2021.6.18 Column

Top 3 Most Popular 2021 Advertising Strategies in Japan

Japan’s place in the global cultural zeitgeist as the 3rd largest economy cannot be understated. As global markets recover from the shocks brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, Japan has slowly been embracing digital as the future of its competitive advertising strategy. With the global print advertising industry further declining since 2019 and demand for faster Internet access, more digital advertising, and an increase in the use of social media, it is no surprise that more key industry players are turning to digital as the surefire way to reach the masses. This uptick, while initially slow in Japan, is fast transforming how companies are presenting themselves to new prospective customers. However generational gaps in the domestic market as a result of the aging population are already presenting new challenges here in 2021.

The digital marketing revolution in Japan is transforming how numerous industries interface with their customers allowing them to interact with one another as fast as the touch of a keystroke. The rise of prominent social media influencers, brand Twitter accounts, increased accessibility to in-house recording studios for digital ad creation, and the wide variety of virtual events to choose from are all contributing to Japan’s steady upward growth in going digital with their marketing strategies.

Demographics are becoming more split over which social media platforms they are choosing to use. For example working professionals in their 20s to 40s have been using Facebook for business networking instead of using LinkedIn. This because LinkedIn never took off in Japan like it did in the West. However younger SNS users in their 20s are finding a home over on Twitter. These are social media trends happening now!

In this article we have listed up the top 3 most popular advertising strategies you have to be looking out for in Japan 2021!


1. SNS

Japan is famous for being a collectivist society but trends on social media are starting to tell a different story. Take for instance Twitter. The anonymity of being able to provide social commentary on a variety of topics anonymously cannot be understated. Since the pandemic started in 2020 58% more people have been making use of their Twitter account. Another surprising trend is that the number of female users in their 20s to 40s have been increasing.

 Number of Twitter users (Millions)

Twitter still remains the 3rd largest social media platform behind LINE and YouTube.

This marked change in shifting demographics is likely due to buyer concerns about certain products with many potential buyers getting information online from their peers before trying it out at a store and buying it. With this in mind we definitely suggest updating your brand’s Twitter page with a post at least 2 or 3 times a day.

Next up we have Instagram which has gained popularity in recent years with 80% of its most popular profiles being celebrities and influencers ranging from such areas as fashion, beauty, and music. Instagram has long been in a battle with TikTok but is slowly losing ground on account of it being a largely oversaturated platform. However fear not dear reader! Reels are still showing up more in the algorithm as a great way to get newly uploaded content out there fast at the top of everyone’s feed.

 Number of  Instagram users (Millions)

Women in their 20s and 30s are the highest user demographic by far on Instagram.

To make better use of Instagram as a digital marketing platform we suggest using Facebook Business Manager to customize getting your account in front of the right audience using the right interests, age range, etc. Also getting a prominent influencer in front of your marketing campaign can also help boost your brand awareness.

Last but not least this now brings us to Facebook. While still enjoying use by people over their 30s in Japan, Facebook has become something of an alternative to LinkedIn for Japanese business professionals. Unfortunately growth on the platform would likely have to lean heavily on ads to raise brand awareness targeting very specific age ranges like those below.

Number of Facebook users (Millions)
Male and female user demographics in their 30s and 40s are almost tied.

To find success in utilizing Facebook as a marketing tool we recommend appealing to various fan and business groups. These groups hold a lot of power for Japanese users as reviews and feedback for products and services are largely done using real user names, thus giving legitimacy to user feedback.


2.Video Ads

I am sure that many of you have experienced wanting to play something on YouTube and getting hit with a 5 second ad for something. Hear us out though! Video ads are a great way to promote a product or service. Yahoo! Japan mentioned in an article last year that to boost the search lift effect of ads the word “new”, celebrity image, and a character/mascot image were likely to find the most success online by getting users to see the ad. Clients have also expressed satisfaction utilizing Yahoo! Japan Display Ads (YDA) to advertise seminars and Search Keyword Targeting to pinpoint which users have shown interest in attending. 

