Debunking Japan’s Seasonal Marketing Myths

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Businesses in Japan constantly develop narratives to change consumer buying habits by capitalizing on the seasons or even something fictitious.

Businesses and marketers in Japan are constantly developing narratives to influence consumer buying habits.

Not the June bride…

The term and associated imagery of the “June bride” are oversaturated.

The garden courtyard. A youthful, doe-eyed bride clad in white bridal garb. The groom dressed in a pristine white tux, and a warm ray of sunshine with perfect blue skies like some far-flung European paradise.

But unlike most of Europe, in Japan, June is the start of the rainy season, which usually lasts about a month, and the temperature and humidity are high enough to make dressing up extremely unconformable.

Despite omnipresent marketing efforts, promotions, and idioms like “June bride” and “June wedding,” June is not the most popular month for weddings.

Zexy, a well-known Japanese lifestyle magazine with a large focus on wedding-related content, conducted research in 2020 and discovered that, in fact, November was the most popular month for weddings, followed by October and September, respectively.

These findings are entirely logical. From early summer until early fall, the weather in Japan is extremely hot and muggy. And from July to early September, the temperature regularly exceeds 30°C and frequently reaches 35°C, much like a tropical climate.

Since heavy rain and typhoons are common in September, it’s not surprising that the cooler and drier months of October and onwards are the preferred time for wedding plans.

Where Did the June Bride Come From?

In short, the wedding and marriage industries. The June Bride is a partially a made-up seasonal symbolism likely based on a U.K. norm  where, according to The Ultimate Date Setting Guide, “ the height of summer” is when the majority of weddings take place.

Hotels and wedding businesses insistently push the narrative that getting married in June brings good luck and a happy marriage. The likely intention was to disrupt the idea that rain and high humidity make June actually one of the worst possible times to plan a wedding.

However, if June was to be discounted, July-September dismissed, and January left out for being too cold, it would mean that almost half of the year would be designated unfit for weddings – a disaster for an industry reeling from Japan’s rapidly declining marriage rate.

There’s Nothing ‘Christ-Like’ or ‘Mass-Like’ About Christmas

Christmas is not a national holiday in Japan, which makes sense with only 1% of the population identifying as being Christian. Therefore, such marriage celebrations has very little to do with anything religious: it’s rather an event for couples, friends, or children to have parties, spend time together, and exchange gifts.

Christmas Day itself seems to be somewhat of an anomaly: some say it’s the 25th;  some say it’s the 24th. In fact, rumor has it that the quasi official day was declared (by who knows) as the 24th. The reasoning behind it was that, if a woman had reached the age of 24 and was still unmarried, she’d be left on the shelf like a stale old Christmas cake.

To this day, Christmas in Japan is still regarded as a date night for couples. And not so long ago, single ladies were supposed to feel depressed and lonely on Christmas night.

Fried Chicken Christmas

The legendary “fried chicken frenzy” is also a hallmark of a Japanese Christmas. Fried chicken is likely a convenient substitute for turkey, which is difficult to find and quite unpopular in Japan.

Strawberry shortcake, fried chicken, and particularly KFC are the traditional delicacies of the season, despite the fact that they are ubiquitous and available year round.

No one seems to know (or care) how this came about, but it was probably a very clever industry-led marketing gimmick that stuck and exploded.

Kikangentei and Collective Consumption

Whether it’s a traditional holiday, a shift in the seasons, or something completely made up, businesses and marketers are always on the lookout for ways to cash in on the occasion by creating a narrative, designing special packaging, forming partnerships, or hosting special events.

Seasonal marketing and the concept of kikangentei (期間限定), which translates to “limited edition,” are inextricably intertwined in Japanese marketing strategies. These products have a limited shelf life as they are designed mostly to target a specific season or event.

Kikangentei therefore works to exert a sense of urgency in the minds of consumers, or imply that the products are the must-have items of the season.

However, as we’ve shown, this sense of urgency also applies to abundant things that are neither seasonal nor limited in availability.

Therefore, what industry insiders and marketers seem to understand and exploit well is the thrill that Japanese consumers get from collectively and habitually engaging in specific consumption activities at specific times of the year.