Back in high school I was looking through a magazine and found an article on advertising in Japan. It talked about how Ford had pulled a five-year advertising campaign from Japan that had fallen flat and the company wasn’t sure why.
That article sparked my interest in Japan, and it struck me even back then that a company can’t just enter another country with their finely honed best practices from the United States and think that they’ll be successful.
The same applies today to local search engine marketing. The strategies that make an ad or a landing page effective here in the States will not necessarily attract consumers in Japan. That’s not to say that you’ll have to throw all of your best practices out the window. Rather, you’ll have to adjust, adapt and test.
I lived in Japan for two years, and now I help run local search for Japan’s leading advertising media provider and publisher. There’s so much on the surface that most people focus on – identifying keywords, selecting the best ad networks, etc. But there’s an undercurrent of cultural traditions that affect search engine marketing that most people don’t know or don’t see unless they’re immersed in Japanese culture.
If we examine the larger cultural trends, we can glean insight into how to create search campaigns that will be effective in reaching consumers in Japan.
The Importance of Saving Face
Saving face is one of the most important motivators in Japanese culture. This is usually presented as a cautionary tale – a warning to never make someone else look bad.
But in search marketing it can be an opportunity for those who understand the heart of this cultural value. It can be argued that the Japanese love of data and information can be tied to the concept of “face.” Here’s the idea — if designed well, your ad or landing page might be a chance to help someone make a good, well-informed decision.
Here’s what I mean — Japanese consumers love data. They want as much information as possible about any given product or service – data or information they can process and analyze. The theory is that if the consumer has all the possible information on a given subject, he or she is less likely to make a bad decision or do something that appears foolish. What’s more, like in Western cultures, consumers want to make well-informed purchasing decisions. They can do that if they’ve got thorough information. “Thorough” as it relates to search marketing is a relative term, however.
To attract US consumers, we typically recommend landing pages that are clean and focused, with a clear call-to-action – any collection of in-depth information happens once the consumer has made initial contact with the advertiser. So, a hair salon and spa advertising in the United States might focus its messages on: “we’re dependable, we’re honest, we’ve won awards, we’ve got the most skilled staff in the area.”
But to attract consumers in Japan, that might not be enough information to drive a consumer to even initiate contact. Instead, a Japanese salon and spa would need to offer this type of information from the outset: “These are the are very specific solutions we offer at our salon, here are photos and names of our stylists, here are the prices associated with our services.”
Part 2 of this post will appear tomorrow.