Case Study: The Apple iPhone 3 launch in Tokyo, Japan.Friday July 11 2008
By Peter Hanami
Video: Launch of Apple iPhone 3 in Japan
The launch of the new iPhone 3G has been set up as a battle, much like Captain Perry and the Black ships. Will the iPhone change Japan and open the mobile phone market up? Today in Tokyo, we visited two locations. The Roppongi store and the Softbank display at Yodobashi camera in Akihabara to get a feel for how customers were reacting. What we found were many excited customers eager to line up, wait in the heat and purchase the phone.
We interviewed two customers who lined up and secured a phone. Steve, 29, from San Francisco "Apple have created a technology playground". As a frequent business traveller he was looking forward to use the phone to receive emails, use the internet and at last be global. Matthew, 32, from the United Kingdom, said he was looking forward to "synchronize his life" with the new iPhone. A feature that gives the new phone a point of difference to current Japanese models.
Recently NTT Docomo announced that they would soon release the "Blackberry" to personal users on August 1st. It seems the pressure from Apple's iPhone launch has already got players changing their thinking?
The Japanese media picked up the launch. NHK 7 pm news featured the new iPhone as a story, displaying how the phone work using the touch screen which was seen as the most different feature compared to current Japanese phones.
Only time will tell if iPhone will impact the buying habits of Japanese customers mobile phone users but one thing for sure it has created a buzz and excitement.
The real key it seems is if the new phone can be used easily by Japanese customers who currently use their thumb to access features and type emails on their current phones. If the Apple iPhone can do this quicker, simpler and in line with what current users feel comfortable with some say they may have a real winner.
The "show off" factor will certainly be an important part of the introduction. It really depends on how many hip 'salarymen' try to impress their co-workers in the office with the new gadget and what their reaction will be. If the office talk reveals the new iPhone is more convenient. Watch out!
Back in 2005 it was hard to find an Apple iPod shuffle in Tokyo; you had to hunt them down from Japanese importers. Major Japanese chains in Tokyo initially didn't stock them and store salesmen wrote them off as poor quality, unreliable and focused on poor battery life.
But in less than two years the familiar white headphone cords began appearing on subway trains as the word spread and Apple took over Japan with portable digital music players. Apple stores in Tokyo and on Osaka's Midosuji dori soon became cool places to hang out on the weekend and if you could find a space inside the store you could see the Japanese fascination with your own eyes. The same kind of fascination photography, cameras and motorbikes had years before.
Apple's appeal in Japan is hard to pin down in a single concept but words like cool, unique, creative, independent, freedom, personal and simple come to mind. Japanese customers love variety and new items will always get a look at but success is a different story.
Brand, reputation, service and convenience all play an important part in the total package. Round 1 Apple. Round 2?
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