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Mobile marketing in Japan in 2010

Akihisa Fujita
Mobile marketing in Japan in 2010 Akihisa Fujita

Up the stairs, out of the metro, and out on the street; it's the perfect time to grab a bite for lunch. I whip out my mobile and there on the screen is my avatar telling me I am right in the area where that tasty Chinese place is, the one I discovered on TV the other day. I check out what people are saying about the place and their top picks from the menu on my screen, thanks to social media exclusively about restaurant information. Having picked up the map, I'm off there right away.


This service, dubbed "i-concier" is being developed by D2 Communications, and is currently offered by NTT Docomo as a concierge function to its contract customers. There are more and more people in Japan who are tipping this kind of concierge service on mobile phones to become an effective 1-to-1 marketing platform. That said, user fears about privacy need allaying, and it is only by providing a new innovation to users that the service will really lock-in; and then it can be fully applied to advertising and marketing. Expect 2010 to be the "year of preparation" leading up to this.


Social media on mobile phones aims to step up a gear by effectively using the "whereabouts info" of mobile users. The venture company "COLOPL" is seeing a 20 percent increase every month for a social game centered on young businessmen who travel a lot, where users get points depending on the distance they cover, calculated by the GPS on their phones.


Lots of companies are paying attention to this kind of growth with marketing in mind, and a major travel company has already made and sold a tour aimed at users of this social media. Then, there's the popular game "Dragon Quest", where the Nintendo DS's proximity transmitting function brings in a whole new dimension by allowing players to pick up items vital to getting ahead in the game when it tunes into other users walking past on the street. The ensuing talk on social media about places where this "tuning-in" happens results in more sales of the game. 2010 will no doubt see giant steps in using "whereabouts info" for marketing, not just on mobile phones, but also portable game devices.


I'd like to round off by touching on the market for streaming video on mobile phones. The majority of people are opting for contract plans that have a fixed price package for data transmission. Teens especially are in the majority in choosing these plans, and are watching a lot of streaming services, noticeably Japan's own service "NICO NICO DOUGA" (which plans on expanding beyond Japan), and "YouTube".


Although it's not free, NTT Docomo's "BeeTV" service will most likely see viewer figures exceeding 1 million by mid-2010 (it all hinges on whether the mobile service takes off in Japan or not). Movie companies like Disney Japan have started to sell content not just through DVDs, but now through the new medium of SD cards. Japan in 2010 will mark the start of the challenge of making more use of these ways to watch content on a mobile phone, in advertising and marketing.


Like Japan, major cities in Asia have both a high density of population and corporations, both the supply and demand for mobile marketing that uses "whereabouts info". Buses and trains abound, so there must be a big demand for optimal mobile video contents for people killing time while in transit.


APEC will convene in Japan in November 2010. I think that this conference that will explore economic stimulation measures for Asia should include a call for regional debate about the operation and rules for mobile marketing.

Akihisa Fujita is president of D2 Communications.

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