Editorial and Marketing Calendar for successful promotion in the Japanese market

I’ve been working with many clients as a freelance translator and freelance marketing campaign localization specialist, and along the way I’ve noticed three things about editorial calendars and marketing calendar.
First, the businesses who use this type of calendars are more successful. Second, not many businesses use them. Third, almost no businesses localize editorial calendars and marketing calendars.

It is not too much to say that a good editorial calendar is key to successful content marketing. Content marketing is a long-term strategy and managing long-term strategy needs tools.

Using a marketing calendar is equally or even more important than using an editorial calendar. It takes only a few hours to write a simple blog post but preparing a marketing campaign takes several weeks for preparing graphic design, copywriting, store decoration,etc…Marketing calendars are essential for the success of such campaigns.
People of different faiths and cultures celebrate the same holidays in many different ways, and have significantly different holidays. In Japan, we celebrate Christmas but we don’t celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. Christmas is less about Christianity, love or family and more about the buying expensive gifts and making businesses happy. New year is a much bigger holiday in Japan but unlike western countries, we never see fireworks in Winter. We associate fireworks to summer.

Localized marketing and editorial calendars will help your business achieve a successful campaign with a more accurate targeting and a right delivery timing.

After reading this article, you will be able to plan more efficiently your seasonable promotion and inbound marketing strategy and design more appealing graphics.

January is the hottest marketing time in Japan

January is both the coldest and hottest time of the year. Between the end of January and the beginning of February are the lowest temperatures in Japan. Okinawa, the Hawaii of Japan, can be around 15 °C. In Hokkaido, Alaska of Japan, temperatures can drop to -30°C.

However, January is the hottest marketing time of the year. White-collar worker (commonly called salaryman) receive a winter bonus equivalent to 1 up to 5 months of their salary.. Additionally, children receive a new year allowance called Otoshidama on the first of January.

Many businesses see this as a marketing opportunity and launch their new year’s campaign.

New Year

While their western counterparts enjoy partying and drinking in new year’s eve and spend new year’s day suffering from hangover, this celebration is more traditional and homey in Japan.

Nowadays clubbing and countdown parties are getting popular, but many people go back to their hometown, eat traditional food and spend time with their family in front of their TV.

Unlike western countries, you never see fireworks in Japan during new years. Firework is summer related event in Japan. Consequently, greeting cards with pictures of drinks and fireworks, one of the popular new year post card design in western countries, are much better suited for summer celebrations in Japan.

Nengajo

It is not very common to send birthday cards or christmas cards in Japan but new year’s greeting card called Nengajo are more common than Christmas cards in the western world. 3,022,852,000 new years greeting was printed in 2015 according to Japan post. Young people tend to spend new year’s greeting stamps via the popular smartphone communication app LINE.

Nengajo often has the Japanese zodiac animal  of the given  year. Nengajo has usually particular sets of designs, based on tradition. Calligraphic writings are used  to wish happy new year as well as designs like Seven Lucky Gods, Fuji-san, cherry blossom (because January was part of Spring in the old calendar), cranes, Pine, bamboo and plum.

Many sales representatives from different companies send send Nengajo to their clients, and some businesses also sends new year greeting cards  to their users.

New Year Sales and Lucky Bags.

Fukubukuro

Every shopping mall has huge sales during January called  “First Selling” or “New Year Thanks to Customer Sales” with small variations on this concept such as “New Year Big Thanks to Customer Festival” .

Fukubukuro (福袋, “lucky bag”, “mystery bag”) is very popular during this period, both in shops and in e-commerce. They are usually filled with unknown random or themed content and sold for about half the price of the value of the whole package. This discount is made as an effective advertising to attract more customers to shop at those stores.

Seijin no hi (Coming-age day)

Coming-age ceremony day is a public holiday which celebrates young people turning 20 years old and becoming adults. It’s not the most exciting event for marketers but it provides a good  topic for writers.

In Japan, one is allowed to smoke, drink and vote from age of 20. Young people are also  obliged to start paying their pension from 20.

Many retail stores have sales of products that are relevant to the Coming-age day, for example alcohol, business book, suits, etc….

February is exam time

February in Japan is a month of school exams. Most universities, high schools, and Junior high schools have year-end exams. Many universities and high schools also have their entrance exams between the end of January and the end of February. It is only after this intense period that students can enjoy  spring vacation, travel abroad, work part-time or prepare for a new stage of their life.

February does not have across-industries kind of promotion opportunities. It has nevertheless industry-specific promotion opportunity including Valentine’s day for sweets businesses, and Setsubun for foods. Cold and dry weather boosts sales for the medical business. You see many people wearing a clinical mask in Japan during winter.

