12.6% of Consumers Connected to Brands via Social Media Actually Use Digital Coupons

The Nikkei Marketing Journal (Nikkei MJ) reported today on the 2nd Nikkei BP "Successful Social Marketers Survey" (title translation by CarpeDiemJapan), whereby Nikkei BJ surveyed the top 200 companies ranked in accordance of the total number of followers or fans they have on Facebook and Twitter. Details of the survey will be published in the March issue of Nikkei BP.

Nikkei Digital Marketing conducted an online survey of 29,003 respondents from 8 January through 22 January 2013 to calculate a "reach score" and a "O2O action score" for each of the companies.  The "reach score" indicates how connected the company is with consumers measured by the number of fans and friends they have on social media, while the "O2O action score" shows how much the company was able to encourage consumers to take the online connection to offline store visits and make purchases.

In the first survey, UNIQLO was ranked No.1, but this time, Lawson moved up one slot to take the top place with a total score of 88.4.

Lawson ran a very successful viral campaign from 16 through 29 October 2012, the "Kara-age kun ? Flavor Challenge" whereby consumers are encourage to purchase a package of fried chicken marked "? Flavor - Can You Guess What It Is?"

image source: http://atsquare.jp/2012/10/lawson-karaagekun/

The package is clearly marked "limited quantities only" and on the back is a QR code to get into the campaign site

image source: http://atsquare.jp/2012/10/lawson-karaagekun/

Once the consumer is ready to tweet what flavor he thinks it is, he must (a) follow Lawson's mascot, Akiko-chan's account on Twitter and (b) use the designated hashtag to tweet the answer.  People who get it right may win some Kara-age kun goods. 

There were more than 6,200 retweets related to the Kara-age kun challenge. 

2nd this time was Starbucks (previously 5th), and 3rd was UNIQLO. MUJI took fourth place and Kentucky Fried Chicken took 5th. 

In the top 20 are seven fast food and F&B related companies, two convenience stores (Family Mart came in 11th), and two cosmetics companies (Orbis and L'Occitane). The fast food and F&B places are:
1. Lawson
2. Starbucks
5. Kentucky Fried Chicken
8. McDonald's
9. Subway
15. Domino Pizza
17. Hot Motto (hot lunch box vendor)
19. Mosburger
20. Coca Cola

Among those new to the top 5 that stood out were cosmetics brand Orbis, who used male models to introduce the cosmetics for women and Hot Motto, who built a reputation for sincerity by responding to each tweet and wall posting based on the business's drive to treat social network engagement as an extension of the face to face exchanges in store. 

Nikkei says it is already seeing a decline in the O2O action rate because 12.6% of the respondents to the survey said they actually made purchases as a result of receiving coupons or information through SNS, down from 16.6% in the survey conducted in 2012. 

With so much "noise" building up already around the SNS marketing platform, and LINE pushing coupons left, right, and center, it is hard for consumers to not become numb to receiving them. 

Here is but one example of LINE coupons from good old Colonel Sanders - it just makes me feel that (a) I would be pretty desperate or dumb to pay full price; and (b) why should I visit them when they are not offering coupons - the interval is about 5 days on average. (I wonder if they actually change their shifts in accordance with the coupon issuance... they could probably do with less staff when they have no active coupons...)

Earlier this year (on 8 January), it was reported in the Nikkei that McDonald's Japan saw a decline in turnover for the first time in nine years on an existing store basis. It may be interesting to note that McDonald's "Social Marketing Success" rank has increased from 8th to 5th in this survey. The Nikkei article noted that the lower prices brought in more foot traffic, but overall revenue in December 2012 fell by 8.6% over the previous year, and while the full year figures are not public, January through September figures were 2.2% lower than the same time the previous year and both October and November saw declines as well, so in overall, McDonald's struggled the whole year. 

