Another day in Japan with free tissue


Article on TISSUE ads

Throughout cities in Japan you will find people handing out tissues on the street for free. Tissues come in little packs that can fit in the palm of your hand. These ‘pocket tissues’ have caught my attention ever since I moved to Japan. I never saw anything like this in my years living in the United States. Pocket tissues are available in the US and Europe but are not a commodity like in Japan.

This country is using pocket tissues as a form of advertising which is quite clever. With allergies and colds, people will always need tissues. At least one in ten people in Japan have allergies. Recently I conducted a survey about pocket tissues to see what the Japanese people think about my fascination.

The results both caught my attention and also reconfirmed some points that I forecasted before the survey. The survey was conducted by 500 panelists living in the busy Tokyo Metropolitan Area. Out of the 500 surveyed, 328 people (65.4%) get up to 5 packs of tissues a week. To my surprise, 143 people (28.5%) never take tissues from the streets. I always enjoy free tissues, but I see to many people this is not a necessity.

Within the 358 panelists that collect at least one pocket tissue from the streets, my findings show that 99% of the people use the tissues. About 10% of the panelists glance at the advertisement which is where the marketing may have an impact. Companies do not expect a large turnover from the tissue advertisement but rather expect to increase the awareness of a product. Less than 2 percent of the panelists contacted the company advertised, visited the home page, or the actual store.

There are various ads but the runaway Number 1 is Loan ads. In Japan these are called ‘sarakin’ ads and are targeted towards Japanese salary men. This seems like a clever idea knowing that salary men are expected to take out big loans in their lifetime whether for a home or other big purchases. Busy Tokyo streets are filled with salary men and are an easy target. In my findings, 43% of pocket tissue ads are loans or related to finance. Other runner-ups include Travel (4.4%), Real Estate (7.2%) and Adult content (13.4%).

After living in California, I was pleased to find that I will never have to pay for tissues in Japan! Every morning I run into at least one person handing out tissues on the busy Tokyo streets. My findings reveal that these ads do increase awareness of companies, but most people end their actions by solely using the tissues.

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