In Japan, Kit Kat decorates Tohoku train with messages of support

In Japan, Kit Kat has launched World Variety, a new multi-pack with three Kit Kat flavors from around the world. With each purchase Kit Kat is donating 20 yen to the Sanriku Railway, a vital lifeline for many Tohoku coastal communities, which were heavily damaged by last year’s earthquake and tsunami. With the reopening of a key section of the railway line this month, the brand is also decorating the outside of trains with messages of hope and goodwill from Kit Kat fans around the world. Fans can submit messages of support in their language to the brand’s Facebook page.

We called this initiative Kit Zutto Project to let people in Tohoku know we will be there for them: Kitto means “surely” and zutto “for a long time.” Last July, we posted about Kit Kat selling a special Northern Japanese flavor nationwide, with Nestlé donating a portion of sales to the Japanese Red Cross.

‘Schick Unplugged’ helps Japanese shavers cut power use

After last year’s earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster in Japan, nuclear power was shut down, and Japanese citizens were forced to cut back on power use. In response, Schick and JWT came up with “Unplugged,” a small holder that reminds people not to use electricity (by blocking the electrical outlet) and provides a place to hang a razor at the same time.

The shaver and holder were sold together in promotional packs to make them more accessible to all consumers. Outlets in public bathrooms and those in restaurants and bars were hijacked to convey the message that “Schick saves electricity with you.” Leaflets with general energy saving tips were also part of the campaign.

The brand gave consumers a novel and easy way to adjust their behavior at a time of high anxiety and showed support for the common cause of saving electricity.

Photo Credit: JWT


昨年の震災後、原発が停止。深刻な電力不足から、日本国民は節電を強いられることとなった。そこでシックとJWTは、「アンプラグド・ホルダー」を発明 – カミソリを立掛けると同時に、コンセントをふさぐ機能を併せ持つ。



AnxietyIndex: September poll finds Japan seeking stronger corporate and political leadership

The second in our AnxietyIndex series on post-quake Japan shows that many Japanese feel the March disaster exposed deeper problems the country had avoided facing previously. The survey, fielded Sept. 9-13 among 500 adults aged 18-plus, found that the percentage of Japanese who feel “very nervous or anxious” actually increased significantly since our April 2011 survey—from 30 percent to 46 percent. This is partly due to a strong sense that the disaster proved Japan’s political system is eroded (78 percent of respondents agreed) and showed that Japanese companies are becoming less globally competitive (60 percent).

The government has not convinced the people of its leadership abilities—anxiety has spiked over its failure to provide consistent, reliable information, especially in regard to radiation risks—with just 27 percent of respondents agreeing the government is capable of steering Japan through the crisis. By contrast, 61 percent trust what big corporations have been doing to help. Brands have a significant opportunity to help fill the leadership void with decisive actions and untainted information. For brands that can engineer a positive change from business as usual, the rewards will be significant, given the nation’s sentiments.

To download the full report, click here.

Muji markets emergency kits in Japan

For many, the most anxiety-provoking aspect of earthquakes is the fact that they can strike anywhere at any time, leaving no opportunity to prepare. Japanese lifestyle brand Muji is helping shoppers plan for the worst with its “Itsumo, Moshimo” (Whenever, Whatever) campaign. Shortly after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, the retailer created a website illustrating how a number of its products could be assembled into emergency preparedness kits, preserved-food storage bins and furniture fasteners. Muji says the kits allow owners to “live daily lives comfortably, but … also prepare for the event.”

The suggested kits for work and school resemble a translucent briefcase, while the children’s kit is an easy-to-carry cotton backpack. Designed with various evacuation locales in mind, they’re packed with an array of emergency products (rope, LED flashlights, batteries, bandages, etc.), as well as a compressed T-shirt and towel to help disaster victims freshen up and coloring materials for children—taking a holistic approach to emergency preparedness. Recently these products, alongside instructions on how to use them in disaster situations, were featured in Muji’s six-week-long “Jishin, Itsumo” (Earthquake, Whenever) exhibit, the second time the retailer has held the event (the first was in 2009).

With seemingly daily reports of devastating natural disasters and terrorist strikes across the globe, many of us are on edge. While we’re powerless to do much, Muji’s efforts smartly provide some peace of mind by arming citizens with useful and nicely designed tools, without pinning a fatalist cloud above their heads.

