Editorial and Marketing Calendar for successful promotion in the Japanese market

I’ve worked with many clients as a freelance English to Japanese translator and freelance marketing campaign localization specialist, and along the way, I’ve noticed three things about editorial and marketing calendars:

First, the businesses that use these types 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 the key to successful content marketing. Content marketing is a long-term strategy and maintaining a long-term strategy requires 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 to prepare 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 buying expensive gifts and making businesses happy. The new year is a much bigger holiday in Japan but unlike in Western countries, we never see fireworks in winter. We associate fireworks with summer.

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

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

January

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, the Alaska of Japan, temperatures can drop to -30°C.

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

Many businesses see this as a marketing opportunity and launch their New Year campaign.

New Year

While their western counterparts enjoy partying and drinking on New Year’s Eve and spend New Year’s day suffering from a 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 TVs.

Unlike western countries, you never see fireworks in Japan during New Year’s. Fireworks occur during the summer in Japan. Consequently, greeting cards with pictures of drinks and fireworks, one of the popular New Year postcard designs 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 cards called Nengajo are more common than Christmas cards in the western world. 3,022,852,000 New Years greeting were printed in 2015 according to a Japan paper. Young people tend to send 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 Nengajo to their clients, and some businesses also send New Year’s 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 effective advertising to attract more customers to shop at these stores.

Seijin no Hi (Coming of Age Day)

Coming of Age Day is a public holiday which celebrates when young people turn 20 years old and become 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 the age of 20. Young people are also  obliged to start paying into their pension at 20.

Many retail stores have sales on products that are relevant to Coming of Age Day, for example alcohol, business books, suits, etc….

February

February in Japan is the month for school exams. Most universities, high schools, and junior high schools have year-end exams in February. 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 cross-industries promotion opportunities. It has nevertheless industry-specific promotion opportunities including Valentine’s Day for sweets’s businesses, and Setsubun for foods’s businesses. Cold and dry weather boosts sales for medical businesses. 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 for all businesses. It is only promoted by the  food industry, which allows them to capitalize on 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 young people from the age of 10 to their late 30’s. There are two kinds of chocolate, Honmei (本命) and Giri (義理) : respectively “gift of love” and gift of courtesy.

I personally think Honmei chocolate is a myth because I have never got one.

March

March offers so many marketing and advertising opportunities and so many topics to write about. The school year starts in April. The fiscal year of many companies starts in April. Spring climate sets in in April. March is in many ways, the month that that gets us 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: a new school, new school year, new job and new place to live. The season also changes from Winter to Spring. As a consequence, the demand for furniture, home appliances, and clothing is highest in Spring.

Hinamatsuri

Hina matsuri

Hinamatsuri is celebrated every year on the 3rd of March. Known as Doll’s Day or Girl’s Day, it is a celebration which features ornamental dolls representing the Emperor’s family and court dressed in Heian period garments.

White Day

White Day is the opposite 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. These 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 their ancestors as well as celebrating the change of season and the advent of Spring. Families visit their forefathers’ graveyards toting flowers. Religious ceremonies  sometimes 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

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 fresh graduates, 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 lives a few months ahead of time, in January or February, buying furniture, suits and home appliances.

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

April Fools Day is taken very seriously by many companies, as it is the best excuse to deliver viral marketing content.

The last days of April until the beginning of May marks Golden Week, consecutive holidays spanning between 5 to 12 days, depending on the company.

The weather warms up and people start to go out for picnics, to amusement parks, and to go sightseeing.

April is the biggest marketing month after January.

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 of team spirit.

April Fool’s Day

On the first of April, companies go wild. In 2015, Google released a very special Google Map Pac-Man that let you play Pac-Man 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.

It is not only Google who puts so much effort and technology into making April Fools’ Day viral pranks. Kingsoft, a popular security software brand, 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 like a surgical mask to filter out pollen in order to prevent hay fever. A smartphone linked with the Cleanmaster app would measure the pollen level and share the stats on social media.

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

Redbull Japan announced Redbull eyedrops to prevent pollen allergies.

Although these are just jokes, many companies put serious thoughts and effort to make them viral. Those jokes require a very deep understanding of culture of target audience. For example, the 2015 April Fools’ prank by infoseek was “English scouter”. A scouter is a wearable device mainly used to measure power levels in Dragon Ball Z. The point of the “English Scouter” is to measure a person’s fluency in English. The illustrations on the landing page imitates a drawing of Akira Toriyama, the 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 time, 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 make an extra buck. For instance, JTB, the largest travel agency in Japan, conducts its seasonal marketing campaign during Golden Week.

Spring Thanks Sale

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

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

Easter

Easter is not a big event in Japan. However, it is gaining popularity as sweets companies try to promote it to sell egg-shaped chocolates and other easter goodies.

May 

May starts with Golden Week which boosts sales for travel agencies and on alcohol products and other party-related goods. However, demand declines across all businesses after Golden Week.

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

Children’s Day

Children's day

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

However, besides toys and traditional goods like iris leaves, koinobori and Children’s Day themed sweets , there are not many marketing opportunities 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 the sweets company, Morinaga Seika, used it as their marketing campaign like the company promote Valentine’s Day customs in Japan.

June

June doesn’t have any holidays. June has consistently lousy and rainy weather for several weeks, a period known as Tsuyu. It is a particularly hot and humid month and thus, highly uncomfortable. June is a horrible month for workers on commute who wear suits and take hot, humid, and crowded trains. Tsuyu affects negatively the sales of domestic travel agencies and numbers at sightseeing destinations. On the other hand, it likely boosts sales at video rental shops, such as Geo and Tsutaya (still a thing in Japan!).