Setsubun

Setsubun literally means ‘seasonal division’ and is used only for the transition from Winter to Spring. It is still a very cold part of the year and most people don’t really consider it to be Spring yet.

 

Setsubun is not a very big event marketing-wise to all businesses. It is only promoted by the  food industry which opens the door to many seasonal marketing opportunities.

Valentine’s day

On Valentine’s day in Japan, women give chocolate to men. The custom was promoted by sweets industries. Chocolate giving is popular among younger people from 10 to late 30s. There are two kinds of chocolate, Honmei (本命) and Giri (義理) : respectively the love gifts and the courtesy gifts.

March is the month before April

March offers so many marketing campaign opportunities and so many topic to write. The school year starts in April. The fiscal year of many companies starts in April. Real spring as in climate starts from April. March is in many ways, the month that opens to April.

As mentioned earlier in this post, the end of January to the end of March is a time for many people to prepare for a new stage of life: new school, new school year, new job and new place to live. There is also the change of season from winter to spring. As a consequence, the demand for furnitures, home appliances, and clothing is the  biggest in spring.

Hinamatsuri

Hina matsuri

Hinamatsuri is celebrated every year on the 3rd of March. Known as Doll’s day or Girl’s day, its celebration features ornamental dolls representing the Emperor’s family and court dressed with the standards of the Heian period.

White Day

White Day is the reverse of the Japanese Valentine’s day. Men who received chocolate as gifts for Valentine’s Day are supposed to, in turn, give women presents such as chocolate, sweets, jewelry or even lingerie. Those presents are expected to be twice or three times the worth of the ones they received themselves.

Vernal Equinox Day

Shunbun no Hi is a shintoist celebration and a public holiday in Japan that takes places around the 20th or 21st of March. On this day, people commemorate ancestors as well as they celebrate the shift of season and the advent of spring. Families visit their forefathers’ graveyard together with flowers. Religious ceremonies can also take place.

Hanami season

Hanami

Hanami is one of the most popular events in Japan. This custom consist in taking time to enjoy and admire the unfolding of the flowers (“hana”), mainly those of the famous cherry trees, but also less commonly those of the plum trees. Gathering under the blooming trees to picnic and drink alcohol is the most common way to celebrate this phenomenon.

April is a new year.

New life sales

April is a time of transition. In Japan, the new school year starts in April. Many freshmen university students from small towns move to college dormitories or to small apartments in big cities. The same goes for new grads, moving from their hometowns to work for companies in big cities like Tokyo. April is therefore the first month of the new school year of elementary schools, junior high schools, high schools, universities and the first month of most companies’ fiscal year (31%).*

Young people prepare for this new stage of their life a few months ahead, from January or February, buying furnitures, suits and making home appliances.

 

April provides marketers with many opportunities to deliver marketing campaigns and provides writers with many topics to address.

 

April fools day is taken very seriously by many companies as it is the best excuse to deliver viral marketing contents.

The last days of April to the beginning of May celebrates the Golden week, convective holidays spanning between 5 days to 12 days, depending companies.

The weather is getting warmer and people start to go out for picnics, to amusement parks, and to sightseeing.

April is the biggest marketing month after January.

*March is 31%, December is 29%, and September is 28%. http://www.taxcom.co.jp/news/zeimu/2005/2005_04/zeimu2005_04_20_002.htm

School Entrance Ceremony

School entrance ceremonies are held across Japan in early April, when the school year starts. The ceremony gives incoming students a chance to think about the kind of school life they’d like to lead and allows older students to welcome their new schoolmates.

School Entrance

 

Company entrance ceremony

Traditionally, most companies hire most of their new employees during April, a lot of them being people who graduated during the last year. It is thus no surprise that a lot of companies hold an entrance ceremony for their new employees.It is a good opportunity to highlight the goals and policies of the company and to develop a sense a team spirit.

April fool’s day

0:00 to 23:59 of the first of April, serious companies with serious business goes wild. In 2015, Google released a very special Google Map Pac-Man that let you play Pac-Man right there in Google Maps, using real locations. In 2012, Google Japan with support from Nintendo and Square Enix, developed an 8-bit Google map with beautiful low resolution graphics and the timeless soundtrack of Dragon Quest, one of the most popular retro video game in Japan.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rznYifPHxDg

It is not only Google who puts so much effort and technology to make April fools’ day viral pranks. Kingsoft announced new versions of its utility software “Cleanmaster”, with a pollen filtering version: you would have to put a nose-shaped device on your nose as a surgical mask to filter pollen to prevent hay fever. A linked smartphone with the Cleanmaster app would measure the pollen leven and share the stats on SNS.