Photo Credit: www.muji.net/store

From marriage to meeting neighbors, Japanese look to build bonds post-disaster

One of the anxieties that has grown in the wake of Japan’s earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster—one that often follows traumatic experiences—is a fear of being alone. Evidence points to a rise in weddings and engagements: McKinsey & Co.’s June report on Japan’s luxury market says this has helped keep sales of watches and jewelry strong. For example Ginza Tanaka, a major jewelry company, reports that sales of engagement and marriage rings jumped 20 percent year over year in April and May. Takashimaya, the department store, has “never seen anything like this” in terms of ring sales, an employee told The Financial Times. And according to O-net, a popular dating service, marriages among female members have increased 30 to 40 percent and enrollment requests have spiked 40 percent since May in Kanto and the Tokyo metropolitan area.

People are coming to more deeply recognize the importance of not only family but other types of “kizuna” (bonds/ties). My next-door neighbor here in Tokyo, whom I hardly know, gave me some rice and mineral water in the period after the earthquake when supermarket supplies ran short (many parents living in the western part of Japan, which was not affected, were sending goods to their children, but my parents live in Tokyo). I was happy to make a new “kizuna.” We can expect to see continued demand for and consumption of products and services that promote “kizuna” between people other than family, and marketing messages that tap into this idea.

Photo Credit: Lel4nd

結婚や隣人とのつながり – 日本人は震災後「絆」を求めている

越賀淑恵 (東京)

3.11の震災は、その経験自体のトラウマ以外にも、「いざというときに独りでいたくない」という不安を多くの日本人の心にもたらした。その裏付けの一つとして結婚や婚約関連の消費が震災前と比較して伸びており、マッキンゼー・アンド・カンパニーの6月の調査結果でも宝飾品市場が上昇。例えば、宝飾品大手のGINZA TANAKAによると結婚指輪と婚約指輪の売り上げが4月と5月で前年比の2割アップ、高島屋でも関東の店舗で前年比3割増え、売り場担当者は「このような例は今まで見たことがない」とフィナンシャル・タイムズに語った。そして結婚紹介所のO-netでも成婚に至った会員女性が3~4割増え、入会の資料請求も関東・首都圏で5月以降4割増えているとのことである。


With Northern Japan flavor, Nestlé adds emotional impact to Kit Kat purchase

Following the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami in Japan, Nestlé customer service got calls from consumers saying they would like to support the victims with Kit Kat. The precedence was Kit Kat Mail, an award-winning 2009 initiative (from JWT Japan) that allowed people to send a good luck token and a personal greeting to exam-taking students right on the Kit Kat package. So in late May, Nestlé started selling “zunda flavor” Kit Kat nationwide—the product had been available only in Northern Japan, where zunda (green bean paste) is a traditional sweet and where tourists would buy it as a souvenir. It costs 10 yen (about 12 cents) more than regular Kit Kats, and Nestlé is donating this portion of sales to the Japanese Red Cross.

Nestlé had already been sending supplies to victims but hadn’t planned a product to support the victims emotionally—one that allows purchasers to “support and cheer for people they care for with Kit Kat,” as the wrapper copy states. The product makes customers think about the Tohoku victims and encourages a more emotional bond. This represents a new way of supporting victims, allowing Nestlé to utilize Kit Kat’s brand value to make support and donation activities a little more relevant and impactful. It is a simple yet meaningful way for Nestlé to use a core strength to bring more emotional impact to its contributions.

Power saving is fun

Due to the energy shortages caused by Japan’s Fukushima nuclear power plant accident, Tokyo residents are focused on overcoming the summer season’s power saving challenge. The government is promoting the idea of wearing cooler, casual clothes such as aloha shirts and shorts in business settings, a campaign called “Super Cool Biz.” And home appliance manufacturers and electronics retailers are promoting “nostalgic” electric fans (which use less power than air conditioners) and energy-efficient LED light bulbs, turning the situation into a business opportunity.

Interestingly, Tokyo residents have started to enjoy these lifestyle changes. Although there are inconveniences, people also find it fun “going back to the good old 20th century culture” before air conditioning was everywhere, reverting to old-fashioned solutions. I shaved my 4-year-old son’s head, as he feels cooler with less hair. And people are competing with neighbors to see who saves the most energy.

One of the strengths of the Japanese is that they are essentially adaptable, able to roll with the punches and make the best of anxiety-provoking situations. It is important that companies and brands keep looking for ways to engage consumers in an upbeat way and help them see the upside of their current circumstances.


