Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Why Tourism to Japan is in the Dumps (Idiotic Government Run Campaigns)

Top Three Reasons Tourists Don't Come to Japan:

Yes! Please come to visit Japan! How's that? You're already here?
Oh, then, never mind....

It seems to me, from where I sit, that there are three obvious reasons why tourism to Japan is down in the crapper and looks like it's going to stay there for a while. They are (in order of ascending importance):

Number three: Fukushima. Nothing needs to be added here. Whether there is a risk or not, bad publicity is bad publicity.... especially if that bad publicity conjures up images of your kids growing three heads and extra tentacles after visiting Japan 

Number two: The extremely strong yen. Yep. Even before anyone had ever heard of Fukushima, the strong yen and high prices were keeping tourists away.

And the number one reason tourism to Japan is down in the crapper and looks like it's going to stay there for a while: Idiots in Japan, who can't speak English, being in charge of the travel campaigns for the idiots in the Japanese government.

(Audience laughs and claps!)

You'd be surprised at the stupid stuff I see all the time. 

Who could forget the wonderfully conceived "Visit Japan" poster campaign that enticed foreigners to come to Japan by placing posters on walls of fine dining establishments? Oops? What's that you say? The posters were only placed in restaurants inside of Japan so the only foreigners who could ever see those were already here? 

Minor details! Please refer to:

Which is much like this campaign that I've seen at my local pub recently. The posters say, "Visit Japan!" I think, "Wow! What a brilliant idea! Promote visiting Japan to people who are already here! Saves them the airfare! Brilliant!"

Well, yesterday a campaign came across my desk with a letter asking for help. The campaign was just terrible! The entire thing seemed like it was conceived and written by 4th graders. I do not exaggerate.

The main catch copy of the campaign was, "Japan Has Seven Amazings!"

Yes, folks. That's what it said. The main crux and foundational concept of this campaign was "Japan Has Seven Amazings!" Besides this Shakespearean level prose, the logo for the campaign was a rainbow... And, darn if I hadn't see a rainbow that looked just like it recently. There was some other flotsam and jetsam but I won't bore you with a description of those... Just trust me that they were of similar poor concept and execution...

The guy who sent me this stuff asked my opinion. He is an old friend so I know he wants me to say what I think and not some sugar-coated BS... He knows I usually don't beat around the bush for this sort of thing and, at 4 am, I certainly wasn't in the mood to give people English lessons. I wrote to him,

Dear Taka (not his real name)

Sorry, guy, but everything sounds stupid. Really stupid. Really.

I am often amused at this sort of thing. Why in the world would a campaign directed at foreigners have catch copy created by non-native English speaking Japanese? If I were making a campaign directed at, say, people from Mongolia, do you think I would write the catch copy for that campaign? That's just plain stupid, you know? 

Frankly speaking, all these phrases you sent me are extremely bad and sound simply terrible. They have no beauty in prose nor skill in use of the English language. They are not beautiful sentences.

If you weren't my friend, I'd ignore this letter. But since you are, I'll try to help you. You guys seem to be missing the most basic question that needs to be asked even before you start:

1) Who is your target audience? This is fundamentally a basic question that must be answered first.

I think your audience is:

a) High income, highly educated foreigners who are wealthy enough to travel to Japan. Who are these people? People 35 ~ 55 years old. Educated. Employed. With disposable income. Basically upper middle class and upper class people. 

b) People who might have an interest in Japan. (Try to steal away tourists who go to China or Hong Kong or Singapore to come to Japan instead for a few days.)

Ultimately, this is a tourism campaign, so you want tourists to come here and spend money. You don't want poor people to come, so don't write English sentences and uneducated nonsense that sound like they were written by poor people. 

Try to sound intelligent and highly educated. "Japan Has Seven Amazings!" Does not sound intelligent at all. It is incorrect grammar and spelling. My third grader son laughed when he read it...

If you guys want to capture the imaginations of upper class people then you'll need phrases that don't sound like they were written by fourth graders. 

I am not exaggerating when I say that these phrases you've sent me and this design concept is very poor. It doesn't take into consideration the target audience at all. 

