Letter from Tokyo: No growth doesn't mean no change

David Nichols

David Nichols reflects on Japanese women, earthquakes and ad agencies.

This year I have been fortunate enough to spend quite some time in Tokyo on a series of brand strategy projects. Two and a half months to be exact. The Japanese economy is stuck in neutral with 0.7% average GDP growth since 1992 and has dropped negative for the past two years. Yet, it is still one of the biggest consumer-goods markets on the planet.

Clichés are clichés because they are based on truth - karaoke, whisky drinking and strong hierarchical structures are commonplace here. But there is a lot of change in the air and quite an appetite for it. Thinking of launching your brand in Japan? Don't assume your marketing and positioning that works everywhere else in the world will work here - it probably won't. You will have to have a local team who understand not just the local competition but the cultural context for your product. For once, it really is 'different in my market'.