Geishas, temples, sushi, an ageing society. This is what Japan is particularly well-known for in Finland, but the country is also much more. Japan is currently the world’s third largest economy and one of the technologically most advanced countries in the world. Japan has 127 million consumers with purchasing power who enjoy consuming and a consumer-centred life-style. Although the Japanese are extremely demanding and quality-conscious, they are also keen to try things out.
The Japanese consumer markets offer considerable growth possibilities to many companies, including the Finnish ones. However, it does not pay to try to make money quickly in Japan. The business environment in Japan is very competitive and it is also not easy to gain popularity among Japanese consumers. Therefore, a company that aspires to enter the Japanese markets must do its homework well and reserve enough time and resources to enter the market.
‘It doesn’t pay to set off for Japan if you don’t know what you’re doing there or to look for easy money. It is essential to be patient and work hard. It is also important to find local collaboration partners who can provide the necessary contacts and knowledge about the market,’ says Professor Arto Lindblom from the Aalto University School of Business.
Bold examples of new collaboration are emerging all the time. Both Reaktor and Rovio set up an office in Japan as early as in 2013, and the mobile game Angry Birds Fight! has been developed in collaboration with the local developer Kiteretsu. As regards small Finnish design companies, they have long been able to sell their products in Japanese department stores with help of their local collaboration partners.
‘Right now, many companies particularly in the field of creative industries would find opportunities in the Japanese market. It is true that Finnish design, game expertise and music are already exported to Japan today, but their share of all exports to the country is regrettably small. There would be a lot of potential especially among small and medium-sized companies in creative industries, explains Miikka J. Lehtonen from the University of Tokyo i.school.
In addition to traditional knowledge about marketing and consumers, a breakthrough in Japan requires in-depth understanding of how the Japanese consume fashion, entertainment and other cultural products. It is also important to know what kind of factors steer the development of the creative economy in Japan. The joint research project launched by researchers at the Department of Marketing at the Aalto University School of Business, the unit of Economic Sociology at the University of Turku and the University of Tokyo i.school will attempt to explore this context of the creative economy and consumption in Japan. The project is funded by the Yrjö Uitto foundation.
‘This project is an exploration of the Japanese way of life and consumership. During the project, we will produce rich new information about Japanese consumers, and aim to analyse in different ways what Japanese consumer behaviour is like and how it is linked to economic, social and cultural factors,’ says Taru Lindblom, Postdoctoral Researcher of Economic Sociology at the University of Turku.
Professor Arto Lindblom
Aalto University School of Business
Department of Marketing
Postdoctoral Researcher Taru Lindblom
University of Turku
Assistant Professor Miikka J. Lehtonen
The University of Tokyo i.school