January 12, 2010



Meet Namiko Kajiwara of Japanese beer company, Kirin Brewery. Back in 2007, when the Japanese government introduced stricter DUI laws, she decided there ought to be a non-alcoholic beer with absolutely zero alcohol in it. Many so-called "non-alcoholic" beers contain anywhere between 0.01% to 0.5% alcohol. In April 2009, Kirin introduced the world's first non-alcoholic beer with 0.00% alcohol - a fact that is prominently displayed on the label.

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal of Japan, the NIKKEI, honored Kajiwara's contribution to the success of this surprising hit product of 2009:


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Female Hit Makers Recognized For Innovation, Sales Savvy

TOKYO (Nikkei)--Shoppers may be pinching pennies, but some products have proved irresistible regardless of the dismal economic conditions. The driving forces behind some of these successes have been women, and five of them made Nikkei Woman Magazine's annual ranking of Japan's top female movers and shakers.

Among the hit makers on the Woman of the Year 2010 ranking, Namiko Kajiwara, who played a leading role in developing Kirin Brewery Co.'s non-alcoholic beer, placed the highest.

Kirin Free, released in April, is the world's first non-alcoholic beer that contains zero alcohol. Within less than two months of its debut, sales surpassed the annual target of 630,000 cases (1 case=20 633ml bottles), prompting the company to raise the goal to 3.5 million cases just six months after the product's launch.

Kajiwara came up with the idea for the beverage in 2007, when the road traffic law was revised to crack down on drunk driving. Because conventional non-alcoholic beer actually contains 0.1-0.5% alcohol, she thought there would be demand for a beer that contains not a drop of alcohol.

In doing market research, Kajiwara spent the bulk of her time defining a vision for the product, eventually coming up with the phrase "contribution to society."

She explains that Kirin can contribute to society by offering a beverage that can slake drivers' thirsts without intoxicating them, thus making the roads safer.

Prominently displayed on each can of Kirin Free are the words "alcohol 0.00%." To drive home the message that its product is truly non-alcoholic, Kirin conducted a sampling event at a highway rest area.

Thanks to such efforts, Kirin Free became a smash success, winning over everyone from drivers to women who are pregnant to people who cannot drink alcohol for health reasons.

Power of perseverance

Some of this year's hit makers made the list thanks to their thorough research and tenacious efforts in introducing new or improved products.

Yuriko Kure spent about a year studying people's thoughts about laundry before coming up with the concept behind Kao Corp.'s (4452) Attack Neo liquid laundry detergent. But coming up with the concept -- a detergent that saves water, electricity and time by requiring only a single rinse -- was just the start; four more years were spent developing the product before Attack Neo hit the market in 2009.

Another hit maker, Keiko Nishida of Sharp Corp. (6753), has since 2002 been developing air purifiers that incorporate the firm's proprietary Plasmacluster technology. By making many product improvements, such as finding a way that enables people to see with their own eyes how effectively a device is cleaning the air, she played a significant role in expanding air-purifier sales at Sharp, which holds the largest share of the market.

The other two hit makers made the list on the strength of their innovative promotional campaigns.

Yuka Komori of Shochiku Co. (9601) led the promotional team for "Departures," which won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. Because of budget constraints, Komori took a word-of-mouth approach, drawing more than 100,000 people to previews in order to create a buzz, among other advertising tactics. The movie became a blockbuster, raking in more than 6.4 billion yen at the box office.

Akiko Sengoku, who works for cosmetics firm Nihon L'Oreal KK, persuaded the parent company in Paris to let the Japanese unit do its own advertising to better appeal to local tastes. This helped make Oscillation, a Lancome-brand mascara product that uses a vibrating brush, a product that the company claims sells "once every 30 seconds."

Nikkei Woman Magazine is published monthly by Nikkei Business Publications Inc.

(The Nikkei Marketing Journal Dec. 13 edition)

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