February 2014 FCC Event Recap: Helping Global Brands Perform in Japan

The Keys to Making a Global Brand Flourish or Flop in Japan by Soness Stevens, FEW Ambassador  to FCC Event – February 2014

Ever wonder why there is such a chaotic overflow of information on websites and store shelves…?

Kathryn Sloane (Director of Growth, SGK APAC based in Singapore) and Reiko Nakamura (Managing Director of Schawk Japan) told the Forum for Corporate Communications at their February event that this is because research shows Japanese crave information and the more the better.

During their talk Helping Global Brands Perform in Japan, they said SGK survey respondents claimed that products with more attention stickers have greater value and is reassuring. In contrast to this, one graphic designer at the FCC event said he struggled with product manufacturers over this.  While hired to create appealing designs to enhance product desirability, the manufacturers demand more information be placed on packages and then if they feel that isn’t enough they add the attention stickers at the final end of packaging, frustrating the designer whose original product image didn’t include that little sticker.

This would also seem to be the case with website design.  While western designers tend to make clean and elegant websites, Japanese websites always appear cluttered and filled with lots of bits of information.  Japanese web designers said that Japanese people prefer the apparently cluttered maze which is nearly impossible to navigate for many non-Japanese.

SGK offered a few secret essentials to marketers and would be marketers on approaching the Japanese market.

  1. Find Your Meaning for Japan
  2. Localize Your Design for Japan
  3. Think from the Shelf, Out
  4. Become “My Brand”
  5. Design for the Future, Not for Now
  6. The Business of Japan
  7. Optimize Your Workflow for Japan
  8. Protect your Equities in a Renegade Market
  9. Produce and Protect Your Brand Assets Across Touch Points
  10. Continuous Improvement Through Consensus

But, what if a non-Japanese business owner wants to keep their webdesign simple (like Soness does with her upcoming, venture)? Kathryn noted the returning trend to simple design and advised to be flexible, while remaining consistent with brand image.

Remember that Japanese expect 100% perfection in every detail.  Timeliness, consistency, trust built on consistency and the endless pursuit of a perfect product. But remember to clarify which version of perfect you are seeking.  Will it be the western version?  Or the Japanese version?


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