Amazing Marketing Successes In Ageing Japan

If you want to know what the future of marketing looks like for our rapidly ageing countries, observe Japan.

Japan’s total population as of September stood at about 127.54 million, and 56% are over 40. According to an estimate by the Japan Research Institute, senior households – where the head of the house is 60 or older – will be responsible for 40% of all consumption in Japan in 2009. What’s more, the senior market will jump 30% in 2025 compared to 2000.

On the whole, seniors are stuffed with material wealth and are looking for something deeper. An opinion poll conducted by the Cabinet Office found that 44% of people in their 20s are seeking material wealth, in sharp contrast with 66% of seniors in their 60s searching for mental happiness.

Here are some impressive marketing case studies.

  • In 2008, the eyewear market shrank more than 20% to slightly over 420 billion yen ($4.56 billion). NikkeiPurchases of reading glasses, however, have been surging among people aged 45 and up. Since 2007, the demographic has been outstripping younger consumers in terms of total glasses purchases.
  • At leading eyewear retailer Paris Miki Holdings Inc., reading glasses are expected to generate more than half the company’s sales this year.
  • The domestic market for adult disposable diapers was worth 150 billion yen in fiscal 2008 – on par with that for infants. NikkeiWhile the market for baby diapers has dwindled 10% over the past five years, that for adults has ballooned 40%.
  • Tokyo Disney Resort has been seeing more older visitors, with the 40-plus crowd accounting for 17.9% in fiscal 2008, up from 2.7% in fiscal 2003. Oriental Land Co., the operating company of Disneyland and DisneySea, has started selling a special Wednesdays-only pass for the parks for people aged 45 and older, priced at 5,100 yen.Nikkei
  • Middle-aged and elderly people accounted for 54.5% of Japanese overseas travelers last year, an increase of around 9 percentage points from 10 years earlier. JTB Corp. established a subsidiary specializing in senior travel in 2005, and sales skyrocketed 190% last fiscal year compared to fiscal 2006.
  • Women in their 50s who have seen their children leave home to study or get married are emerging as a major consumer power bloc. When they were younger, This fashion-conscious generation led waves of style trends, and now they have begun to spend money on themselves rather than their families.
  • Shidax Corp., which runs a karaoke chain and other businesses, also operates cultural centers and now offers 8,000 courses – up by 3,000 in five years. The courses range from music and dance to language and flower arrangement, and many are intended for adult women. Half of the classes are available during the day until 3 p.m.
  • Senior Japanese grow increasingly health conscious. Major gym operator Central Sports Co. has seen the proportion of its members aged 50 and up double over 10 years, reaching 44% last fiscal year. The company attributes the growth to the rising number of people spending their post-retirement free time at sports clubs. At Curves Japan, which runs some 770 women-only exercise centers around the nation, 60% of its roughly 250,000 members are 50 or older.
  • For Seven-Eleven Japan, customers in the 50-plus age bracket accounted for 26% in fiscal 2008. That percentage is more than double the 10% seen in fiscal 1993. In sharp contrast, the proportion of young customers in their 20s has declined to just 25%, a 12 point drop from fiscal 1993. To meet the needs of older customers, Japan’s largest convenience store chain started making price tags larger and shopping baskets lighter. Rival convenience store chain Lawson Inc., meanwhile, began expanding aisles and setting shelves lower. Many convenience store chains are rushing to develop prepared meals for seniors, especially bento box lunches. Wagashi, or Japanese-style sweets, are also occupying more shelf space.
  • Prepared rice packs are gaining popularity among seniors thanks to their ease of use – you just pop them into an electric oven for a few minutes. Frozen food maker Katokichi Co. boosted production of the packs by 20% in August. The frozen food maker has also started to sell prepared rice in 150-gram packs, 50g smaller than ordinary ones. Most buyers are in the 50-plus bracket.
  • With an eye on elderly people as well as singles, many foodmakers and retailers have not only made their offerings smaller, but have also started selling some products individually. Ajinomoto Co., for example, began selling three instant soup powders in individual packs.Major toymaker Tomy Co. has sold more than 170,000 of its talking Yumel, Nerul and other dolls since their launch in the fall of 2004, surpassing the hit-product benchmark of 100,000 units. The dolls detect voices and reply with a vocabulary of more than 1,000 words.
  • Major toymaker Tomy Co. has sold more than 170,000 of its talking Yumel, Nerul and other dolls since their launch in the fall of 2004, surpassing the hit-product benchmark of 100,000 units. The dolls detect voices and reply with a vocabulary of more than 1,0Nikkei00 words. According to toy retailer Hakuhinkan Toy Park in Tokyo’s Ginza district, most buyers are in their 50s and 60s
  • Since the launch in 1999 NTT DoCoMo’s bare-bones Raku-Raku Phone series, sales have topped 15 million units, on a par with 40% of domestic shipments in 2008.


Summarised from an article in the Nikkei Weekly.

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