The rainbow idea is incredibly bad. It looks like Obama campaign (Obama is NOT popular at all in USA anymore - or Europe). Your rainbow design looks like that:

Inline image 1 

Everything I see here in your mail is awful, Taka. Sorry to be so frank, but you asked.

Beautiful Japan, and the other seven phrases are just plain amateurish and terrible copy writing

Here, I'll help you guys... You seem so stuck on "7" so how's this? "The Seven Enigma's of Japan" or "The Seven Splendors of Japan"? 

Yeah, I know that none of you guys have ever heard these words, but trust that any native speaker who graduated from elementary school probably has. These words sound at least passably erudite (look up the meaning of that word, please). 

Enigma or splendor may capture the imagination... Perhaps it makes me wonder and it is obvious that it is a phrase created by a professional writer and native speaker.

That's my advice to you.

PS: The rainbow is awful. Think about branding. An image should show me immediately what it is. Whenever you see a Coca Cola logo, you know immediately what it is. Foreign image of Japan is Fuji san, Geisha, Sushi, etc. Don't try to change 500 years of Japanese image in one dumb summer tourism campaign. It won't work. 

Taka wrote back to me later. Of course, they will not take my advice. He wrote:

""Enigma" is good as you explain the meaning of it but it might sound too complicated for difficult for Japanese to understand.

And so it goes. A campaign directed at native English speakers has catch copy rejected because non-native speakers won't understand it?


That's how it works here in Japan. It looks like we're stuck with "Japan Has Seven Amazings!" for this year's (2012) campaign to draw tourists into Japan. Amazings!

And it goes on and on just like this, year after year... And they wonder why people don't visit?

That's why the tourism industry in Japan has been in the doldrums for decades; we have idiots writing and directing the campaign. But not to worry... You won't be embarrassed by these posters... They'll be hanging the posters in restaurants where only the Japanese will see them anyway....

Problem solved! and the end of another brilliant campaign and waste of taxpayer money... 

What's the chances they get it right next year?


Anonymous said...

How hard is it to come up with some positive adjectives that describe Japan, like, "peaceful beauty?"

Andy "In Japan" said...

People do enjoy reading bad Engrish. It's good for a raff. However, it's not at all a way to attract tourists to come here. Clueless government cronies are never going to produce anything worthwhile. Mike, you are casting pearls before swine.

Marc Sheffner said...

"""Enigma" is good as you explain the meaning of it but it might sound too complicated for difficult for Japanese to understand."

I think this says it all. The copy only has to sound good to Taka's (Japanese) boss, you ijit, Mike-san! And you've been here.. how long?

Laura said...

It's amazing the things that seem glaringly obvious to even a casual observer (like me) are not grasped by the people supposedly responsible for these money-wasting foolish campaigns. You are absolutely right about the fact that Japan needs to learn to tap in to the needs or desires of the many sophisticated visitors who come here.

Most Japanese tourist officials still seem to view all visiting "foreigners" as wide-eyed gaijin who know nothing about Japan or Japanese culture, while many are actually coming here for very specific purposes (to buy expensive knives for cooking, to buy unique pottery, taste nihonshu that is unavailable outside Japan, etc.).

On a side note, have you seen this? "Go to Japan? Shibuya is Convenient!"
It still makes me laugh no matter how many times I look at it.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

You sound like you are in a bad mood... Why so insecure?

mikeintokyorogers said...

Dear Anonyymous,

You sound like you are working on this crap project... If I'm so insecure, what are you afraid of?.... Another useless promotion?

Justin DiCenzo said...

Oh... Don't forget the ministry of economics and trade's glorious campaign!


What the hell is COOL JAPAN? It sounds like cool biz.

It's a real mystery why they think Japanese need to understand....

Taro said...

I've been looking forward to the "Seven Amazings" campaign, but sadly more grammatical/OCD minds seemed to have prevailed and the Amazings slogan hasn't surfaced (yet), meh.

Japan must gambare and pick up the pace if they expect to take-back their title for the World's Best engrish, which China has usurped.

True Story: Sandii & the Sunsetz, Go-Bang's and Rodney Bingenheimer and Me.

Some readers might know that I am a disc jockey in Japan. I have been doing this a long time.  Long ago, I was the assistant for the lege...