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Archive for the Japan Category

Traveling the world can be fun. But can it help you increase sales?

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Life after exploding brunch

Today my guest is one of my best friends, Bobby Shanes. He was first on the show way back in May of 2008, in Episode 6: JetBlue and Brunch. What Could Go Wrong? That episode was the “Demo Tape” that I brought to Wired to try and convince them to let me have my own podcast.

As the legend goes, I played the beginning of the interview (about Bobby’s corporate job) and they weren’t too impressed. But when I continued on and played the fun part of the interview, about exploding brunch and pancakes, that’s when everyone lit up and I knew I had found my podcasting voice.

As with all interviews, it’s best to subscribe on iTunes or press play on the embedded player above to listen to the entire show. Below are some highlights.


Toto Toilet

You thought I was kidding when I said I would do an entire podcast about toilets, but you were wrong. Here’s what Japanese toilets taught me about the auto industry.

Play Episode (recommended for maximum loud, funny, ranting):

Or read as a blog post:
Konnichiwa, boys and girls. Today I’ll do my final podcast about my trip to Japan. Previously I’ve covered a dozen marketing and cultural observations about Japan and why Japan is the king of customer service. So if you haven’t seen those yet, check ‘em out.

But another thing that really struck me was the Japanese bathrooms.  Don’t worry, I’m going to keep the language, um, out of the gutter, but when I started thinking about how to broach this topic, somehow the US auto industry came to mind, which of course, is going down the toilet.

But along the way, think about how the topics I discuss apply to ANY business.


This is my second podcast taking a look at marketing and pop culture trends in Japan. Find out why Japan is the king of customer service, and why the US may never catch up.

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  Ritz Carlton

Konnichiwa boys and girls. Think about a time recently when you received great customer service. Maybe a store clerk helped you find a size. Or a waiter or waitress gave you great recommendations and kept your coffee cup full. Or more likely, maybe an outsourced customer service rep managed NOT to hang up on you or transfer you 4 times while answering your billing question.

Now imagine a magical land where the phrase ‘The Customer is Always Right’ actually means something.

Well, from my short experience, that magical land is in Japan.

Our fairytale starts at the Ritz-Carlton in Osaka. Now before you break out your Homer Simpson voice and say ‘oohhhh … the Ritz-Carrllllton,’ let me tell you that the friend I was traveling with has 2 things going for him. Number one is some kind of platinum membership club card because he travels a lot for business, and number two is the gift of persuasion.

So when he came back from the front desk grinning ear-to-ear, I wasn’t surprised to hear that he somehow wrangled the $1,000 Japanese suite for $140 ea. per night. Just now I looked at the cost of the Red Roof Inn in Midtown, and the rooms start at $140 per night. I’ve been forced to pay twice that amount to attend out of state weddings, even heeding the dire warnings of the bride: ‘They’re holding a block of rooms for us! We get a discount! But you need to book ASAP!!!’ We were going to stay in a traditionally-styled, authentic Japanese room – well, except for the fact that there was a Ferrari dealership in the lobby.

Ferrari Ritz-Carlton

But I’m not telling this story because of the high level of service at the Ritz-Carlton. It was what you would expect. What shocked and impressed us so much, was that we received Ritz-Carlton level service in every facet of our trip, from taxi drivers to souvenir salespeople.

Let me run through some examples:



What do you think of when you think of Tokyo? Bright lights? Electronics? Robots? Lots of advertising?

Here are 12 things you might not know about Japan.

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Konnichiwa boys and girls! I was recently lucky enough to cash in some frequent flier miles and visit Japan. Along the way I took notes, giving me some pretty cool content to bring you 3-4 episodes on Japanese marketing and pop culture. While many of the things I saw were what I expected, there were quite a few things that took me by surprise.

Could Tokyo possibly be bigger, brighter, and bolder than New York City? Lets find out.

Here are the Tokyo 12.

1. Advertising Equality
If you picture parts of downtown Tokyo as one giant, brightly-lit neon television commercial, you’re not far off. For example, thousands of people cross intersections near Shibuya Station as billboards and LCD screens tower above them, pushing Coca Cola and cell phones. You’re a long way from Kansas.

But is it any different from New York or other major US cities? Not really. While the JR subway line might have little advertisements on the hanging straps and a small TV monitor in each car, I’ve seen the entire subway car on the shuttle from Grand Central to Times Square or giant city buses wrapped in advertisements. There was definitely lots of advertising, but at a level was about what I was used to.

2. Electronics Letdowntokyo-electronics-town
One of the must-see side trips on my list was a visit to Akihabara, or Japan’s ‘electronics town.’ I was prepared to see 3D television sets, $500 laptops I could fold up and put in my pocket, and of course, a land of robots. I couldn’t wait to bring back some type of secret gadget that no one in the US had even heard of yet. At the next party, everyone would gather around and marvel at this piece of next generation technology and ask, where can I get one of those? To which I’d smugly reply, it’s not available in the US.

So it was to my disappointment that the stores were more WalMart than Wired. In fact, it reminded me of the not so glamorous electronics vendors here in New York. The ones that tourists go to, but not residents. iPods? Same price as the Apple store down the block from me. Digital cameras? Talk to me when you can beat Amazon.com’s price. And Robots? We had to trek up four flights of stairs to get to the one building out of 50 that had robots, only to find the decent ones priced at hundreds and even thousands of dollars.