As a pesco-veggie, fast food joints are not my favorite hangout, but they do help feed my cravings for coffee and with young children, the lure of the "Happy Meal" sets with toys has me in McDonald's more often than I would really care to admit. And I must say, when I received a voucher for a free burger, it made me wonder what business McDonald's is in. And they continued with the "60 seconds" campaign, which I did not quite understand the point of. If they failed to fill my order in 60 seconds, I get a free burger next time around... When my mother decided she wanted a shrimp cutlet burger, we automatically got the free burger voucher because we had to wait 3 minutes for it. We had the rest of the food to take to our seat with us and waiting 3 minutes did not inconvenience anyone - even McDonald's as they had us out of the queue just as fast as those who had their orders filled in under 60 seconds. But what seemed even more redundant was the free coffee voucher that came with every order that said, "because we were able to fill your order in under 60 seconds, next time have a free cup of coffee on us." Of course I did not say no to them, but what did that achieve for them???

So, I will admit first hand that I have become more immune to the attraction of coupons and vouchers that I receive through LINE or can retrieve on the official web sites. But at the same time, when there are no effective coupons, I feel cheated for having to pay full price. And that is probably not a healthy attitude for consumers to have towards retailers. But they trained me into thinking in this way, and they certainly seem to be paying for it. 


Gap vs UNIQLO - Japan's Version of "American Casual" Gives Insight To One Reason Why Gap Gains Because of UNIQLO and Not Rebekka Bay

I remember when I was General Manager of a fashion trends intelligence service where both Gap and Fast Retailing were clients and I had a first-hand observation of how Gap merchandisers in Japan see UNIQLO and vice versa.

The former claimed that the "disadvantage of UNIQLO is that one cannot create a total look with just UNIQLO, whereas Gap is about pulling together looks."

That was before Patrick Robinson came and left, and during a time when Gap was beginning to let go of prime real estate or shrink their floor space in prime real estate in Japan. It was also a time when it was obvious to those outside Gap that missing out on the skinny jeans boom really hurt, and their long lead times barely put Gap in the running for the second or third pairs of skinny jeans that a trend-conscious girl would buy. It was also a time when UNIQLO started appearing on the top of the "my favourite brands" list compiled by Japan's largest fashion industry daily, the Senken Shimbun, by asking fashion school students the question.

Fast forward six, seven years, and how ironic that Gap gains not because of creations by Rebekka Bay, but because of UNIQLO...

Personally, I had always been very surprised by how Gap chose to come to Japan with Gap first, and not Banana Republic when the latter's printed pocket T's were a much coveted item as "souvenirs from the U.S.," and their stretch cotton slim fit shirts were items to die for.

When Banana Republic finally landed here, and big banner ads popped up at Roppongi Hills, I felt it was too little, too late.

But then, the Japanese public is rather harsh on one of its favourite fashion statements, "the American casual style," because we have redefined the Japanese version of "American casual" to the point where true blue American casual brands really struggle.

J.Crew entered Japan in partnership with _the_ textile shosha (general trading company), ITOCHU, and even after securing a flagship store in the highly visible and heavy foot traffic locale of Harajuku, has had to retreat. Of course with 20-20 hindsight, it is easy to say that they had carefully taken every step in the wrong direction from their choice of partner to their merchandising and pricing.

Had they listened a bit to Yanai, Chairman of Fast Retailing, or even to another management guru, the founder of Kyocera, Kazuo Inamori, they would have taken to heart the importance of pricing as a "management issue" and not gone so off target.

And now that J.Crew is only available through online shopping and direct shipping from the U.S., it is a "hip" brand loved by fashionistas here...

Perhaps one of Gap's blind spots here is that their competition is not really the other American casual brands like American Apparel, who, by the way, is doing quite well, or even the fast fashion houses like Forever 21, who seems to be doing much better than the post-hype H&M.

And UNQLO was really only a part of the problem. While they refused to recognize UNIQLO as a competitor, they did see that if a consumer bout a pair of jeans at UNIQLO, they may be less likely to pick up a pair at Gap, too.