Search Keyword Targeting allows ads to appear once certain keywords are used.

Eye-catching visuals and funny or interesting characters are always a prominent part of Japanese commercials. According to LinkedIn, the 3 core objectives of video advertisement are brand awareness, consideration, and conversion. In the context of the Japanese market a good positive image is key to winning hearts and minds.

Creating a positive impression means creating a clean stylish image possibly by having a celebrity mention how they use the product or service you are selling in their daily lives. The video ad should be shareable from Twitter and other platforms allowing for natural feedback generation. Additionally we recommend that by clicking on the video you can access the website of the product or service you are offering easily. Japanese customers want to see how others feel about your product beyond celebrity endorsement. They also are looking to see if it is economically sized and priced accordingly.

Timing when your target audience can see your ad is an additional bonus.

Alternatively, with digital platforms like  Instagram allowing for anyone to create videos for virtually next to nothing, 2021 is likely to see even large corporations turning away from large recording studios and large video advertising budgets. This will likely be due to the astronomic costs associated with video ad marketing. Therefore we strongly encourage companies to consider carefully what objectives are looking to be achieved through video ad creation here in Japan.


3.Virtual Events

It may be a no-brainer that large-scale in-person events with sprawling showrooms and multiple booths are going to be a challenge to pull off in 2021. We have already touched on how DBX2020 overcame the daunting task of holding a digital banking focused event in a separate article. The trend appears to be taking off with large event venues still be used but also with content going completely digital in its presentation.

Take for instance the annual Tokyo Game Show. For the 2nd year in a row the event is being held online for 2021. Though they are building on the success of their online format used in 2020 they are planning on expanding how the demos will be conducted and even promise a physical component where press can conduct interviews and influencers can have exclusive access to the latest game demos. This compromise between allowing limited physical access to the usual event space while also allowing viewers access to the same content via virtual access will likely become the norm going forward.

TGS2020 used a Jeopardy-style streaming schedule that instantly hooked viewers.

Tech firms have also been quick to move their company and industry-wide events online. Last year we here at Bigbeat were more than happy to help assist in further facilitating this process as we did with our partners over at Google Cloud Japan. The event consisted of sessions on the latest healthcare solutions provided by Google Cloud as well as discussing the recent challenges faced by professionals in the field. Each speaker participated remotely with Google Meet. We even provided recording support in-house at our very own Rockup! Studio! 

Recently Google Cloud has focused on the tracking of COVID-19 infection data


Given the success, virtual events seem like a great way to showcase software capabilities while providing real-time commentary. Afterward Google Cloud Japan expressed that such events would likely continue to provide high quality information not just to industry partners but also to end users. We could not agree more!

2020 saw many changes across the business landscape with some 2021 planned business trips and marketing ventures being already delayed or cancelled due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. To counterbalance this many companies are relying more and more on digital platforms to expand their brand awareness. Our list of the top 3 most popular 2021 advertising strategies in Japan shows that despite shifting age demographics and a slow initial start for transitioning over to more digital marketing, Japan seems to finally be embracing digital marketing as the powerful tool it was intended to be.

Japan’s continued expansion of its soft power globally will likely continue to be directly tied to how well businesses can integrate their online presence into their public image going forward. Costs associated with video production, editing, and distribution are slowly falling as filming advertisements and hosting digital events in-house are becoming more and more common practice. Social media visibility over multiple platforms will also continue to be a make or break trend for industries looking to expand their client base, especially overseas. In a world where the global radar is always on 24/7, Japan is doing its part to stay on the global business map. Stay tuned!

Bigbeat Inc. helps foreign businesses aiming to enter the Japanese market. If you need detailed information or assistance in participating in an event in Japan or for organizing your own event, please do not hesitate to contact us using the contact form here!

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