by MJ O'Neill
August 20th, 2018

With interest in Japanese cuisine skyrocketing in anticipation of Tokyo 2020, government body JFOODO called upon Weber Shandwick Japan to create new opportunities for Japanese tea in the international arena by building a substantial American audience for the product.

With a communications strategy encompassing extensive research, multi-platform content marketing and ecommerce insight, Weber Shandwick Japan’s campaign engaged nearly a million Americans and helped drive a 24.3% increase in green tea exports across 2017.

Changing Times

For the past fifty years, Japan has been navigating a profound cultural and economic shift.

Most recently, Japanese cuisine has been enjoying an unprecedented level of global interest – with Japanese food or Washoku even added to UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage List in 2013. International tourism has increased dramatically and research has shown many visitors are drawn by the prospect of enjoying authentic Japanese food.

With Tokyo hosting the Olympic Games in 2020, Japan’s government is anticipating a record number of inbound tourists. To capitalise on the still-growing global fascination with Japanese food (and ensure adequate infrastructure for the anticipated tourism boom), authorities have been working hard to expand capacities and understandings throughout the Japanese and global marketplace.

As part of this evolution, Japan’s External Trade Organisation (JETRO) established the Japan Food Product Overseas Promotion Center (JFOODO) – to further promote Japanese agricultural, forestry, fishery and food products in foreign countries and continue growing the Japanese export industry and economy.

Traditional Benefits

JFOODO enlisted Weber Shandwick to build the American audience for Japan’s traditional green tea. One of the many agricultural products helping transform the country’s export economy, green tea represented a product rich with both potential growth and possible challenges for international markets, particularly in America.

Japanese Green Tea, for example, has long been associated with improvements in physiological and mental wellbeing. Furthermore, the physical act of brewing green tea carries with it a rich sense of cultural heritage, philosophy and value. However, popular knowledge of the values and benefits of the product has typically been limited to Japan.

Furthermore, communicating the values of green tea without appropriate cultural sensitivity or clarity could easily prove damaging to not just the product’s immediate success in the market – but Japan’s ongoing export relationship with the valuable North American demographic. In building an audience for the product, Weber Shandwick Japan needed to proceed with great care and precision.

New Approaches

To ensure the greatest possible return on JFOODO’s investment, Weber Shandwick developed a three-tiered strategic approach – encompassing research, content and commerce.

Collaborating with Weber Shandwick Chicago, our teams conducted extensive research into various American demographics and their relationship with Japan and its products. The resultant findings revealed a powerful potential market in American millennials; with country of origin especially valued in the purchase decisions of American millennials.

To engage this market successfully, Weber Shandwick needed to create a new platform for Japanese green tea in America that connected organically with modern consumers. Further leveraging research findings around millennial health and wellness values, Weber Shandwick Japan created a comprehensive content portal showcasing the benefits, heritage and complexity of green tea.

Built around a central focus of ‘Find A Better Mind’, the content portal shared the traditional values and benefits of green tea in new, modern ways – with clean digital storytelling and subtle multimedia artistry connecting American audiences to centuries of Japanese tradition. The central narrative of mindfulness was promoted via a 360˚ campaign encompassing paid and owned media.

Finally, Weber Shandwick’s strategy incorporated the best ecommerce practices utilised throughout our network. To ensure brand awareness drove business impact, content was consistently integrated with online retail platforms – allowing consumers to seamlessly move from learning about green tea to directly purchasing and enjoying it as soon as possible.

Brighter Futures

Through strategic insight, multi-platform storytelling and contemporary ecommerce tactics, Weber Shandwick Japan’s efforts drove consumer engagement far beyond expectations. Within two weeks of launch, Weber Shandwick’s efforts had secured over 690,000 video views, more than 150,000 advertisment clicks, and more than 125,000 website visitors.

By campaign’s conclusion, over a million American consumers had embraced the mindfulness of Japanese green tea. And, within, green tea sales had helped Japanese agriculture export grow by 7.6% – with health-conscious American consumers specifically helping green tea exports rise by 24.3% to a record ¥14.4 billion in 2017.

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