But the other part is that Gap's staples - the jeans, T's, and basic knits - are also the bread and butter in terms of profits for Japan's biggest names in select shops - BEAMS, United Arrows, Journal Standard, and so on. The private label basic T's by BEAMS and United Arrows that are purchased to go with the more designed imported items leave no room or need for a trip to Gap for the consumer.

The other iconic piece - the Gap white shirt, that is so touted by American fashionistas as a staple in their wardrobe, just doesn't have as big a place in the heart of their Japanese counterparts. I believe part of that is because of the "Y shirt" which is the uniform of the white collared workers here and whose word origin is said to be the "white shirt," is a formal item that people generally wish to move away from in their casual wardrobes. But when people need to do smart casual, men go for the Paul Smith or N.Hollywood versions that have a bit more "flair." As for women, those who choose shirts over blouses tend to shop at Margaret Howell or domestic brands.

So what is my personal take on what Gap can possibly do to gain in their own right (and not because FR may want to buy them)?

For Japan, I would comb through the entire range and look at (a) what the real profit generators are and (b) what are the popular pieces and if anything sits in both (a) and (b), do more of them. If there are (b) items that are not (a), then find out what are the attributes that make the times (b) and try to increase profitability. Yes, it is basic merchandising 101, but is it really being done?

Another thing is to harness the power of social marketing and create a hash tag like #gapfan if it is not yet there, and get fans to speak up about what their favorite pieces of the brand are, and so on. Run a contest - let the winner have the chance to win a Gap wardrobe or get featured in campaign or something. Let the social networking universe speak to the brand and for the brand. LINE is something they probably should try to harness here in that manner.

Yes, UNIQLO is doing a lot of that and more with UNIQLOOKS and the UNIQLO app and tie-up with SPUR and SPUR Online, but Gap should come up with their own version. Maybe they should also take a page out of Doc Marten's book and look into their tie-up with Lookbook.nu There are plenty of fashion snap sites here that they can run "spot the Gap" contests on...

Gap Gains on CNBC Report Speculating Fast Retailing Interest - Bloomberg


First NOKIA, Now Blackberry, Will HTC Follow?

The Nikkei reported today that Blackberry will stop selling handsets in Japan. 

The report has quickly gone viral as Reuters and Yahoo.com and everyone else has picket it up. 

According to the Nikkei, Blackberry's market share plummeted from a peak of 5% to 0.3% and it can no longer justify the cost of customizing the operating system for Japan. 

All Things D carried a comment from Blackberry's spokesperson, Amy McDowell saying "Japan is not a major market for BlackBerry, and we have no plans to launch BlackBerry 10 devices there at this time.” She added, “however, we will continue to support BlackBerry customers in Japan.”

Sounds just like how Motorola is operating right now. Motorola continues to sell models here, but stopped providing support for Japanese market specific models in 2009. 

When NOKIA stopped selling in Japan in 2008, I recall it was bigger news in China than it was here, sort of. By then, they had less than 1% market share, and Apple was stealing the show.

I personally liked having a NOKIA phone because (a) I was familiar with its user interface from using NOKIA phones in Singapore, and (b) no one else had them. (b) was good for me, but obviously not for NOKIA.

In December (around 27 December 2012 to be exact), rumours were abound that HTC would be exiting the market as there were no Japanese carriers mentioned in its product launch presentation for the HTC One. They had already announced their retreat from the Korean market in July last year, and given than Blackberry had announced in March that they would be pulling out of Korea, industry insiders and watchers saw a "recurring pattern."

One ranking shows that Japan ranks 7th in the world in terms of the number of mobile phone accounts there are and Korea ranks 22nd. However, I recall having discussions with NOKIA insiders when they were still selling here, that Japan actually ranks 3rd in terms of overall value of the mobile phone market because unlike China and India where the $100 or less models sell well, the higher end models do well here. And that was before smartphones became main stream. 

