Brandless Nation Vol. 2 : Emotions vs Features in Japanese Marketing

Is it possible to go beyond celebrity endorsement, spec listing, and loud designs? These are all standard in the marketing world in Japan. Are these necessary to create a successful marketing campaign? Or is there another way? 

When we talk about a product, we not only talk about the product itself with all its features benefits and gadgets but also about the perception of it. 


What if Sony's flagship smartphone is a beast in terms of specs? It had the latest Snapdragon chip, 4K OLED screen, and HD sound? If you put a headphone jack, it looks like a winning product to me. Is it more potent than let's say the iPhone? Most likely, will it be as lucrative and sell as many units as the iPhone? Probably not. Your typical consumer is often guided by emotions and not by logical features that a product has. The more a company goes out of its way to focus on the physical product and not how it makes you feel, the more it disconnects with its audience.

Marketing is all about perception. Professional marketers know that if their strategy is not causing people to feel a specific emotion, they are doing something wrong. Like I mentioned in the previous article, Japan has excellent companies with mind-blowingly good products. However, their marketing practices are a bit archaic. When you shop in 楽天(Rakuten), how do you feel? Do you feel inspired when you visit Don Quijote? Do you experience having an emotional attachment to Panasonic or Toshiba? If you do not work for these companies, probably not. 


A company that really breaks the mold in Japan is definitely Nintendo. Like Disney, Nintendo is the master of nostalgia. Whenever people play games like Pokemon, Super Mario Bros., or Metroid, they unconsciously want to relive their childhood. That magical time when they didn't have responsibilities and life was simple. For this reason, Nintendo's advertisements do not talk about specs at all but show a bunch of friends and families having fun while playing their games. 

Next time you visit a store or use a product, think about how it makes you feel. Do you study at Starbucks because their coffee is good or because you feel good drinking ice drip coffee from a plastic cup with Starbucks' logo on it? Why do people buy a new iPhone every year or a new Call of Duty? Is it that different than last year's model? What about games like Fifa, Madden or NBA 2K? Having the latest model makes us feel good about ourselves in a certain way. 


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