高橋 直哉 (東京)




Companies give consumers easy way to help Japan via one-click donations

In the wake of the Great East Japan Earthquake, many companies implemented “one click” donation programs that allow easy/casual contributions online. Clicking a company’s banner or site button prompts a 1 yen donation (12 cents); the mechanism allows one click per day per person, so people who want to make more of an impact are motivated to visit the site daily. Unilever, for example, offers opportunities to support the affected area through clicking, tweeting, and donation matching (Unilever matches users’ donation yen for yen). As of late July, Unilever’s “Small Actions, Big Difference” website has generated 7 million-yen donation in total (2.4 million yen from one-click donations).

Many consumers may feel guilty about not donating more to disaster relief, and the simple, easy click may help assuage that feeling. The mechanism helps people feel they are a small part of a bigger, cumulative effort that can make an impact—an ongoing trend we termed Collective Consciousness. Brands could use this tool to make a social contribution while enhancing their image and recognition in a way that doesn’t feel overly contrived.


高村 実穂 (東京)

東日本大震災後、ネット上のバナーをクリックするだけで募金ができる「クリック募金」を様々な企業が採用している。クリックするとその企業、もしくは協賛している企業が、代わりに1円寄付するというもの。1日1回しかできないため、たくさん募金するためには毎日サイトを訪れる必要がある。ユニリーバはクリック募金だけでなく、ツイッター募金(つぶやくだけで1円募金)やダブルチャリティー(ユーザーからの寄付と同額を同社が上乗せして寄付)も展開 – 「ユニリーバ東日本大震災募金」サイトでは、7月下旬現在で、すでに700万円が集まっている(うち240万円がクリック募金)。


‘Green curtain sets’ take off in Japan with summertime energy shortages

Japanese people had great interest in addressing energy issues related to global warming before the earthquake, but habits are hard to change. Now, shortages of electricity for the hot summer have forced the issue. PLANT to PLANT is one innovative solution: In June, seed and plant farmers from Fukushima—within the nuclear power plant’s evacuation area– started nationwide distribution of a “green curtain set,” which includes a bitter gourd nursery plant and a planter. A green curtain is an energy conservation method—plants outside a building help keep inside temperatures down. Bitter gourd can also be harvested as a summer vegetable. Rakuten, Japan’s largest online retailer, reported that sales of green curtain kits are up ninefold this year, according to Businessweek. Companies like Hitachi and Kyocera are undertaking similar initiatives, giving seed kits to employees as well as planting around their facilities.

People here are becoming more open to the wisdom of old times and the power of nature vs. unquestioned reliance on limited resources. Many of the paradigms for energy use will likely change as Japan finds a new way forward. Brands that can offer sustainable, nature-based, tradition-inspired solutions that also help people maintain the lifestyle they’re accustomed to stand to make a lot of headway.

Photo credit: rockriver


山田 詩津 (東京)


Japanese travel agency HIS gets buzz with special rates for disaster victims

Thousands of people were left homeless by Japan’s earthquake and tsunami, most of whom struggled with enormous stress living in crammed evacuation sites. To help them escape for a while, HIS, one of Japan’s major travel agencies, began offering disaster victims overseas exclusives in late March. People could travel to destinations around the world for as long as two weeks to a month, paying special low rates ranging from ¥50,000–¥90,000 (about $600–$1,100), which included flight, accommodation and breakfast. HIS took care of all paperwork, including replacing lost passports. By the end of April, all the packages had sold out.

Many companies have done something to help the victims, mostly making donations and sometimes donating a percentage of sales, which enables consumers to help too. HIS’s initiative was unique in asking actual victims to buy the company’s product. Since the prices were so low, however, it was seen as a contribution to recovery efforts that was unique to HIS and the category.

Ever since the Tohoku earthquake, it has became the norm for companies to contribute to disaster-relief efforts, purely as a “social obligation” rather than a branding activity, given the risk that overt marketing around such efforts be seen as “hypocritical commercialism.” But since the HIS plan benefited victims both functionally and emotionally, there was no criticism. Using the company’s core competency and at the same time dealing with its inevitable overstock of vacation packages resulting from the disaster, HIS gained more public recognition than it would have with a typical cash donation. This is a great example of addressing both a business problem and consumer need at the same time.

Photo Credit: http://www.his-j.com/Default.aspx

H.I.S. 被災者向けの海外長期滞在プランを格安で提供

柴山 一人 (東京)