At the time of the comScore survey on market share in June 2012, Blackberry was lumped in with the "Others" category and no longer mentioned by name, according to All Things D. This, in a time where there were 24 million smartphones in consumer's hands. 

Both Japan and Korea are non-GSM countries with very unique commercial practices that stump outsiders. Both Japan and Korea are homes to domestic gadget champions like Samsung and LG for Korea; Sharp, SONY, and PANASONIC for Japan. 

According to Datacider.com,  who provides weekly reports on the best-selling smartphones, the winners during the week of 28 January through 3 February 2013 were:

(rank)  (model)                                        (carrier)       (previous) (change)
1iPhone 5 16GB(SoftBank)SoftBank1
2iPhone 5 32GB(SoftBank)SoftBank2
3iPhone 5 16GB(au)au3
4Phone 5 32GB(au)au4
6Galaxy S III α SC-03Edocomo6
9Xperia AX SO-01Edocomo8
10ELUGA X P-02Edocomo-

Note: 初 means "first time to appear in rating"
iPhone is self-explanatory, but AQUOS is by Sharp, Galaxy is by Samsung, P-01E and ELUGA are by Panasonic, and Xperia is a SONY brand. 

The fact that Samsung is doing well (hanging in at 6th from the previous week) is proof that not all non-Japanese brands are treated equally. 

As a personal fan of Blackberry devices (I even use a photo of me holding a Blackberry BOLD 9900 as my profile photo on LinkedIn at the time of this posting), I think they are lost. 

I follow them on Facebook and Twitter and the communication has been nothing but uninspiring at best and even repulsive at times - like when they posted a model that looked like she belonged in a Sports Illustrated swimsuit calendar as part of some odd message about enjoying the holidays or something. 

There was a little "urban myth" developing among working women in Tokyo that "women who use Blackberries are successful" for a while, but I reckon they have done a good job at killing that if there was more of that kind of communication! (The "urban myth" is like the one about how "women who drive Fair Lady Z sports cars are all stunningly beautiful.")

I have read and heard a lot about how Blackberry just couldn't get their heads around creating a vision to either be an enterprise device or to focus more on individuals. As a result, it was interesting to visually see the shift from Blackberries to iPads and iPhones among the traditional enterprise users like investment bankers and senior postal executives in the last 12 months. The sad and ironic thing is that every single one of my friends in those circles who have had to give up their company Blackberries in exchange for an iPhone or iPad told me how much they miss their Blackberries! - If only Blackberry knew. 

They should have stuck to their strengths. 
Like first and foremost, it is a bloody good phone! My iPhone is a phone in name only. I never use it for voice calls except when using Skype, LINE, Viber, and Comm - because those apps are either not available on Blackberry or seem to not work as well on Blackberry. 

My first thought this morning when I saw the Nikkei report was, "now I will have to decide what phone to get and whether to stick with Docomo or not."

Second of all, I may not be among the majority of the population here in that I travel overseas frequently for work, but when I travel, the Blackberry is much faster at identifying a local network to roam on than my iPhone. When I need to call family to say "I arrived safely. I love you. Good night," I do it on the Blackberry because often, the iPhone is still looking for a network even after my call on the Blackberry is finished. The Blackberry is also better at data roaming. When overseas, I often switch my iPhone off completely because I have trouble sending data out, thus defying half the purpose of data roaming. So far, I have never had that problem with my Blackberry.

Thirdly, the qwerty keyboard is much better for long business correspondence. Most of my friends who need to read and write lots of emails wherever they are say that with Apple, they need the size of the iPad screen to not get frustrated with the keyboard. 

Lastly, I personally loved it when certain states banned Blackberry because of the data security it offered; i.e. not letting the state crack into the data stream. That gave me comfort and a sense of security as a user. 

Industry watchers have written again and again about how NOKIA lost it when innovation was no longer about developing better hardware, but seeing the hardware as an enabler of services delivered through the software. That is why we refer to the devices now as "platforms" and not "phones."

