Marketing Lessons From My Visit To Japan
Part 1: Begin With Quality
From the moment we arrived at the check-in counter for our Japan airline, All Nippon, the high quality of service was obvious. But you get this on most airlines, so aside from the polite bowing, and the beauty of the Japanese language spoken aloud, the experience was not yet unique.
When we landed in Japan, things really started to change. The bathrooms, oh the bathrooms in Japan are unparalleled by any I have ever seen. Every stall is completely clean, hardly even a shred of toilet paper is ever left on the floor. There are small containers for spraying sanitizer on toilet paper so you can sanitize the seat in a few quick seconds and sit down with peace of mind. Most public toilets also come with an internal spraying mechanism to clean yourself thoroughly before you wipe. Some of the nicer toilets will even play loud river rushing sounds through a speaker to give you privacy as you finish your business. The sinks and soap dispensers are the same as in most American public restrooms, except for two things, they are spotlessly clean, and each and every touch-less sensor, which are in the faucet not below, works instantly. You never have to stand there like ground control for a miniature world, waving your hands back and forth. In Japan, everything works the first time.
The train system in Tokyo and beyond are ingenious. The trains run on exact time. Shinjuku station, where we headed on our first night in Japan, is the busiest rail station in the world, with an approximate 3.5 million passengers passing through a day. But without hardly a word of Japaneses and zero familiarity with the different names for the subway lines, our family of 5 made it fairly easily onto the right train, following more than ample levels of signage each with English translations, safely through the massive crowd at our transfer and destination stations, and on to our hotel. Not only do the trains make sense, but the people progress orderly, with everyone generally staying to one side or the other depending on their direction of movement. No one is screaming and yelling, nothing has a bad smell, everyone is conscientious and efficient with their movements. Traveling by public transit in Japan can be overwhelming because there are so many options, but I began to look forward to it on each day of our vacation.
Our hotel experience had the same impeccable service, even with the language barrier. But not just from the front desk or concierge. Any staff who happened to share an elevator with you, or be leaving an elevator car as you entered it, would stay and hold the door open with their arm until everyone had boarded or exited, and then bow slightly as the doors closed, before moving on with their business.
The rooms were small, but felt spacious because of the efficient use of space. Tiny cubby holes cut into the wall worked to hold my charging my phone, or for my bottle of night skin cream. Nothing was broken, or even appeared used in between our family’s two hotel rooms. Which means either all the materials are made of high quality that can hold up to a high volume of use, or the staff was thorough and efficient at fixing anything out of place or broken. When I was checking over the room on our last day in Tokyo, I knelt down to look under the beds and decided to also check the drawer in the one bedside table. I found a small thin flashlight, plugged into the side of the drawer by a charging port on the side of the shaft, which both kept the flashlight out of the way and kept it always full charged. I took it out and used it to check under the beds, no doubt its exact purpose.
In the small traditional Japanese house we rented in the city of Kyoto, the mix of tradition and ingenuity gave us both the highest level of comfort and the attention to beauty of days gone by. There is a roofless rock garden built into the center of the house, reminding us of the importance of nature in our lives. The house was minimal, but important things like state of the art toilets, a powerful self locking front door, zoned heating and cooling and an entire room devoted to showering, luxurious bathing and viewing the rock garden. Our family of five instantly fell in love with this tiny house with its many simple and beautiful, paper walled rooms. But the pièce de résistance was the washer and dryer that are engineered into a single, unintrusive unit.
There are vending machines with an array of beverages peppered everywhere in Japan, even on small back streets in small towns by the coast. When traveling in Japan, you will never go thirsty. There are even special cards you can load with cash and use to pay at most vending machines, and also to pay for your train fare and for dinner or a beer at the corner convenience store.
Many restaurants reduce the number of staff needed by using kiosks or individual tablets to facilitate ordering, so they can offer table service without needing a designated waitstaff. At Japanese grocery stores, there is a long counter at the front where you bag your goods, in your own bags, after you have paid for everything. There is no staff hired to bag your groceries. However destination and official sites use extra staff to tourists to the top of an observation deck, foreigners through immigration, or travelers onto suspended monorail cars, creating just the right number of side by side lines to ensure the highest level of efficiency possible.
After only 3 days in Japan, I became a devotee of the convenience driven logic, absolute attention to detail and uncompromising commitment to quality of the Japanese. When, on the fourth day, our family visited a local mall to do some shopping I walked into a shoe store. The little ballet flats I’d brought with me, made by a company in Beverly Hills and costing an almost ridiculous $200, were comfortable in most places, but squished and hurt my toes after a full day of walking. I was in the market for some better, walkable dress shoes.
The shoe store was packed with over a thousand different designs. I found a few I liked and started to try them on, asking the staff in a mix of English and reading Japanese from my translation app, for my size each time. There were brands made in China, Italy, and I even saw one pair made in Peru. However, when I saw three simple words on a pair of loafers, “MADE IN JAPAN,” my search ended. I have no idea if the Japanese are known for making quality shoes, but I am such a believer in the quality infused in the culture, the Japanese could sell me almost anything at this point.
I am wearing the shoes now. They feel and look amazing. I would buy almost anything made in Japan, at least until my Samsung Oven stops working, and I will question whether Japanese quality extends outside of the goods actually sold in Japan. But for now, my trust in the “Made in Japan” label is unshakable.
Plenty of marketers try to overlook the importance of quality, and believe that their gimmicks and sales and persuasive tactics will do the heavy lifting. They are wrong. The cacophony of slimy selling, not to mention the ever growing skepticism of the public towards marketing messages, is all because too many marketers think they are smarter than their intended audience. They think they stand to win by dealing in shady half truths and impossible promises. This is not marketing as it should be. For marketing to actually help connect goods to the people who need them, to help grow a healthy economy, and to gain trust from prospective customers, the high quality of the product or service being sold, must be held in the highest regard.
Hi! I’m Annie Aaroe, a b2b marketing strategist. To find out more about story-driven, conversion copy and strategy that’s tailored for tech and SaaS brands, visit my website, aaroewriting.com, or shoot me an email at email@example.com.