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Japan’s Ultimate Marketing Strategy: The Mascot
By: Emory Brown
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I used to think mascots were only for sports teams and some major brands here and there. You know — the Green Giant, Mr. Clean, Benny The Bull….Chicago rocks! (That last comment was a little random, but hey, I’m a Bulls fan.) The list, as you know, is a little lengthy in America, but in Japan mascots are essential to marketing strategy.

In Japan, mascots are similar to aldermen, in a sense. Each district has one who goes forth and represents the local areas, and there are over 1,500 mascots repping for Japan. Each one is a personal brand unto itself and has a distinctive cultural and institutional meaning. For instance, in America, we are hardcore when it comes to policing. There’s no official mascot for NY, CHI, or LA Blue. But in Japan, there’s a mascot for the Wakayama Police Department named Kishu-Kan —and he’s marketing magic. You think Mickey Mouse is the mouse? Kishu-Kan is the dog. He’s a merchandising phenomenon that appears on mobile phone straps, t-shirts, stuffed toys, and much more.
In America, we are always looking for a way to fund policing. Create mascots. There are over 48 police mascots in Japan that are cash cows. Kukamon is one of the most famous Japanese mascots and has reportedly brought in over $1.2B in two years. He sounds like a product to me, and he belongs to one area. He has music videos and everything. Barney, the purple dream of kids’ TV, should have gone big! However, there is one mascot that is more popular than Kukamon. Funassyi makes television appearances, attends press conferences, and anything else you can think of. He’s earned over 200 million yen.
The point of this is that Japan has found a way to engage its citizens and tourists in a fun way while making profits in an area most may not have considered to be a marketing opportunity: mascots! I think it’s brilliant. I might ask my team to create one for their hometowns to do a little branding…and make a lot of dough.


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About the Author
Emory Brown is an award-winning creative director/writer whose mission is to spread the gospel of what great marketers can do when they put their heads together and work together for the greater good and not the bottom line. Working with many esteemed clients, his portfolio of work ranges in genre from conservative to ultra-modern including American Family Insurance, United Airlines, Mazda 6 and RX-8, Illinois Lottery, Tyson, Miller Genuine Draft, Nike Air Force 1, and Mercedes Benz, to name a few.  
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