I am very sad to see Blackberry go. But hey, unfortunately, I am just one of the 0.3% of mobile phone users in a market of 95% penetration who thinks so. The majority, it seems, won't really notice. 

Reference: The Nikkei 2013.02.08 Online edition

ブラックベリー、日本撤退 アップルに対抗できず  :日本経済新聞First


Photos with Your Heroes Anywhere Anytime - The Future of Artist Promotions?

Now my son can take photos with his favorite superhero anywhere, any time.
So long as he is wearing the BANDAI T shirt, that is.

The app is called NEXTPETS (pronounced "Nex-T-pets") and is available both for iOS 5 or later and Android.

Once the app is launched, focusing on the print triggers sound and a CG image (as well as the small print for copyright) to appear on the screen. The result is as seen here and as explained on the BANDAI site.

 One thing to remember is that the CG image is only visible in the correct relative size to the child, so you cannot really get close-ups. The child must fit into the screen with the superhero being his correct assumed height. (I did NOT get this right the first time as my son wanted a close-up of himself with the hero, and all we got was the sound and the copyright text. No hero...! I had to call BANDAI the following day after a thousand promises to my son that Mama will get it right the next day. I wish they had put this information on the label!And the video on how to use NEXTPETS is a bit misleading, too, I reckon.)

After a quick search, I learned that this is brand new technology, just announced on 20 December 2012, and the products hit the market on 26 January.

I guess it was pure luck that we happened to be shopping for school clothes in preparation for my twins starting primary school and the latest BANDAI gadget T shirt was available in the very same section of the store. (It must be popular because there were two colours and only two garments per colourway was available.)

The hero gadgets business is serious business here, and I guess everywhere that there are kids.

But here in Japan, we are having less and less children.

Just imagine if this technology was used to let bandies look like they are jamming with Mick Jagger or a Little Monster got to pose with Lady Gaga herself?

According to the global music study report by Music Matters + Synovate on Music Consumption in the Digital Age, "One Third of Americans and Brits would GIVE ANYTHING to meet their favourite artists/band" - well, how about buying NEXTPETS "infused" printed T shirts at the concert (the survey results say 19% of Ozzies, 18% of British, 17% of Spanish, and 16% of Americans LOVE buying a band's clothing), downloading the app, and posing?

How would that fare in this day and age where SNS rules?

There is talk in the music industry that 360-degree campaigning is the only future for the music industry since consumers are less and less interested in paying for a static image on a CD jacket  and physical media to own. I reckon this COULD be the next NEXT thing in music!

Note: If anyone from BANDAI is reading this, please remember you read this here, first!

And if BANDAI ever teams up with SONY or VICTOR here, I will definitely write about it!


5 Reasons Why 41 Million Japanese Users are Hooked on LINE

Popular Women's Magazine, "Josei Sebun" featured a story analyzing why 41 million users in Japan (and more than 100 million users worldwide) are hooked on Japanese free call/chat SNS, LINE by NHN Japan.

An application that offers free phone calls and e-mail, LINE is gaining popularity in tandem with the popularity of smartphones. According to NHN Japan, who operates LINE, there are now over 100 million users worldwide and 41 million users in Japan alone. 
"The attraction of LINE is that phone calls and email are all free. The stamps, which are upgrades from emoticons, are also a large contributing factor. These have increased the breadth of communicating through email," says IT writer Yuriko Ota. 

Registering as a user on LINE is simple, to the point where now 20% of users are in their 40s or older, indicating that LINE is not just for youths. Why is LINE so popular? Here are the five reasons Josei Sebun suggests. 

First of all, communication is very relaxed. Users love the relaxed, slightly comical nature of the images used for the stamps. (There are free and paid for stamps.)

"Emoticons until now were supplementary to the written words. For example, one might say 'I am working hard' and add a smile to it. However, when using stamps, the images tell a story in itself - with the situation or occasion and colorful expressions drawn in the stamps. Even for the expression of working hard, there is a wide range of stamps available that range from "working to the point of exhaustion" to "getting things done very effectively." In addition, every stamp has a comical nature to them that may offer a chuckle, which enables users to use them very casually," explains Ota.

