By Melissa Francis
Because Christmas is an imported festivity, Christmas in Japan carries very different meanings compared with how we might tend to celebrate in the west. For starters, there is no Christmas national holiday or company shutdown period. Businesses remain open until the New Year. Japanese consumers treat this event as an opportunity to make memories with their partners or friends. A 2017 Rakuten survey found that around 45% of people wanted to spend Christmas with their partner, compared with just 25% who said they would enjoy it with their children. In terms of spending, on average Japanese men are tending to fork out around $90 on gifts versus $71 among women.
Christmas in Japan: what is it like?
For many adults in Japan, Christmas is more about having an experience as opposed to receiving physical gifts. There are some other notable differences as well, such as the tradition of eating KFC instead of a home-cooked meal. It’s common to go out to eat at a restaurant. Seasonal Christmas cakes available for purchase at patisseries, convenience and department stores are usually laden with strawberries and other fruit. These usually have to be ordered in advance due to high demand.
Examples of Christmas promotions in Japan
Matchmaking Services: the ‘with’ app
App developer IGNIS LTD. runs a dating and marriage partner finding app called ‘With’, launched in 2015. The purpose is to help Japanese people to find partners based on statistical and psychological data, rather than relying on chance. This Christmas they’re offering a ‘Christmas Present Diagnostic’ service for users from 11th December until midnight on 25th. Users answer questions stating what they would want to receive as a gift from their lover, and based on this the app matches them with relevant partners. In addition, to bring a bit of festive spirit into the mix, users who mention the word ‘Christmas’ (クリスマス) in any of their conversations with potential dates will see snow appearing on the screen.
Fashion brand: BEAMS ‘Happy Days of Christmas’
Leading clothing brand BEAMS launched their ‘Happy Days of Christmas’ campaign from 22nd November up until Christmas Day. It features 24 different types of offers, ranging from sweets handpicked by gourmet connoisseur Rika Fukuda, to 25 recommended festive Christmas songs curated by BEAMS RECORDS Director Kenichi Aono. The layout on the website vaguely resembles an advent calendar with doors which visitors can explore. The slogan for the campaign boldly states that this is something ‘for everyone’, highlighting the concept of togetherness.
Chichibu Railway Christmas Night Scenery & Starry Sky Train
For one day only on 21st December, Chichibu Railway in Saitama prefecture will run a special free Christmas event on board a train that links Kumagaya Station with Chichibu Station. This will feature a MEGASTAR planetarium, musical concert by local Kumagaya-born singer Yurina Ueno, and two films; one commemorating the 120th anniversary of the railway service and an anime related to the topic of trains. The Chichibu Railway mascots Paleo and Palena will also make an appearance dressed as Santa. The event is promoted as a ‘romantic trip’ and therefore is likely targeting couples.
RigHa Royal Hotel Premium Christmas Stay
Righa Royal Hotel in Osaka is offering a luxurious romantic couples retreat limited to one night per couple – between 20th – 25th December in the Presidential Towers Deluxe Suite. With a booking needed prior to 13th December, the package includes a spacious room with a premium atmosphere and a Christmas dinner replete with high quality Kobe Beef and fresh truffles, with many of the dishes being inspired by French cuisine.
The bathroom will also be prepared with an English Rose fragrance using scents by renowned British rose breeder David Austin. These European elements help to give a high class impression and ultimately increase the level of desirability on par with the most sought after Japanese establishments. This offer certainly doesn’t come cheap, and will set the payee back more than $9,000 USD. So this is likely to be taken up by only a select few. Meanwhile, the hotel offers some more reasonably-priced festive food and drink.
How can brands get the most from Christmas promotions in Japan?
As we’ve seen in the above examples, Christmas naturally represents an opportunity for brands to reconnect with new and existing customers by launching engaging or luxurious seasonal campaigns – particularly offerings aimed at couples and groups of friends. Advertising Christmas as a family event is less likely to resonate as a concept than, for instance, aligning those offerings with New Year—an occasion typically set aside for families.
For companies already operating in Japan, consider what your brand is best known for among local consumers. Use those insights to drive connection and link it to common associations with Christmas. Think about how your brand can take that unique selling point and amplify it to give Japanese consumers a truly memorable one-off experience.
Case study: Indeed Japan
The video below, from Christmas 2018, is an example of how job search site Indeed has effectively promoted itself for a Japanese audience at Christmas. They incorporated two of the brand ambassadors already associated with Indeed, and included a jingle with a slogan to catch the attention of viewers. This, paired with typical Christmas costumes and decor, helps to lend a quirky and festive edge. This also demonstrates that absolutely any brand can run a Christmas campaign in Japan, it’s simply a matter of figuring out what will resonate best with your target audience.
Interested in taking your products or services to the Japanese market but don’t know where to start? Contact us for an informal chat to discuss how we can assist.