#14 Marketing Blunders in Japan
I just found an older, but still good article about some interesting cases of failure of American firms in Japan: Knight, Gary A. (1995), International Marketing Blunders by American firms in Japan – Some Lessons for Management, Journal of International Marketing, Vol. 3, No. 4, 107-129. Knight writes about well known brands’ failures, including the big three US automotive manufacturers, Avon Cosmetics or Betty Crocker. It’s a well written piece which should be appealing to both academics and practicioners. What amazes me most about these companies’ blunders is the fact that we’re dealing with companies here which have all the human and financial resources needed to do things right. And yet, they ignore some of the basics. Many times it’s general knowledge about cultures (including, in the case of Japan, the status orientation or the collectivistic attitudes) which could be easily picked up and integrated into corporate strategies for market entry. So the question is, why don’t they do things properly and continue to fail in international markets?
November 22, 2013 @ 10:46 pm
It’s really important for foreign company’s to understand the Japanese culture before they enter the market. I think the Japanese market is one of the most difficult to enter for a foreign company and that’s why so many companies fail.
Especially for US companies there are a lot of difficulties, which they need to pay attention to. When we look at the results of Hofstede and compare the two countries we see why companies from America have their problems to understand the Japanese market. The United States is a country with lower power distance than Japan and Japan is a collectivism country in contrast to the United Stated which is a highly individualism country. Furthermore Japan has a higher result in masculinity and uncertainty avoidance. So the outcome of Hofstede’s research shows that there are big differences in each category between the two countries, which cause many difficulties for American companies in Japan.
Of course if the American companies have done their researches about the Japanese culture they probably had known how they have to act in Japan but I think when companies (not only American) are very successful all over the world they often forget that there could be a country where they have to act differently and so they do their researches not at all or only on the surface and that’s why most of the failures of international companies happen.
According to the example of Avon Cosmetics, the company failed in Japan because they also didn’t attempt their marketing strategy to the Japanese market. In the article of Gary Knight it’s mentioned that Avon choose to sell their products in Japan in the same way they do it everywhere else because they were very successful with this strategy in the past but Avon apparently haven’t done their research about the Japanese culture because in Japan door-to-door sales are not only not used they are also not desired because in Japan they don’t like to invite strangers to their home. Another problem was the product range. Avon launched their whole product range in Japan, but Japanese only know three categories of them and don’t want all the other things. Furthermore, in Japan it is almost the whole year very hot and the products of Avon are not made for this climate and additionally the scent of the products are too offend for Japan. Further problems were that Avon didn’t know about the bathing habits of the Japanese, which ended in a failure of their bathing products and they had a problem with the price strategy because Japanese like high product quality and for this they are willing to pay more but Avon has a low price strategy.
Avon is only one example of a failed company in Japan but it’s a good example because you can see on the problems of Avon that almost all of them could be avoided if they have done their research in advance.
November 11, 2016 @ 3:06 pm
The Japanese culture is very difficult to handle. Even when you as a company are prepared with market research data. This traditional focused culture is more than a few known facts and figures.
When you decide to compare this country and for example any extroverted culture like from the States or Great Britain, its going to be clear that a market entry is a very difficult procedure. For the most companys in the western hemisphere its easy to sell a standartized product worldwide. But Japan is there a bit different.
Like the the Avon i´d like to present another very reasonable example. A western car manufactorer tried to start selling his new model in Japan. They install retailer shops and license their product for others. They advertised in TV spots the new car. The problem was, these car model was to much of a sports car. The Japanese people would´nt accept it. For them it is to selfish to have a sportscar for themself as a middleaged man. He should have more like caravan or combi with fewer horse power. It was simple not acceptable for the people that someone could be so selfish. This company changed the spot a few months later and had much higher selling numbers than befor. Just because they changed it for a much friendlier family orientated audience.
The problem in generell is that western culture is more based on individualism and success than the eastern more family orientated collectivistic cultue. Its not always the generell prejudices that makes selling products difficult. Its the ignorance from a lot of people in management positions, who just dont want to addept the product in foreign countries because of several personal opinions.