Packs of pocket tissues are often given out free in Japan as a cheap, effective method of advertising. It sure beats getting pesky flyers which are soon thrown away!
Believe it or not, I hardly buy pocket tissues in Japan because I get them for free. When I walked past Yokohama station one day, I brought home five free packs with advertisement inserts.
Once, when I asked my American friend’s teenage daughter for some tissues, she said : “Mrs. Mori, please don’t use the whole pack. You see, I like its cinnamon roll scent.”
Stunned, I asked: “You bought it merely to smell it?”
“Yeah, sort of,” she replied sheepishly. “Well, smell it. Nice, right?”
I didn’t use her tissue paper. Instead, I took a snapshot of it after sniffing it.
I usually have a stock of free tissues (including the wet type) to withdraw from. They came to my rescue last month when I suddenly had stomach ache while shopping.
I panicked when the toilet rolls in a shop’s loo were all used up. Boy, I was relieved upon realising that I had two packets of pocket tissue and a wet pack in my handbag!
Tissue-pack marketing has been a most common (and also an inexpensive) tool in advertising. Compared to flyers, people are more likely to accept a pack of pocket tissues.
A discount coupon is sometimes enclosed in it, thus tempting customers to look at its advertisement (and consequentially retain it whenever they use the tissue).
When an establishment is newly opened, the staff will often stand in front of it, distributing free pocket tissues to passers-by.
Other hot spots to hand out these freebies are outside train stations, near bus stops and at shopping arcades.
The concept of tissue-pack marketing first originated in Japan. It was the brainchild of Hiroshi Mori, the founder of Meisei Industrial Co., a paper-goods manufacturer in Kochi prefecture. He was searching for ways to expand demand for paper products. Inspired by the standard-size boxes of tissue (a novelty in the 1960s) imported from the United States, he was struck with the idea of developing the machinery to make pocket-size packs, in l968.
The popularity of using pocket tissues for marketing purposes replaced the most common giveaway item then – matchboxes. Banks were the first purchasers of his company’s pocket tissues to give to clients as part of their customer service.
Distribution of free pocket tissues took to the streets in the 1980s. Even government agencies (and other organisations) are utilising this advertising medium for crime prevention or to raise green consciousness. Recently, I received a pack of tissues with campaign messages against the yakuza (organised crime syndicates).
Four billion packets of free pocket tissues are said to be distributed annually in Japan. To attract attention, the inserted advertisements include pictures of famous artistes such as AKB48 pop singers or other celebrities.
Pocket tissues are incorporated in lucky draws near the end of the year in some shopping districts or department stores. Customers purchasing a certain amount are entitled to draw from a lottery machine and most get pocket tissues as prizes. And to enhance the festive ambience, each pack comes with a cute printed picture of the year’s zodiac animal.
It is quite common to target certain demographics when distributing free tissue packs to passers-by. For example, a company promoting a beauty product for women will go for females.
However, not everyone will take the free packets. Perhaps they have their own and do not wish to stuff their bags or pockets with more pocket tissues?
At a campus, I once saw a table (set up by a driving school) full of promotional pamphlets and free pocket tissues. Even when the school’s employees were not around to man the table, very few students helped themselves to the tissue packs, despite the “feel free to take” note. A Japanese friend also told me that some people will reject free pocket tissues offered on the streets as they do not want to show greed.
Despite that minor hiccup, I don’t mind accepting free pocket tissues. How about you?
Sarah Mori, a Malaysian married to a Japanese, has been living in Japan since 1992. This article was first published in The Star newspaper on 18th Feb 2013. For more detail on Pocket Tissue marketing, visit TissueKing.com