By Mao Asabe
In March and April in Japan, the cherry blossoms are in full bloom. At the same time, in this period many people begin new chapters in life, entering higher education (unlike in the UK and many other countries, Japanese school semesters start in April, not September), starting or changing jobs, moving to new places, and so on. This new phase in life is called shinseikatsu, which directly translates to ”new life.” In this article, we explore the many “new life support” (shinseikatsu shien) marketing campaigns conducted by companies in Japan, and how foreign companies in Japan can seek to get involved and develop their own.
Why shinseikatsu is an opportunity for marketing and sales
There are two main reasons why shinseikatsu poses a great opportunity for marketing and sales. First, as it is the time of the year that people start their new lives, many move into new homes and are in need of furniture, home appliances, and home decor goods. Secondly, the popularity of companies running “New Life Support Campaigns” (shinseikatsu shien kyanpēn) around this time inevitably leads to a drop in the price of furniture and home appliances. Therefore, even those who are not relocating or making massive changes to their living environment spend more to refresh their home decor.
There are figures to support this as well. According to a household survey published by the Japan Statistics Bureau, household consumption in fiscal 2019 was highest in March and April, being followed by December. In particular, spending on furniture, home appliances, and miscellaneous goods increases during this period. While the COVID-19 pandemic caused a significant drop in household consumption, growth has been steady, and companies continue to work on sales to bring things back up to speed.
4 Shinseikatsu “new life support” marketing campaigns in Japan
In recent years, many companies have ramped up their campaigns and promotions on social media platforms such as Twitter, Instagram and LINE, embracing modern day alternatives to the traditional methods of street advertising, TV commercials, newspapers, and magazines. This is because Japan has high levels of social media usage and internet literacy, with social media users amounting to 92 million as of January 2023 – over 74% of the population. Social media and general internet marketing is indeed now one of the easiest and most convenient ways to reach potential customers.
TIMBER YARD is an interior design company whose Scandinavian-style furniture is consistently popular across a wide audience. Consumers drawn to their clean, minimalistic designs often use TIMBER YARD furniture in social/family spaces. They are popular with people of all ages, but mostly among those who buy their own homes and coordinate their furniture as they like, rather than students. Instead of giving away gifts through social media through “follow and like” campaign posts, TIMBER YARD mainly uses their social media to announce promotional sales.
The “Seven Chairs Campaign” offered 4 for the price of 3 of TIMBER YARD’s “Seven Chairs” – a type of chair that is typical of Scandinavia and Denmark. They are not only comfortable, but also create a neat and tidy atmosphere. As such, many people like to place them in gathering spaces – especially dining rooms.
TIMBER YARD’s Seven Chairs campaign killed two birds with one stone: it raises the recognition of the Seven Chairs, which are still relatively unknown in Japan, and it offered consumers a bargain. In addition, the campaign ran longer than regular social networking campaigns. While most social networking campaigns are short, the Seven Chairs campaign ran from 1st April to 30th June, giving people who are starting their new lives in Japan plenty of time to make decisions.
This decision-making time can be important as well, as Japanese consumers are known for doing research and taking time to consider options before committing to purchases.
Made from carefully selected plant-derived organic ingredients, BOTANIST products have a strong following in Asia. With their sophisticated designs, brand image, and original labels, they have a wide variety of products ranging from shampoo and conditioner to body soap, mouthwash and toothpaste. This popular brand is known for its product rollout in the spring season, using the fermented leaf extract of someiyoshino – a famous type of cherry blossom.
As this time of year is a season of change, many consumers decide to switch up the products or brands they use in order to give themselves a fresh new start. BOTANIST successfully appeals to those who need refreshment in their daily lives with their seasonal product lines.
In early 2023, BOTANIST began promoting their “Botanical Spring Series” on Twitter, Instagram and YouTube in preparation for Spring and the oncoming sakura season. Using imagery of cherry blossoms and pastel pinks, the promotions carry positive messages for the new life and new future to come, along with the hashtag “#bloomyourmemory”, which is the theme of the season’s products. This kind of emotional messaging can really resonate with Japanese consumers, and the posts have attracted a lot of likes.
Want to read more about sakura season marketing in Japan? Click here.
They also ran a “5 Answers Campaign” this year on Twitter and Instagram. Following the growing trend of personalised beauty in Japan (which you can read about here) that focuses more on the individual, this campaign offers 5 different types of shampoo, each tailored to different hair types. Entrants must follow and retweet the promotional post on Twitter (or comment and DM on Instagram) in order to enter. Winners will be able to choose a “Total Care Set” of 3 products, matched to their haircare needs.
This is all framed within the shinseikatsu messaging of change and creating a new and better you – advertising that BOTANIST can help you find “the hair you want to have.” Additionally, the bottle designs are clean and fresh, and the pictures used feature sparkling surfaces, clean white backdrops and leafy greens – evocative of a refreshing new start in line with shinseikatsu.
