Summary

In Japan, university students applying for jobs are governed by strict unspoken rules that forbid showing even a trace of individuality. They are expected to attend interviews wearing the same plain outfits and with their hair and makeup styled in the same neutral manner. By creating a provocative recruitment campaign that encouraged applicants to attend interviews looking like themselves, cosmetics maker Isehan attempted to both enhance its image as a brand that champions individuality and also push for social change.

Problem

In Japan, students simultaneously begin applying for jobs on March 1st, a month before the beginning of their final year, and are expected to attend interviews wearing the same plain outfits, hairstyles, and makeup. A room full of job applicants often looks like a gathering of lookalikes, even at companies in creative fields such as fashion and TV production. A major reason is Japan's cultural aversion to standing out—fearful of not getting a job for looking even slightly different, students are not willing to take such a risk. Surveys indicated that a majority of university students considered these unspoken rules to be restrictive. To battle against this convention, Isehan – a 190-year-old cosmetics maker and champion of consumers' right to express themselves – decided to organize a job recruitment campaign encouraging applicants to come to their job interview looking like themselves.

Research