John Player Special King Size
Japanese Qualitative Study
The meaning of imported cigarettes for the Japanese:
Reasons to purchase an imported brand
It is a part of human nature that some persons want to stand out from others and consume things that are superior. However, it is a matter of degree and, unless one is engaged in a special profession, one also tries to avoid being "too different" especially from one's peer group in society.
In Japan, where a large population is centered h several limited areas and both physical and psychological "distance" between each other is small, one is required to act carefully so that he does not "offend" other persons. It is nothing but a disadvantage for a person to be seen as "snobbish" or "strange" in the Japanese society.
Unless something is unavailable from domestic manufacturers, there are few reasons to purchase imported goods. However, the typical (traditional) reason is that imported goods are either definitely better in quality or cheaper in price. The other reason is "fashion" (for females).
In the case of cigarettes, however, the traditional reasons do not necessarily apply (since Japanese consumers believe that JPS (John Player Special) is on the world's top level). Thus, the main reason to purchase imported cigarettes is "fashion". It appears, however, also true that there are some qualities (such as taste or aroma) in certain imported brands that Japanese products do not have, as several respondents mentioned. Therefore, it could be said that one purchases an imported cigarette for "taste", if not for "fashion".
As was already mentioned, however, the degree of difference in "fashionableness" or "uniqueness" should not exceed a certain level so that it is perceived as being "strange" or "snobbish", although there is no physical scale to measure it. (And it changes over time.)
Discussion of probable reasons why Lark has succeeded
The analysis of reasons for the success of Lark in the Japanese imported cigarette market would, probably, be a very good case study for an imported cigarette marketer, especially for the manufacturer.
(1) Fashionable package:
Lark has been sold in Japan for more than 20 years. In other words, it is by no means a new brand. Until Cabin (an apparent imitation of Lark) was introduced, there was no "red" cigarette package in Japan (except for "AAA ?ˆ” three A" which had a short life). The slightly taller (Japanese standard length is 80mm) wine-red package was seen as "stylish" and "fashionable".
It should be noted, however, that if Lark had had a real "red" or a "scarlet" basic color, it is very doubtful that Japanese consumers purchased it. Again, it is a "matter of degree".
(2) Short and clear name:
Although the Japanese generally like English names, they are often ignorant of the meanings and they tend to find long foreign names troublesome to memorize. This single syllable word ending with "K", pronounced as "RAAKU or LAAKU" by the Japanese and having the meaning of a bird that is generally loved by the Japanese sounded clear and comfortable and was easy to pronounce.
(3) Charcoal filter:
Lark was not the leader among the imported cigarettes from the beginning. Before Lark, Kent used to dominate the market. Probably, around the time when JPS (John Player Special) introduced the first charcoal brand, Seven Stars, Lark got its chance. Until then, a charcoal product was nothing but a "different" product.
When JPS (John Player Special) gave its blessings to charcoal filters, consumers turned to Lark which claimed a triple-structure "gas-trap" filter and came to perceive it as having an additional value with its special charcoal filter. Until then, "harm from smoking" was not a great source of worry among consumers.
(4) Successful campaigns:
At one time in Japan, it was a fad to wear a "Lark" T-shirt, carry bags with "Lark" printed, use a drum-can type ?ˆ” ashtray designed as "Lark", etc. among the young people. Although the details are unknown as to how the campaign was carried out, there is no doubt that such a fad helped make the name Lark familiar to all the segments of the general public.