JAPAN: Mobile Internet shakes up Japan

In Japan, mobile Internet services are offering marketers new ways to target specific demographic groups as well as offering consumers easily accessible and fun promotions.

The mobile Internet is adding fizz to Japan’s sales promotion industry.

An innovative promotion designed by Ibex Corporation for Kirin Beverage’s Fire canned coffee has helped the brand become a serious player in the largest sector of Japan’s soft drink industry.

Under a sticker on the can is the URL for a site on NTT DoCoMo’s i-mode service and an eight-digit number that you key in once you reach the site. Once this is done, coffee drinkers can play a high-low card game. Three wins in a row and you can claim a prize.

The gratification of playing and winning that the i-mode connection provides contrasts with the usual routine for on-can promotions, which typically require people to collect stickers and mail them to a redemption centre. Gamblers can play as often as they like, but each attempt requires buying a can of Fire.

The interactive service that the mobile Internet provides quickly engages people in promotions. The Ogilvy “Treasure hunt USA” i-mode promotion for Northwest Airlines lets surfers compete in a trivia quiz to win free tickets to the US. The entrants who registered with Northwest could also win frequent flier miles and other prizes. Over 100,000 people were playing the game after the first week.

There is also added value for brands that use the mobile Internet to target key groups of consumers. Hall’sí a Warner Lambert throat lozenge, has its highest demand in the early part of the year, when the air is at its driest and hay fever is most prevalent. MindShare Japan arranged for the brand to sponsor a specially created pollen alarm and information service on the Weather News Interactive (WNI) service on i-mode. The service delivers location-tailored pollen warnings at a time chosen by users each day.

For cosmetics makers, too, there is beauty on the mobile Internet.

Shiseido.mode gets over a million hits a month, mainly from 10to 29-year-old females. The site enables users who register to get free samples of cosmetics from the Shiseido range. It also has sections for specific groups. For instance, one sub-menu, “Message from the body”, offers beauty advice based on the changing hormone balance during a woman’s menstrual cycle.

L’Oréal’s i-Lancôme site is also used for promotions. One two-week promotion rewarded people who bookmarked Lancôme’s i-mode page with a vanity bag when they bought mascara at a Lancôme outlet. Over half of the customers who participated were new Lancôme customers. Since the brand lacks Shiseido’s universal distribution, I-Lancôme’s Store Locator menu is important in helping consumers find the brand and join the promotions.

J-phone, an i-mode challenger, is to introduce a phone that adds the third dimension to mobile marketing. An advanced graphics engine will enable users to rotate images on a high-resolution colour TFT screen. Initially to be used for games, the technology will also help marketers showcase their wares in the future, according to a J-phone spokesperson.

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