Coca-cola announced a coca-cola bottle label that you could use as a business card. Of course, you would need to carry tens of coke bottles but it would certainly be very entertaining!

Redbull Japan announced Redbull eyedrops to prevent pollen allergy.

Although these are just pranks, many companies put serious thoughts and effort to make it viral. However, those jokes require a very deep understanding of culture of target audience. For example, the 2015 April fools’ prank by infoseek was “English scouter”. The scouter is a wearable device mainly used to measure power levels early in Dragon Ball Z. The point of the “English Scouter” is to measure English fluency of scanned person. The illustrations on the landing page imitates drawing of Akira Toriyama, creator of Dragon Ball.

http://special.infoseek.co.jp/top/201504_sukautan/

http://gigazine.net/news/20150401-aprilfool-matome/

Golden Week

From the end of April to early May, Golden Week is undoubtedly one of the most popular holiday seasons in Japan.  With a high number of holidays in a short period, Golden Week is going to be one of the few chances for working people to get a decent amount of time off, which makes it the biggest chance for travel agencies and airline companies to sell travels. For instance, JTB, the largest travel agency in Japan, conducts its seasonal marketing campaign through the Golden Week.

Spring thanks sale

There are 4 sales seasons that are not related to particular holiday or tradition. Those are called “Thanks to Customer Sales”.

The purpose of those sales campaigns is usually to sell products that are out of season. For example, one of the purpose spring “thanks sales” is to sell winter or spring clothes.

Easter

Easter is not a big event in Japan so far. However it is gaining popularity as sweets companies try to promote it to sell egg-shaped chocolate and other easter foods.

May

May starts with the Golden Week that boosts sales for travel agencies, alcohol, and other party related goods. However, demand across all market declines after Golden Week.

Many people feel melancholic after the Golden Week because of their new environment. This phenomena is called Gogatsu Byo (it literally means “May disease”), although it isn’t a  real disease.

Children’s Day

Children's day

Children’s Day is a Japanese national holiday which takes place annually on May the 5th, and is part of the Golden Week. Unlike Mother’s Day and Father’s Day which are neither public holidays nor traditional event, Children’s Day has been celebrated since an ancient time, and has many traditional custom. One of the tradition is hanging Koinobori flags, meaning “carp streamer” in Japanese. The tradition of Koinobori comes from the Chinese myth carps swim up waterfalls to become dragons, a symbol of strength and career advancement in Samurai’s era.

However, other than toys and traditional goods like iris leaves, koinobori and Children’s Day themed sweets , there is not much marketing opportunity for this special day.

Mother’s Day

Mother’s day is celebrated on the  second Monday of May in Japan. Although Mother’s day is a big event in Japan, it’s not a public holiday. Popular gift choice are clothes, shoes, sweets, and vacations. It is customary to give Carnation flowers. Mother’s Day was brought to Japan by Christians in 1915, and sweets company Morinaga Seika spread it as their marketing campaign like the company spreads Valentine’s Day custom in Japan.

June

June doesn’t have any holiday. June has a stable bad rainy weather for several weeks: the so called tsuyu. It is a particularly hot and humid month and thus highly discomfortable. June is a horrible month for commuting workers who wear suits and take hot, humid, and crowded train. Tsuyu affects negatively the sales of domestic travel agencies and sightseeing destinations. On the other hand, it probably does a favor to rental video shops and other indoor entertainment businesses.

Father’s Day

Popular gift choices on Father’s Day are alcohol, appliances, ties, shoes, and offering a dinner. Father’s day in Japan is yet another commercial event, however this one is not promoted by Morignaga or other sweets companies but by Father’s Day Council in Japan. Father’s Day Council was founded by Men’s Fashion Association in Japan which consists of many Japanese fashion and retail businesses. Nowadays, flower, alcohol and foods are becoming popular choices but the most promoted goods are still clothes.

June Bride

June bride is a very well-known but not successful marketing campaign. June bride was promoted by wedding companies to increase wedding ceremonies in June. Despite big effort of the bridal industry, the number of weddings in June remains low because of the terrible  weather conditions.

Summer Bonus

Salarymen in Japan usually receive a bonus biannually; in summer and in winter. The amount of summer bonuses delivered is gradually decreasing as GDP per capita decreases and Gini index increases. However, employees of big companies and public sectors still receive an equivalent of bonus of 1 to 2.5 months salary.

