As a culture driven by perfection, craftsmanship and shifting tastes, the Japanese market can prove a steep learning curve for marketers.

As a marketer moving to the Japanese market there is a lot an outsider needs to learn. From consumer tastes to the role of brands and the overwhelming desire for quality, it can prove a bit of a culture shock.

James Williams, Coca-Cola vice-president of Olympics assets and experiential marketing for Tokyo 2020, moved to Japan from Brazil two-and-a-half years ago having served as director of marketing and sponsorship at the Rio 2016 Games.

He describes the experience as “quite a shift”, both in terms of getting to know the Coca-Cola business in Japan and understanding the market. The company has more than 50 brands and 800 products in Japan – and Coca-Cola is not the main player.

“If you look at the total of Japan we’re probably the market leader in all ready-to-drink drinks. If you look at it in certain categories we’re definitely not,” Williams explains.

“If you look at it in any other market, you’ve generally got all the soft drinks we lead clearly on, so here it’s trying to come to terms with that.”

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