Father’s Day

Popular gift choices on Father’s Day are alcohol, appliances, ties, shoes, and inviting them out to dinner. Father’s Day in Japan is yet another commercial event, however this one is not promoted by Morignaga or other sweets companies but rather, by the Father’s Day Council in Japan. The Father’s Day Council was founded by the Men’s Fashion Association in Japan, which consists of many Japanese fashion and retail businesses. Nowadays flowers, alcohol and food are becoming popular gift choices but ones most promoted 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 the number of wedding ceremonies held in June. Despite a large effort on the part of the wedding 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 given has been gradually decreasing as the GDP per capita decreases and Gini index increases. However, employees of large companies and of the public sector still receive a bonus equivalent to 1 to 2.5 months of salary.

Chugen (or Ochugen)

Chugen

Ochugen is a midyear present, and also refers to the period of time when the gift is given.

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

Popular Ochugen gift choices are beer, coffee, somen noodles, ham or sausage, and Japanese traditional sweets. Ochugen is usually boxed and wrapped.

There is a similar gift giving opportunity in November called Oseibo.

July 20 is the latest date to give the gifts for those living in the Tokyo area.

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 amusement parks like DisneyLand, beaches, hiking destinations and campings all 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 Chinese folklore and it celebrates the meeting of two deities. The two deities lived on a different side of the Milky Way, which they were only able to cross on July 7th. Not many people know the background and details 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 marketers to capitalize on.

Summer Greetings

Many people send—or at least used to send—a Shochu Mimai, a 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, give updates about personal events and thank the recipient for their support during the first half of the year.

Unlike the New Year’s letter tradition, which survive in digital format, summer greetings are becoming less popular.

Summer Thanks Sale

Thanks sales occur yet again in the summer. They work in the exact same way as the ones in January and April.

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 ancestors. This holiday has its roots in Buddhist and Confucian customs. Before and after Obon many companies give week-long holidays to their employees.

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

Job hunting

August is usually the month where the most job hunting and interviews occur. The dress code for these interviews is very strict and are a source for marketing opportunities.

September

Summer break is over and autumn begins in September. Autumn appetite, autumn arts, autumn sports, autumn book reading…There are many phrases people use during autumn . 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 1st. It commemorates the Great Kantō earthquake which occurred in 1923. During this day, disaster precautions 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 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 on this day.

Autumnal Equinox Day

As with the Vernal Equinox Day, Shūbun no Hi celebrates the shift of season to autumn and people honor 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 astronomical measurements.

October

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

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

Health and Sports Day

Taiiku no Hi is a special national holiday. It has neither an historical or religious origin, yet most people are very fond of this day, and it is celebrated nationwide. It was created to commemorate the anniversary of the Olympic Games in Tokyo and is celebrated yearly on the second Monday in October. Competitions, games and physical activities are organised in schools and even in some businesses.

Halloween

Halloween has become popular in Japan only in recent history. It wasn’t well received at first but it is becoming more popular every year. Trick or treating isn’t very common and is not likely to become so, as walking onto someone’s property uninvited would be considered rude. Costumes and merchandising, on the other hand, are growing in popularity. Mainly adults dress up and jack-o-lanterns, sweets and decorations (with orange, black, green and purple colors) can be seen everywhere.

Weddings in Autumn

Since summer is so humid, most couples have their weddings during October, November, March and May. Christian-style weddings have grown in popularity. It is very trendy to have the first part of the wedding to be held in a traditional way, during which the bride and the groom wear kimonos. The bride and groom would then change into a white dress and suit, as is typical in the west.

November

In late November, you will start seeing Christmas lights and decorations and Christmas sales in shopping malls like in Western countries. In Japan, there is also Oseibo and New Year’s sales late in November, one of the biggest sales periods in Japan.

Culture Day

Culture Day or Bunka no Hi is held on the 3rd of November. If the 3rd is a weekend day, it is held on the following Monday. Japanese culture and the arts are celebrated, as well as culture and academic endeavors. The Order of Culture Awards Ceremony takes place on this day at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, while 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 holidays for children. It is a traditional rite of passage for 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 the weekend around November 15th. Children can be found dressed in traditional clothing and are taken to shrines by 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 been recontextualized. Japanese Thanksgiving 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, respectively. One occurs during the winter and the other during the summer. Oseibo and Ochugen both work in the same way. Gifts are given to those with whom one has a relationship, especially the people who have helped the gift giver. During this period a “subordinate” will give gifts to a “superior” at the office, a pupil will give something to his master at tea ceremony classes, and even offices will prepare courtesy gifts for their business partners.

Winter Bonus

As mentioned above, salarymen in Japan usually receive a bonus biannually; in summer and in winter. Employees of big companies and the public sector receive a bonus equivalent to 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 January 21 and February 20.

December is a high time for marketing. Many employees receive their winter bonuses from their employer and spend part of it on Christmas gifts for their loved ones and end of the year gifts on someone whom they are grateful for.

There is no Black Friday in Japan but the first days of January are almost on the same level.

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 on this 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 shortcake and buche de noel) and decorations are very common. It’s similar to Valentine’s Day: couples go out for romantic dinners and walks and exchange gifts. Gifts aren’t given so much outside of couples, since Oseibo already takes care of this.

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 26th to around January 6th.

Nengajo

A New Year card is a secular version of a Christmas card. It is mostly used by non-religious people, who have no interest in referring to Christmas or using Christian symbols. The focus is given to the new year and to  “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 of drinking together to forget the bad things that happened during the year. At the end of the day, every country wants an  excuse to party!

New Year & Year End thanks sale

And this brings us back to the start of the calendar, so make a first New Year’s resolution and start an efficient marketing calendar!

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