JIN-430 -- Goofy about Disney

The 'JIN' Japan Inc Newsletter
A weekly opinion piece on social, economic and political trends
in Japan.
Issue No. 430 Wednesday September 5, 2007 TOKYO

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Goofy about Disney

With an unprecedented 25,816,000 visitors last year, queues at
Tokyo Disney Resort aren’t getting any shorter. This record
number of visitors, up 4.2% from last year, is largely down to
the fact that it was the fifth anniversary of Tokyo Disney Sea
(TDS). The annual report of the Oriental Land Company (OLC) that
operates the resort was published last month and makes for some
interesting reading. Tokyo Disney Land (TDL) & TDS together
account for 84% of OLC’s total revenue that pushes US$3 billion.
It shows the two resorts as head and shoulders above the
competition, the closest competitor for crowd numbers being
Universal Studios Japan who, even if you treat the Disney resorts
separately, falls well behind with a total of 8,414,000 visitors
in the fiscal year 2006-2007.

With plans to expand its operations in the areas beyond the
existent Disney kingdom and throughout the whole locality, OLC
will open a new facility full of shopping centres,
restaurants and hotels. This targets those who currently come
from a long way—the plan is that they will have such convenient
places to eat, shop and rest near the resort that there will be
less possibility of any yen being spent on their entire trip that
doesn’t roll towards OLC. The annual report coolly explains,
‘We have set a numerical target of consolidated income at
the 27 million yen level in the fiscal year ending March 2011,
and we are aiming for average growth in earnings of about 13%.’
This ambition might account for the extra glint in Mickey’s eyes
this summer.

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Since it opened in 1983, the Tokyo Disney resort has been a much
envied marketing success story. Marketers, management gurus,
academics and consultants of numerous colors have at different
times given their expert opinions on the reasons behind Disney’s
love affair with the Japanese consumer, with whom Disney is
uniquely the favourite not only of children, but also a
significant proportion of adults. The overall appeal of Disney
works the same as in other cultures but there appears to be an
exaggerated and residual emotional attachment to the characters
that makes it not uncommon for middle aged executives to have a
Mickey Mouse pendant dangling from their cell phone or a fluffy
Winnie the Pooh attached to their laptop case.

Mike Fiorella, an expert on Japanese consumer trends and brains
behind the website www.japanmarketingnews.com thinks that the
Disney ‘cute’ factor is very important to its success in Japan, he
comments that, ‘The burden of social demands in a traditional and
historically regimented society like Japan takes an emotional
toll. ‘Cute’ things bring some fun, brightness, and a bit of
escape to daily life on a personal level...Appreciation of
cuteness is one of Japan’s great harmonizers and social
lubricants.’ Further than this, cute characters are also endowed
with a relatively higher amount of trust by Japanese consumers.
Thus, Sumitomo have used Mickey Mouse as a mascot to sell money
market accounts, a fact that leads the analyst Mary Yoko Brennen
to pronounce that in Japan, ‘Cuteness is associated with
childhood and evokes a certain nostalgia for a time when life was
uncomplicated, safe and reliable’ (Academy of Management Review,
vol 29, 2004). Most recently, in May this year, Walt Disney Japan
announced the launch of a new banking service aimed at women and
families in partnership with Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ.

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So far as the resorts are concerned, Brennen notes that Tokyo
Disneyland has the ‘highest per capita revenues from souvenir
merchandise of all the Disney theme parks’—little surprise given
the Japanese practice of ‘sembetsu’ (present giving). For OLC
this has allowed them to maximize revenues from the ‘World
Bazaar.’A small but critical level of adaptation has also
contributed to Tokyo Disneyland’s success. Most obviously the
characters all speak in Japanese and there are local food
options, but there are also more subtle variations such as the
wearing of white gloves by staff and increased number of tour
options.

Given the strength of the brand and the might and ambition of
the OLC it looks doubtful as to whether other theme parks in
Japan have much hope of gaining ground on the top player. Mike
Fiorelli ponders that with the ageing population ‘there are going
to be a lot fewer young Japanese consumers in coming years. This
translates to fewer kid visitors to all theme parks, but
especially those of special interest to kids. Does this mean USJ
will then gain some advantage? Perhaps.’ But given residual adult
attachment to the characters, perhaps not.

By Peter Harris
Chief Editor

Want to comment? It is now even easier to voice your opinion
than ever before! Simply visit www.japaninc.com/jin430 and
post a comment below the article. Alternatively, you can email
it directly to the author at peter.harris@japaninc.com

++EVENTS
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- J@pan Inc Magazine IT Feature-November/December 2007 issue -

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+EVENTS
----------------------------------------------------------
Start a Company in Japan

Entrepreneur's Handbook Seminar 6th of October, 2007

If you have been considering setting up your own company,
find out what it takes to make it successful.
Terrie Lloyd, founder of over 13 start-up companies in Japan,
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This is an ideal opportunity to find out what is involved,
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in business books.
All materials are in English and are Japan-focused.

For more details: http://japaninc.com/terrie_lloyd/
------------------ Tokyo Sinfonia--------------------

Under director Robert Rÿker
Tokyo Sinfonia, Tokyo's premier chamber orchestra, is to
treat audiences to a series of performances at Oji Hall, Ginza:

14th September - Symphonies for Strings - Beethoven
Grosse Fugue for Strings, Op. 133
Symphony in C Major (from Op.29)

12th December - Symphonies for Strings - Mozart
Adagio and Fugue for Strings, KV 495
Symphony for Strings in D Major (from KV.593)

Place: Oji Hall, Ginza
Price: Y6000 (single) Y10,000 (pair)
Email: tokyosinfonia@gol.com
Tel: (03) 3588 0738
-----------------------------------------------------------
RidgeRunner Niseko
International Cricket Competition 15-17 September 2007

This is your invitation to three days of fun at an
international cricket tournament in Niseko being held to
the benefit of the Tyler Foundation for Childhood Cancer.

Cricketing legend Dennis Lillee will be attending the event
which is being co-hosted by the Higashiyama Prince Hotel and
includes two days of cricket, a golf match and charity
dinner dance and auction.
For more information, and the chance to win a
dinner with Dennis,

please visit www.ridgerunner.jp/cricket
or contact Simon Jackson
(simon@rad-development.com, 011-876-3704)
------------------- ICA Event-Sept 20 -------------------

SPECIAL JOINT EVENT with the AUSTRALIAN NEW ZEALAND CHAMBER

Speaker: Tim Williams, Founder and Director of Value Commerce
Topic: Japan Success Stories - Value Commerce

Details: Complete event details at http://www.icajapan.jp/
(RSVP Required)
Date: Thursday, September 20, 2007
Time: 6:30 Doors open
(Light buffet, beer, wine, soft drinks included)
Cost: 3,500 yen (members), 5,500 yen (non-members)

Open to all-location is Australian Embassy B2
http://www.australia.or.jp/english/seifu/embassy/map.html
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END

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