From the Bedroom to the Boardroom: Vlogging in Japan

Some of them look as though they’ve just rolled out of bed before making their YouTube upload, pausing just long enough to make a cup of coffee before hitting “record” on their camera or smartphone. Others have props and lighting, costuming, fancy graphics and their own professionally mixed theme song.

Whether they greet you with a bedhead or expertly groomed hair and makeup, they all square themselves to the camera and talk directly to you about the topic they’ve decided to share with you that day. They call themselves Vloggers, YouTubers, or Social Media Influencers and what for most began as an outlet of self-expression from the intimacy of their bedroom, is now a partnership with big name brands to sell millions of dollars’ worth of goods and services to targeted audiences all over the world.

What’s the Scene for Vloggers Like in Japan?

In Japan, the use of social media influencers to sell goods and services is still a relatively new practice compared to other parts of the world. The largest influencer talent agency in Japan, Uuum, didn’t come on the scene until 2013 and now has fifty-one creators. The talent pool ranges from entertainers to gamers and travel guides.

The most popular YouTuber in Japan, Hikakin, is on their roster with more than10 million total subscribers across four channels. Another influencer, Risa Sekine                                                                                                        , made the news in February for being the first YouTuber in Japan to make a million dollars on her beauty channel.

On the other end of the spectrum, popular influencers such as Koji Seto, and Kazu, have just over one million subscribers but some of their videos were seen nearly five million times.

Vlogging Around the World

To view Japan’s influencer market from a global perspective, we can look at what other YouTubers are doing around the world. Forbes reported at the end of 2017 that Swedish gamer Kjellberg (known as PewDiePie), had made $12 million. While he isn’t the highest paid YouTuber (Daniel Middleton comes in at $16.5), Kjellberg has more subscribers than anyone else in the world with a fan base of over 60 million. Kjellberg has more reach on his YouTube Channel than there are people in his homeland of Sweden (9.9 million).

And the YouTube marketplace hasn’t stopped growing yet. The video search engine’s viewership is projected to grow worldwide from 1.47 billion to 1.86 billion by 2021.

How People in Japan View Influencers

According to one talent management agency, 70 percent of teenagers in Japan are more inclined to trust what an influencer they follow has to say about a subject over a celebrity.

86 percent of women use social media to research products they are considering as a purchase before making the decision to buy. 71 percent of the people surveyed said they were more likely to buy something if they’d seen it on social media first.

Why Vlogging Works 

If you examine the top influencers on YouTube, you’ll see something they have in common. Authenticity. Top influencers demonstrate who they are in the way they uniquely express their content.

If you take the time to go back to their early uploads and then watch their most recent, you might see improvements to video quality or the addition of a theme song, but you won’t see the root of their self-expression change. Vloggers’ consistent video uploads (some have been around since 2005), coupled with their distinct viewpoint on life has drawn their niche audience and established a connection that money just can’t buy.

Another reason vlogging is effective? Google reports that YouTube has an ad viewing and audible rate of 95%. These percentages show that matched with the right influencer, brands can expect to keep viewers’ attention for the duration of their ad.

Working with Vloggers

With TV viewership in decline and traditional media approaches challenged by an increasingly sophisticated (and skeptical) consumer, the connection that vloggers have with their audience is a powerful tool that marketers can and should be looking at as part of their strategy in Japan.

I note with interest that Johnson and Johnson’s Listerine team has recently enlisted Kazu’s help on YouTube here to promote their new whitening mouthwash. I applaud this very intelligent effort, although I wonder how close they are to miscasting the vlogger as a paid (and controlled) salesman e.g. I’m pretty sure Kazu didn’t come up with the idea for the slightly clunky whitening demonstration!

It seems that a light touch on the part of the marketing world is in order if vloggers are to maintain their all-important authenticity and serve as an effective partner for brands in their efforts to create a bridge to the market.

Originally published at on April 12, 2018.

CarterJMRN is a strategic market research agency that has been helping clients with consumers and businesses in Japan and beyond since 1989.

We believe that, although the terrain you face in building a successful marketing strategy and activation path sometimes seems obscure, the path to success is knowable and that the consumer is the guide who will show you the way.

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