Chugen (or Ochugen)

Chugen

Ochugen is a midyear present.

Generally, we send Ochugen to the people we are thankful for:relatives, superiors, teachers and customers of your company.

Popular gift choice of Ochugen is beer, coffee, somen noodle, ham or sausage, or japanese traditional sweets. Ochugen is usually boxed and wrapped nicely.

There is a similar gifting opportunity in November, called Oseibo.
For ochūgen, July 20 is the latest date to deliver for those living in Tokyo area. When you take the gift by yourself, it is better to bring it by a week to the end of July.

July

In July, it is still very hot and humid, but the rainy season is finally over and the good part of summer begins. Summers in Japan are eventful. The summer break starts around the 20th of July for students and all sort of vacation places such as amusement park like DisneyLand, beaches, hiking destinations and campings get very busy. There are also many summer festivals and fireworks.

As for email marketing, many people send Summer greeting cards to their relatives and friends.

Tanabata

Tanabata is a popular celebration with Chinese roots. It is based on the story of a chinese Folklore story and it celebrates the meeting of a couple of two deities. The two deities lived each on a different side of the milky way, which they could only cross on July the 7th. Like myself, not many people know background and detail of the tradition.

Tanabata is not a big opportunity for discount campaigns but the tradition of writing wishes on papers and hanging them on bamboo trees gives yet another topic for content marketing.

Summer greeting

Many people send (or at least used to send a shochu mimai, or summer greeting card or letter. They are sent to family members and friends whom one hasn’t seen for a while or to people whom one wants to show their appreciation. On the card, it is customary to include messages concerning the recipient’s health in surviving the summer heat, giving updates about personal events, and thanking the recipient for support in the course of the first half of the year.

Unlike New Year’s letter tradition, which survive in digital format, summer greeting is becoming less popular.

Summer Thanks sale

Summer thanks sales is yet another thanks sales in Japan after January and April. It works on the exact same concept as the previous ones.

 

August

Summer in Japan is very hot and humid. I really don’t want to be in Japan during summer.

Obon and summer holiday

Obon is a public holiday to honor the spirits of one’s ancestor. This holiday has roots in Buddhism and in Confucianism customs. Before and after Obon is usually the main companies’ holiday. All together, many companies give one week holidays to their employees at that moment.

It is the opportunity for many people to visit their hometown to see their parents, grandparents, or the grave of their ancestor.

Job hunting

August is usually the month during which the screening start and job-hunting student will get the most interviews. The dress code for these interviews is very strict and can be again a source of marketing opportunities.

September

Summer break is over and Autumn starts in September. Autumn of appetite, Autumn of Arts, Autumn of sports, Autumn of book reading… Autumn somehow comes with phrases like “Autumn of xxx”. Get creative and create your own Autumn-catchphrase to promote your business.

Be well aware that contrary to the western model, September is not the start of a new school year.

Disaster Prevention Day

Disaster Prevention Day  takes place on September the 1st. It commemorates the 1923 Great Kantō earthquake. During this day, disaster preparations are taken nationwide, especially in the Kantō region.

Respect for the Aged Day

Keirō no hi is a national holiday. This day was established in 1966 for people to show their affection and respect for the elders. It is also the opportunity to thank them for contributing to society and to celebrate their long lives. It is normal to present gifts and parties are frequent during this day.

Autumnal Equinox Day

As with the Vernal Equinox Day, Shūbun no Hi celebrates the shift of season to autumn and people honour their ancestors’ memory on this day. A lot of places organise festivals and shintoist ceremonies. Autumnal Equinox Day takes place on the 22nd or 23rd of September depending on each year’s astronomical measurements.

October

Autumn in Japan is one of the most beautiful times of the year. The leaves of the very popular Momiji Trees take a vibrating red color. The mountains full of autumn leaves in Nikko and Kyoto are just breathtaking.

People start preparing for Winter and go shopping for warmer clothes during October.

Health and Sports Day

Taiiku no hi is a fairly special national holiday. It isn’t associated either to history, religion or nature, yet most people are very fond of this day and is celebrated nationwide. It was created with the anniversary of the Olympic Games of Tokyo and is celebrated yearly on the second monday in October. Competitions, games and physical activities are organised in schools and even in some companies.

Halloween

Halloween was imported very recently. It wasn’t well received at first but it is becoming more popular every year. So far, trick or treating hasn’t become a trend and is not likely to become one: intruding someone’s home uninvited would be merely rude. Costumes and merchandising on the other hand are increasingly sold. Mainly adults would dress up and the usual pumpkins, sweets and decorations (with orange, black, green and purple colors) are to be seen everywhere.

