JAPAN – In the last of our third-part series of packaging in Japan, Stuart Hoggard examines the key role women play in the way Japanese packaging is designed today.
With more women entering the workforce in Japan you might be forgiven for believing that Japan is a fairly egalitarian society. Not in the slightest!
Even though they may hold a full-time job, women’s work is still in the home today, not so much as a drudge but as a professional manager; High school home economics classes teach more than just cookery, but include a range of subjects designed to equip girls to manage a household, balance a budget, do the shopping, compare different volumes and prices to select the best product. This is Home Econ with a capital ‘E’.
This isn’t a one way-street however; typically the husband hands over his entire salary to his wife who returns him what she judges to be reasonable pocket money.
Almost exclusively, it is women that do the household shopping, even buying their husband’s clothes – so it is not at all surprising that most the product graphics on the supermarket shelves target women – even male personal care items such as hair gel, are packaged in pastel coloured cutesy containers that even the most metrosexual male would find just too…. ‘kawaii” (super cute).
Take the case of Gatsby Hair Jam (gel) by Able Design and Dentsu Inc, Kanzai, which is a cross shaped male hair grooming product pack. Blow moulded as a double-layer PE container, it uses two different densities of polyethylene to give a rigid interior with a soft very tactile almost spongy outer layer to improve the grip – by nature hair gel is slippery. With a small form factor, about the same footprint as an eye shadow or make-up compact, it fits comfortably in the pocket of the trendy man-about-town along with whatever else a gentleman might need for the weekend!
The brand owners have done their research and know that no-matter how ‘kawaii’ the pack is, the reaction of male end user (as opposed to the actual purchaser) is likely to be “Oh! You bought this for me! How sweet, thank you dear!”
Therefore all packaging (except transport packs) are designed with women in mind, and most R&D teams include female technicians.
Women shoppers, not only enjoy being delighted – they expect it.
By the same note, they require perfection in a pack. A bashed can, scuffed print, poorly thought-out closures spell disaster for a brand. The logic being: “If you don’t care enough about the packaging, you probably don’t care much about your product quality.”
Extracted from the 280-page heavily illustrated market analysis report: Zen & the Technology of Packaging Design in Japan.
Available from PackWebasia.com on 28 February @ US$5595 – pre-order now to get a 20% discount and pay just US$476!
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