The Golf Industry in Japan – A Well-Kept Secret to Successful Marketing


While working on developing the world’s first global launch of a 100% biodegradable/compostable corn-based polymer fiber sock in 2005 I came across some very interesting information about the golf industry.

For those of you not in this industry you may not be aware but apparently Japan is the most brutally competitive market in the world, for golf. Korea is a close second. Every company is constantly innovating, developing, refining, looking for that edge, attempting to eke out a little bit extra to gain the competitive advantage in order to take a greater part of market share.

My client is a high-end golf club manufacturer. He is extremely innovative and always looking to develop new hot products to provide his customers. He does not hesitate to place a one-shot $30,000 1/3 page ad in the leading business newspaper that all of the CEOs, CFOs, COOs, etc. read every single day to learn about business and truly leading-edge product development. What he confided in me regarding a Japanese-marketing tactic is truly inspiring.

I found out that there is a ranking system in the USA where every golf tournament statistics are presented showing the percent of golfers (in that tournament) using every single product in use at the tournament. A grand survey is prepared and distributed among the players, marketers, companies. They collect data and publish it like thus: “X% of golfers wear/use Brand Y products”.

This information is culled by the Japanese golf-goods manufacturers and used as an amazing marketing tool in Japan. Here is how it works.

“Shaft Co., Ltd” (an imaginary company) makes a new shaft, let’s call it “Shafted” and gives it out for free to all of the golfers at a tournament. As an example out of the 180 golfers on the tournament, 160 use the shaft and the other super pros (like Tiger Woods who have other contracts) don’t. They try it out. The statistics for that tournament are published. In there we would see that 89% of US Golfers use “Shafted Brand shafts”.

“Shaft Co., Ltd”., takes those statistics back to Japan and turns them into a marketing bonanza. They take out a 1/3 page ad in the Japan Economics Newspaper (Nihon Keizai Shimbun) that is read by all of the company executives in Japan. The ad claims that 88.9% of US pro course golfers use “Shafted Brand” shafts.

The ad runs and it hits the market.

When the Japanese market sees this information, they assume that 88.9% of all golfers in Japan use this shaft. Since the USA is the “hotspot” for golf, where only the best products are used by the pros, the market here in Japan makes the leap to the assumption, “if it is good for about 90% of US golfers, it HAS to be good for us!”.

Here you need to understand that Japan emulates the USA in golf. Even the pro golfers here look to the trends in the USA and try to follow them religiously.

Once this happens, everyone goes out and buys “Shafted Brand” clubs and this shaft goes from an unknown to Number One in the industry, overnight.

My client is designing a special sock to give golfers an edge over the others. This is how my introduction to the biodegradable sock ties into this story. In addition to the high-tech design of the socks he also plans to use this marketing technique to dramatically improve the sales of his socks in Japan and strategically place his product ahead of the pack.

Because Japanese uses a lot of “fuzzy language” it is possible to create a marketing plan in such a way to capitalize on this cultural aspect and target the mass market.

When you want to conduct successful business in Japan, you need to understand more than just the language to get over the many hidden hurdles.

Good luck!

Cameron Switzer

Intrmarket Solutions

Kamishii-mura, Fukui, Japan

Cameron has lived and worked in Japan for over 15 years. Originally a researcher and educator he has a penchant for details and a natural born flair for communication “soul to soul”. His extensive experience in the culture, coupled with language fluency and a deep understanding of Japanese ethics, morals and thought processes has allowed him to develop a special niche market in the business world.

While working to develop a global presence for a titanium material, parts & accessories distributor for the global eyeglass industry for 5 years, Cam saw the difficulties small/medium sized companies were having trying to expand their businesses outside of Japan. He decided they needed help.

Currently Cameron owns and operates a one-man (one dog) SOHO business designed to help foreign and Japanese companies in a variety of industries come together in business in a very efficient, effective, and cost-effective successful manner.

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Author: Uzumaki Naruto

Expert tips before traveling Japan, including reviews of Japanese food and restaurants to help you make your trip as enjoyable and rewarding as possible.

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