BOTANIST has consistently released new products for the spring season year after year, and are a great example of how shinseikatsu marketing campaigns can be run.
To learn more about the Japanese organic market, click here.
The first – the “Spring New Life Support Campaign” which ran from February to the end of March 2023 – focused more on households, encouraging people Panasonic Japan ran their latest shinseikatsu new life support campaign on their website, using the tagline “Clean your home and your heart.” This campaign focused on household cleaning goods – offering limited-time only gift sets of cleaning supplies and lowered prices on hoovers. There are similarities here with the “spring cleaning” marketing drive that can be seen in the West.
This year, Panasonic Japan have run 2 separate shinseikatsu campaigns – each targeting different audiences.
Their second, similarly named “New Life Support Campaign” with the tagline “Make your new start better with home electric goods”, ran from mid-March to mid-April, and focused entirely on electric goods – offering sets of beauty care, lighting and cooking appliances for lowered prices.
It’s worth noting that the campaign uses images of young people – often in professional, smart clothing. This imagery along with the lower prices may appeal to young professionals starting their own “new lives”, moving into new homes perhaps for the first time.
Deco Home (Nitori)
Next, let’s look at the “New Life Starts With Deco Home – Follow and Retweet Campaign!” conducted by Deco Home – a sub-brand of major Japanese interior retailer Nitori. Deco Home was created as a more accessible interior goods retailer than Nitori, and offers original products that are not sold at Nitori.
This was a “follow and retweet campaign”, wherein the audience could apply by following the official Twitter account (@decohome_nitori) and retweeting the campaign tweet. The campaign prize was a Nitori gift certificate worth 2000 JPY (approx. 12 GBP), given to 25 people in a prize draw. Despite the prize being of modest value, the number of winners was set high, drawing in a large number of applicants.
This is a great example of how to make your campaign more appealing to a wider audience by offering gifts such as prize vouchers. Another important feature of the campaign is that it was promoted on Twitter every day between the 15th and the 28th of February, massively raising its exposure and encouraging users to take action with the ticking countdown to the end date. Each campaign tweet received at least 10,000 retweets, with well over 100,000 RTs between them all by the end of the campaign.
It’s important to remember that while Twitter is one of the most popular websites for social media marketing in Japan, other platforms such as Instagram and LINE are also highly popular, with LINE allowing companies to get uniquely close to consumers through broadcast notifications. Of course, each social media platform has its own algorithm that makes it easier for users to see your post, so you can help your campaigns perform better by tailoring them to each site used.
Ideas and tips for shinseikatsu marketing campaigns
The marketing campaigns related to shinseikatsu given above are only a small sample among the countless campaigns carried out during this season, with some companies such as Panasonic and Nitori holding multiple different campaigns as we’ve seen. The following are some campaigns that businesses can consider during this season when Japanese consumers are about to start their “new lives”.
Early bird campaigns
For retailers, ‘early bird’ campaigns are an effective way of offering discounted prices to those who order or buy earlier than others. Not only will you be able to benefit from people confirming their choices or orders early, but you will also be able to avoid the stock-outs and high delivery costs that often occur during peak demand periods.
Bulk buying campaigns
When moving out to live on their own for the first time, many people in Japan (such as young professionals and university students) find themselves in need of a complete set of furniture for their new home. If moving long-distance, such as from the countryside to Tokyo, they may also need to buy new household goods and clothes, and new workers may need to purchase suits and suitcases.
As a result, bulk purchases may be suitable for those who are undergoing a huge change in environment this season. We recommend that you offer a “New Life Support Set” or “New Working Person Support Set”, which is a package that covers everything in one aspect of what a person needs for their new life.
New life support shinseikatsu discount campaigns
This type of campaign could be best put to use by those in the catering industry. For an affordable restaurant that’s accessible to students and new workers, a discount campaign for set meals and bento lunch boxes could prove popular. Targeting people who are busy preparing for their new lives or who are unable to cook due to a lack of cooking equipment can encourage them to visit such restaurants, and convert them into loyal customers.
When developing a shinseikatsu campaign or event, companies can aim to promote the attractiveness of the their products and services by setting them as prizes, or alternatively, raise the profile of the company itself by offering prizes of products that many people want, but are not directly related to the brand.
Whichever strategy you take, it’s essential to choose a motif or design that suits your target audience. For example, if you want to use flowers to convey an image of an upcoming, exciting new life in the springtime, it’s necessary to use different types of flowers depending on the target: tulips are for younger people, cherry blossoms for freshers and university students, and gerberas for office workers.
Seasonal marketing campaigns like the new life support campaigns we’ve covered can be used to raise brand recognition and improve your company’s brand image. Thinking about what you want to promote to Japanese consumers through these campaigns will help you to define suitable prizes, platforms to use, and the duration of the campaign.
Interested in understanding more about how to create appeal among Japanese consumers with limited-time or seasonal offerings? Get in touch to discuss how your brand could boost visibility using a carefully considered marketing strategy.