Successes of Western products in the Japanese market

Date of publication: June 15, 1991


The prevailing belief is that Japan’s markets are protected from the entry of foreign competition by a host of complex barriers. These range from conventional trade barriers such as tariffs and quotas on the import of certain items and complex product regulation to more subtle barriers such as Japan’s unique culture and traditions and its labyrinthian distribution channels. Nonetheless, despite these barriers, a number of Western firms have been successful in penetrating Japanese consumer markets. Although no single formula for success is apparent, all appear to have developed an understanding of the unique characteristics of the Japanese market, and adapted their products and marketing strategies accordingly. A number of examples of successful Western products in Japan are discussed here. These show the importance of creating a strong brand or corporate image, attention to product quality and packaging, and establishment of an effective distribution and service network by fostering strong personal relations and trust with distributors.

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