Why Entry to the Japanese Diaper Market Failed
The initial attempt by P&G to enter into the Japanese diaper market failed because it had not discovered the need to understand the needs of the consumers to make products that best suit them. They had confronted the Japanese market with the assumption that the same products that had worked for the US market would work equally as well in Japan. They introduced their bulky diapers which were not compatible with Japanese culture. Their competitors, Kao Corporation, who better understood the culture of the Japanese consumer, had produced a trim fit diaper which was an instant hit (Harvard Business School par. 4-5).
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Marketing modifications for the Japanese markets
P&G realized that to be able to sell their products to the Japanese consumers, they would have to modify their products to suit the special needs of the consumer instead of adopting a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach. They, therefore, modified its diapers to adhere to the slim fit model of their competitors. This new product became popular not only in Japan but also in the US.
How Japanese consumers and marketing practices are different from those in the US
A choice example of this variance is seen in the difference between their laundry detergent markets. First of all, the Japanese use cold water to launder their clothes and also, make use of fabric softeners in this process. This is unlike the practice in the US where clothes are also laundered using warm or hot water, and there is no strict use of softeners. When P&G was marketing their laundry detergent ‘cheer’ in Japan, it found out that the slogan that they utilized in the US would not necessarily apply in Japan because it mainly prided in the fact that the product could be used with water of any temperature. This consideration was highly irrelevant in the Japanese market.
Difference between diaper consumer behavior in Japan and the US
Consumers in Japan shift their tastes quickly and products, if not developed in tandem with the needs of the consumer, also become quickly outmoded. For example, when P&G introduced disposable diapers in Japan, they managed to control over 80% of the market share. Later on, when their competitors introduced the trim fit diapers, they fell to less than 8% market share.
Factors that discouraged Japanese women from changing to disposable diapers
One of the main challenges that P&G faced in the Japanese market was the presence of Japanese-based competitors. The consumers were therefore bound by a sense of loyalty to purchase the competitor’s products as opposed to P&G’s who were a foreign company. In addition to this, the competitor’s products were superior to theirs and were highly favored (Harvard Business School par. 6).
What can be done to reduce these barriers?
Although there is not much that can be done with regards to the presence of competitors in the market, the company can ensure that they produce goods whose quality and utility can match or surpass those of its competitors. They can do this by carrying out extensive research on the needs of the consumers and designing the product to suit them. Furthermore, they can also learn the culture of the user as this will aid in the development of suitable products.
Lessons learned from China
In China, P&G faced cultural challenges and also the fact that diapers were not used in China at all (Frazier par. 7). Be that as it may, the company was still able to create a market for their products by adopting a different market strategy from the one they used at home. They had to come up with reasons for using diapers which would override their cultural sensibilities and inhibitions, and this is what eventually enabled them to gain access to the market as opposed to assuming that the consumers would consider disposable diapers efficient as a matter of course (Frazier par. 8).
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Frazier, Mya. “How P&G Brought the Diaper Revolution to China.” Moneywatch. 2010. Web.
Harvard Business School. Kao Corporation. 1994. Web.