by Japanese influencers such as YouTuber Hikakin, model and blogger Matsu-you and a dog called Shunsuke (to name just a few). With products and communications strategy tailored to the Japanese market, Dyson is a prime example of how to make a success of exporting to Japan.
Whilst British brands in the fashion and retail or food and drink sectors are likely to be able to benefit most from influencer marketing, the variety of people publishing on the internet means there may also be a match for companies in niche markets. It is worth noting too that it is not always the number of followers that is most important, but rather reaching your target audience and making sure that the public profile of influencers complements your brand’s message. Working with local partners and PR companies will help you find and collaborate with the right influencers for your company. That said, navigating the influencer marketing landscape in Japan can be a challenge, even with the help of local affiliates.
Cultural differences between the UK and Japan certainly have a part to play in that. The naïve personas and slapstick comedy that so often capture public attention in Japan is quite unique and may take some getting used to. The apparent innocence of influencers, however, is combined with knowledge of what people care about in Japan, what makes them laugh and what makes them feel part of a community, sharing experiences in our bizarre world. Tapping into Japanese humour may just be one way to allow your brand’s message to stand out and to encourage Japanese consumers to commit to using your product or service long term.
Photo credit @MATSUYOU on Imgrum.