Autumn bridal season

As Summer is so humid, most couples have their wedding during October, November, March and May. Christian-style weddings grow in popularity. It is very trendy to have a first part of the event held in a traditional way during which the bride and the groom wear kimonos. They would then change for the western inspired white dress and suit.

November

In the late November, you will start seeing Christmas illuminations and Christmas sales in shopping malls like in Western countries. In Japan, there is also Oseibo and new year sales so late November is one of the biggest sales promotion time in Japan.

Culture day

Culture day or Bunka no hi is held on the 3rd of November. If the 3rd is a weekend, it is held on the next monday. It celebrates Japanese culture and promotes the  arts, culture and academic endeavour. The Order of Culture Awards Ceremony takes place during that day at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo and throughout the whole country, festivals, parades and exhibitions are held to celebrate traditional Japanese customs.

Shichi-Go-San

Shichi-Go-San is one of the traditional festival day for children. It is a traditional rite of passage three- and seven-year-old girls and three- and five-year-old boys, held annually on November 15 to celebrate the growth and well-being of young children.  As it is not a national holiday, it is generally observed on the nearest weekend. The children are always dressed in traditional clothing and go to some nearby shrine with their parents.

Labor Thanksgiving Day

Labor Thanksgiving Day (Kinrō Kansha no Hi) is a national holiday which takes place annually on November 23.  It is very different from the American Thanksgiving, even though it takes place around the same time of year. Like the American version, it used to be a fall harvest festival and has now changed in meaning. Japanese Thanksgiving is now celebrates workers and is an occasion for commemorating labor and production and giving one another thanks.

Oseibo (end of the year gift giving)

There are two gift seasons in Japan, called oseibo and ochūgen . One is for winter and the other is for summer. Oseibo and Ochugen work the same way. Gifts are given to those with whom one has a relationship, especially the people who have helped the gift giver. At those period the subordinate will give gifts to superior at the office, a pupil gives something to the master at tea ceremony classes, and even offices will prepare courtesy gift to their business partners..

Winter Bonus

As said previously about Summer Bonus,  salarymen in Japan usually receive a bonus biannually; in summer and in winter. Employees of big companies and public sectors receive a bonus of 1 to 2.5 months salary.

Christmas sales

Christmas in Japan

As the end of year approaches, many stores start their Christmas and New Year Sales campaigns. This is the start of the biggest season for a lot of businesses.

December

December is the last month of the year in Japan. It is good to take note that some Asian countries have their calendar in common with the Chinese one, in which New Year is celebrated some day between 21 January and 20 February.

December is a high time of marketing. Many employees receives the Winter bonus from their employer and spend part of it for Christmas gift for their loved ones and end of the year gift to someone whom they are grateful for.

There is no Black Friday in Japan but the first days of January are almost an equivalent of this well known sales day.

The Emperor’s Birthday

The Emperor’s Birthday ( Tennō tanjōbi) is a national holiday in Japan and is celebrated on the day of birth of the current emperor. Currently it’s celebrated on December 23, the birthday of Emperor Akihito, who was born in 1933. A public ceremony is held every year during that day at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo.

Christmas

Christmas is not a holiday in Japan, even though a lot of schools are closed that day. It started to be celebrated widely only a few decades ago and doesn’t have a religious connotation to it. Sweets (like strawberry short cake) and decorations are very common. The day is almost another valentine’s day: couples go out on romantic dinners and walks and exchange gifts. Gifts aren’t so much given outside of couples, as Oseibo is already here to fill that function.

Omisoka

Omisoka , New Year’s Eve, is the second-most important day in Japanese tradition because it is the final day of the old year and the eve of New Year’s Day, which is the most important day of the year.

Winter vacation

At most schools, winter vacation last around 10 days, from December the 26th onwards to around January the 6th.

Nengajo

A New Year card is a secular version of a Christmas card. It is mostly used by non-religious persons, who have no interest in referring to Christmas or using Christian symbols. A focus is given to the new year and to the wishes of “happiness”, “health”, “contentment” and “success” in the forthcoming year.

Bonenkai

A bōnenkai ( literally “forget the year gathering”!) is a special type of party held at the end of the year. It is generally held among co-workers or friends and consists in drinking together to forget the bad things that happened during the year. At the end of the day, every country as it’s own special days to have a good excuse for another party!

New Year & Year End thanks sale

And this brings us back to the start of the calendar, so take a first new year’s resolution and start an efficient marketing calendar!

* edited by Miri Roman

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