Why the successful global web services in Japan produce mascots
The reason why global businesses have a mascot in Japan
To have or not to have
The economy of Japan is the third-largest in the world (Wikipedia) that makes Japan as an attractive market for the international businesses.
However, winning business in Japan is said to be difficult and large numbers of international businesses have failed (Japan Strategy, 2013).
There are many factors to be considered when you analyse the failure, but when you study the winners, you will see there is one clear tool that they used; that is a mascot.
Kawaii rules the world
While Japanese businesses often have their own mascots, it is not always the case for the global businesses. Because, western people think kawaii mascots are for children, and therefore, using mascots for promotions is unsuitable if the main target for the business is adults.
However, Japanese love kawaii mascots. No matter how old they are, kawaii mascots can attract Japanese people. This is why having kawaii mascots is very important for business marketing in Japan.
So, kawaii may not rule the world but it rules Japan!
Local kawaii mascots for global web services
Here, I’d like to introduce some popular kawaii mascots that global services made in order to attract Japanese people.
Exbear is a clever traveller who loves freedom.
Exbear is a lazy bear and dislikes physical exercises; this character background contrasting his sharp movements in TV commercial and drew so much attention from the viewers.
— エクスペディア(Expedia) (@Expedia_Japan) June 13, 2016
Foxkeh was designed by Mozilla Japan to promote Firefox in Japan. It is not an official mascot, and therefore, it doesn’t appear to the default browser or Firefox product (Mozilla Japan, no date).
The design is a fox rather than Firefox that has a flame for a tail.
Firefox 12 Years birthday
Wapuu is an official mascot for ja.wordpress.org which was designed to promote WordPress in Japan. The idea of having a mascot was inspired by Foxkeh, a mascot for Firefox, which was already beloved by Japanese (Levesque, 2015).
UK Punk Wapuu
Wapuu was born to be a mascot to Japanese WordPress organisation however, it has become a global mascot due to its popularity.
What happens if there is no mascots?
Business can be successful without having a mascot. For instance, Yahoo and Amazon didn’t have mascots when they promoted their services in Japan, but their services are deeply accepted.
However, despite after years of Amazon and Yahoo’s successful existence in Japan, Japanese made mascots for them.
Amazon Pochi was designed for Amazon Jp’s 12th anniversary. Pochi is a classic name for a dog in Japan and it rhymes to the sound of click “pochit.” The dog has a smile symbol of Amazon that can be seen in logo.
Kensaku & Enjin
Currently there is no information about how and when these mascots were made. There is an official webpage where introducing mascots’ names as “Tansaku- search” and “Enjin- Engine” and their background.
If there is none, make one!
It seems Japanese people’s obsession with mascots cannot be stopped. They will make one if there isn’t any mascots. This shows importance of having mascots when you marketing in Japan.
Amazon (1996) 本, ファッション, 家電から食品まで
Evans, S. (2016) Punk wapuu
WordPress Japanese official character
Japan market entry: Why is it difficult? How to succeed (2013)
Levesque, T. (2015) Wapuu: Origins
Matsuo, J. (2011) 「エクスペディア」にクマのキャラクターがいるわけ
Mozilla Japan (2017) Facebook
Wikipedia (no date) Economy of Japan
Yahoo! JAPAN (no date) けんさく と えんじん