Secondly, LINE makes email super convenient. LINE's messaging system displays exchanges in the form of bubbles. 
"The messaging history is very visually obvious. When responding to a message, one does not need to re-open the received message to check its contents. And the fact that it is free regardless of which mobile phone service the users are on is another added plus," adds Ota.

Thirdly, voice calls are free of charge. With ordinary calls between mobile phones, some can be as expensive as several tens of yen per minute. However, LINE enables free calls.

"If the voice call environment becomes overcrowded, sound may break up or there may be a slight delay, but there is no charge for the calls," says journalist, Atsushi Matsumoto.

The fourth appeal is the free games. LINE offers some free games, and the games service has been officially launched in November 2012. There is a sharp increase in users who are hooked.

"We currently offer 10 games and plan to increase this. First, we started as a way to get as many users as possible to use LINE," commented Tomomi Kaneko of the Web Services Headquarters of NHN Japan. 

The fifth and final point is in the coupons that are offered through LINE. There are many businesses and celebrities on LINE. Users can register businesses and celebrities as their "friends"to receive information and coupons. This is actually how LINE is able to offer the email and voice call services for free.

"We charge businesses who wish to provide information to LINE users in the form of an account registration fee and the cost of creating original stamps. These are key revenue streams for LINE," says Kaneko. 

### CarpediemJapan Observations and Comments ###

Here is a sample of a LINE coupon by KFC:

Valid for up to 3 sets per purchase per day!

500 yen is the largest denomination coin we have in circulation. 
So, a "one coin meal" has quite an appeal.

I just befriended "KFC" but I already received another coupon valid in February for a week. 

At the moment I see 28 official brands and services accounts:
Estee Lauder - says one can make personalized (name inscribed) lip stick
MUJI - offers coupons
AOKI - suits specialists offering coupons and Snoopy goods
AEON - retailer offers information on campaigns and mark downs
U-CAN - school offers special promotions for courses
Tamahiyo - brand of maternity and newborn babies publication and goods offers "chat" with the characters
Softbank - mobile phone provider offering campaign information and popular TVCF character stamps
NTT Communications - announcements on discount plans and giveaways
ANA 60th Anniversary - time limited account running campaigns offering chance to win free air tickets
Gulliver - used car retail chain offering special promotions
JINS - eye glasses retail chain offering information on campaigns and mark downs
PREMIUM OUTLETS - Outlet mall chain offering information on campaigns
KFC - as per above
Club Panasonic - offering unique stamps and campaigns infomration
Eyecity - contact lenses specialist offering coupons
Family Mart - convenient store chain offering coupons
Gyukaku - beef bowl fast food chain offering coupons
H.I.S. - discounted travel agency offering information on packages and other great deals
TSUTAYA - rental DVD and CDs chain offering coupons
au - mobile phone service provider offering information on its au smartpass and other capaigns
g.u. - low priced apparel retailer chain owned by Fast Retailing, who also own UNIQLO, offers spcial deals and promotions
Tokyo Disney Resort - offering information on events and promotions
Shiseido Watashi Plus - cosmetics manufacturer beauty community site offering information
GEO- rental DVD chain offering coupons
Matsumoto Kiyoshi - drug store chain offering coupons
Coca Cola
Lawsons - offering coupons to be used at its convenient stores
Sukiya - beef bowl fast food chain offering coupons

It seems, unlike TSUTAYA's CCC - Cultural Convenient Club - T-point card, there is no restrictions on who can hold official accounts on LINE. (T-point card initially kicked off with a "one category one company/brand" rule to make it more exclusive and "lucrative" for members of the T-point card family.)

News Post Seven 2013.02.03 article:
国内4100万人が利用「LINE」ここまで流行する5つの理由 - Ameba News [アメーバニュース]