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Advertising in Japan : 5 Best Strategies for Success

AJ Marketing - Advertising in Japan: 5 Best Strategies for Success

Are you curious about advertising and marketing in Japan? You should be. As a country with a unique blend of tradition and innovation, advertising in Japan is a fascinating landscape to explore. And the numbers show it: ad spending in Japan reached $54.26 billion in 2023, and $28.51 billion of it was spent on digital advertising channels! That's more than half of the entire budget.

AJ Marketing - Advertising in Japan: 5 Best Strategies for Success - Ad Spending in Japan from 2017 to 2027

Advertising budget on Japan is spent on different channels, such as programmatic advertising, search advertising, and even influencer advertising. Social media advertising in Japan is also increasingly becoming an important trend as we speak.

While these numbers may be interesting, they only scratch the surface of what makes advertising in Japan truly unique. In order to be successful in this market, it's important to understand the cultural nuances and values that influence consumer behavior.

So let's dive deeper into the world of Japanese advertising and explore the 5 best strategies for success.

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5 Best Advertising Strategies in Japan ⬇️

1. Cute and Captivating

The Power of Kawaii in Japanese Advertising

In Japan, cuteness is not just an aesthetic preference - it's an advertising strategy that many brands swear by. By portraying a cute and vulnerable image, Japanese ads aim to create an emotional connection with their audience. This is in stark contrast to the masculine, tough-guy image that dominates many US advertisements, particularly in the automotive industry.

Japanese ads rely on a range of characteristics to create this cute and captivating image, including shyness, vulnerability, animal adorability, childlike innocence, and even neediness. By emphasizing these traits, brands aim to make themselves more relatable and approachable to consumers.

One recent example of a brand successfully leveraging the power of cuteness is IKEA Japan. In their Tiny Homes campaign, IKEA made BLÅHAJ - a real-estate shark in a suit - their official spokesperson. The character quickly became a fan favorite, with merchandise featuring the adorable shark selling internationally. The campaign followed BLÅHAJ's adventures in a three-episode journey where he sells and refurbishes Tokyo's tiny flats.

By incorporating such a cute and quirky character in their campaign, IKEA was able to make a lasting impression on their audience, and show that they understand what Japanese consumers respond to.

2. The Gentle Touch

Why Soft Sell Works Best in Japanese Advertising

When it comes to advertising in Japan, the hard sell approach doesn't always work. In fact, Japanese brands often prefer a more gentle and subtle approach.

Hard sell tactics, which focus on directly telling consumers why they should buy a particular product, are not popular in Japan. Instead, Japanese ads aim to create a positive emotional experience for viewers, which can be completely divorced from any particular product or service feature. This is known as soft selling, and it's a core concept that many ad campaigns in Japan are built around. Japanese advertising often relies on a soft sell approach, using elements such as music, colors, symbols, aesthetics, and narratives to create a specific mood and atmosphere.

For example, when Toyota revolutionized their car when they incorporated beloved Japanese anime character Doraemon into their campaigns. The ads showed real-life actors playing the familiar characters, including French actor Jean Reno as Doraemon, and were a huge success across Asia. This shows how Japanese advertising can be effective without being pushy, relying on the emotional connections viewers have with characters like Doraemon to sell their cars.

This approach is particularly effective in Japan, where people have a deeper shared understanding about topics and ideas, reducing the need for basic concepts to be explained. And it's a strategy that has proven successful for many Japanese brands.

3. Going with the Seasons

Using Seasonal Advertising

AJ Marketing - Advertising in Japan: 5 Best Strategies for Success - 3. Going with the Seasons Using Seasonal Advertising

In Japan, it's not just the products and services that make an impact on the consumers, but also the way they are advertised. Seasonal advertising is a significant approach that advertisers use to connect with the audience in Japan. In a country with diverse seasonal celebrations and traditional holidays, advertising strategies that link promotions, commercials, and product development with seasonal themes are highly effective.

During the spring season, ads showcasing Sakura (cherry blossoms), bright colors, flowers, and nature with a sense of new beginnings and opportunities are very popular. In contrast, summer ads revolve around traditional celebrations, festivities, and "refreshing" products to cool you down.

In the fall season, advertisers focus on themes of warmth and coziness, autumn leaves, fireworks, and the colors of red, orange, and yellow. And finally, winter ads highlight family gatherings, special moments, luxury, and indulgence with Christmas and New Year's festivities, and even fairy tale scenes.

When entering Japan, keep a close eye on seasonal trends to create ads that perfectly align with the current festivities.

4. From Fairy Tales to Sales

Why Fantasy Elements Work in Japanese Ads

Japanese advertising often weaves elements of fantasy into their ads, creating a surreal experience that captures the imagination of viewers. This trend is largely influenced by the Japanese fascination with animation and manga, which allows for the creation of various imaginative scenarios illustrated by skillful graphic artists. This is in stark contrast to other cultures, where the use of such elements in advertising might be perceived as unrealistic or overly fantastical.

Take a look at the ads and marketing stunt of Yamato Transport. Yamato Transport introduced a new service that enables people to send small items through the mail. To promote this service, the company created a large, fluffy cat installation called the Vender Cat. By pushing the cat's nose, customers could obtain a small box to package their items. This campaign was well-received, and the unrealistic nature of the Vender Cat helped to generate a positive response among consumers.

5. Taking It to the Next Level

Using 3D Billboards to Stand Out in Japan

The competitive nature of advertising in Japan has pushed companies to come up with creative and innovative ways to capture the attention of consumers. One such technique is the use of 3D billboards that bring advertisements to life in a way that traditional methods simply cannot match.

A notable example of this is Nike Japan's commemoration of the 35th anniversary of the Air Max in 2014, where they designed a captivating 3D billboard outside Shinjuku Station in Tokyo. The billboard featured a larger-than-life orange Nike sneaker box that dramatically burst open to reveal a stunning array of Air Max styles in various colorways, offering a glimpse into the inspiration behind each shoe.

In addition to being eye-catching and attention-grabbing, 3D billboards in Japan also provide a unique opportunity for brands to showcase their creativity and innovation. By incorporating cutting-edge technology and design, 3D billboards can help brands differentiate themselves from the competition and build a lasting impression in the minds of consumers.


In conclusion, advertising in Japan is a unique and fascinating experience. The country's high-context culture, emphasis on subtlety and aesthetics, and love of fantasy and seasonal themes create an environment where creativity and imagination can thrive.

Japanese advertising consistently pushes the boundaries of what is possible in the world of advertising. Whether you're a business owner looking to expand into the Japanese market or simply a fan of creative advertising, there is much to admire and learn from in the world of Japanese advertising.

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