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Selling Point

What Japanese Visitors Want, Part II

Japanese visitors plan their international trips well in advance. They buy guidebooks and magazines and select many of their activities, such as shopping and dining, well before their arrival here.

“Because of that, Hawaii retailers need to advertise or get good PR in Japanese publications,” says Sean Morris, president of S. Morris and Associates, which specializes in public relations with the Japanese.

Morris believes the most popular magazines and guidebooks for Japanese tourists are Ru Ru Bu, Chikyu no Arukikata (Globetrotter), Aloha Express, Pia Map, Mapple, Seibido and Wagamama Aruki.

In the U.S., stores can send out press releases to local media and reporters often follow up. “It’s different in Japan,” Morris says. “It’s relationship-based. Japanese editors strive to maintain their reputations and credibility. They want bonds with their sources.”

An introduction from a trusted source transfers that credibility, Morris says. The way to get such an introduction is through a coordinator. Coordinators are often Americans who speak Japanese or Japanese transplants. They scout stories for the Japanese media, set up appointments, get permits, provide transportation and on-site translation for crews that arrive here. The Oahu Visitors Bureau, Hawaii International Film Association and the Hawaii Tourism Japan office can put Hawaii businesses in touch with coordinators, Morris advises.

Recently, Morris was contacted by coordinator Stanley Kim. “He said a Japanese cooking show called “Deli Deli Kitchen” was planning a segment in Hawaii and wanted a Hawaii-inspired dessert. Upon meeting with them, we developed a story about Abigail Langlas, pastry chef at Honolulu Coffee Co. The producer liked it and suggested pineapple and coconut as the ingredients.”

The two stars of the show picked their own pineapple at the Dole Pavilion. Langlas created a gorgeous glazed pineapple-haupia dessert, before a crew of 25 sound, lighting, makeup and camera people. Langlas then served the stars the final product. I had a chance to taste it and it was delicious!

Kim turned to Morris with the “Deli Deli Kitchen” project, because they had worked together before. Morris says, “On another occasion, four different people called me when a helicopter shoot fell through. They had two hours to come up with a Plan B.” Morris suggested the TV segment be about finding value at a Hawaii shopping center. Two celebrities were each given $300 and cameras followed them separately around Ward Center to see what they bought.

It’s this kind of creativity and connections that have helped Morris get, by his count, 945 pieces of editorial coverage last year for Oahu and Maui shopping centers and other clients.

Morris recommends stores prepare a list of what’s new and interesting about their establishment before contacting coordinators. How are you unique? What were you first in the market to do? Then ask them what stories they have coming up and see if there’s a match. “Go out of your way to help them, even with a story that’s not about you. It will make you a resource in their eyes,” he says.

If crews show up on their own to cover you, Morris advises being generous and appreciative of them. “The GM at Neiman Marcus Las Vegas came out and gave everyone a gift bag with cosmetics and goodies. She bowed and thanked us. That someone of her status would come out made the crew feel important. It made them want to return and cover them again.”

If you get in a guidebook, it doesn’t mean they’ll keep you in it. You have to refresh your content. Stay in touch with them. Hold their hands. Sell your company with passion.

Morris also recommends some Japanese signage, but warns companies to do it well. Some years ago, Woolworth’s put a sign in its window. Japanese walking by laughed when they saw it. Why? “It was upside down.” Morris recalls.

Japanese visitors and media are foreign to most local retailers. If you can recognize the similarities and differences, you can create an experience at your store that attracts both Japanese visitors and their news media.

Bob Sigall teaches marketing at Hawaii Pacific University and owns a company called Creative-1. Contact him at Part I of “What Japanese Visitors Want” ran in the September 2006 issue of Hawaii Business.

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