Tokyo is full of micro-marketing initiatives and one of the first that caught my attention is the distribution of sponsored paper tissue packs on the street.
Only few times have I seen leaflets being given away, which in most crowded cities is a major source of urban waste (especially around the area in which they are distributed). I am not sure if this behavior is spontaneous creativity or due to some kind of law (Tokyo is full of them, regulating almost every aspect of society). It does seem logic that prohibiting leaflets on the streets works towards keeping the city cleaner but I don’t know if such a law exists and if giving away some kind of “gift” is a way of walking around it.
For example, in Japan playing games for money is prohibited so Pachinko slot machines, a VERY popular activity here, work like this: 1) you play pachinko and you can win metal balls, 2) you exchange the metal spheres for some kind of prize like a giant teddy bear or other thing, 3) you go to a shop near to the pachinko parlor and exchange that prize for money. So by playing you win prizes which you can then exchange for money. Authorities of course know about this escamotage but they allow it (someone says that’s so because pachinko is controlled by the Japanese Mafia, the Yakuza).
Another common “gadget” are plastic fans, very useful during the summer.
Back to the tissues, these are some of the pros and cons that I have identified:
1) Benefits for the end user
- tissues are a useful product
- you save some money (you won’t need to buy tissues anymore, or maybe just in an emergency)
- during summer days are warm and humid (Tokyo is like an open oven in these days) so they are an useful to wash away your sweat. In winter for blowing your nose (but never do it in public as it is considered very rude!)
2) Benefits for the sponsor
- not seen as waste/spam by the end user but as an useful thing
- people take it voluntarily. Japanese people distributing them are seldom invasive nor aggressive as in other countries
- higher retention of the object which generates multiple exposures to it by the user
- in the case of fans, they are highly visible when used thus propagating the brand’s exposure/visibility
2) Benefits for the city
- being tissues a useful product they are less likely to end up as waste on the street, something very common with leaflets
- producing a pack of tissues or a fan is much more expensive than a leaflet
- if you already have one you might not take a second one until you need it
- less units are distributed. I don’t know if this is compensated by the higher retention rate of each single product