Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Japan Envy: Tie-in merchandising

One thing I inexplicably love about Japan its merchandise. I'm sure tons of essays have been written on the subject before, but as I haven't read any of them, suffice it to say I don't really know why it is they do merchandise so well. Just that they do. Leave it to Japan to create the cutest products out of the most mundane household goods and combine Hello Kitty with just about anything you can imagine.

Yup, that's Hello Kitty dressed as an anime character (source)
This latest Japanese tie-in merchandising scheme is close to my heart for a number of reasons: First, it's combining books and video games, which are undoubtedly two of my favourite things. New Love Plus, the sequel to everyone's favourite Nintendo DS dating sim that has you interacting with your virtual girlfriend day in and day out, has put a new spin on things. In the game, you will be encouraged to read a book alongside your virtual gal in a series of in-game events, and she'll even ask you questions about the material as a way to gauge your interest. The three books chosen include Anne of Green Gables and two contemporary Japanese titles. While anyone could go pick up a second hand copy of these titles for next to nothing, Konami and Kodansha have a better idea: they're marketing limited New Love Plus-themed copies of the books.

Anne of Green Gables featuring one of the New Love Plus ladies (source)
The New Love Plus art will be on a dust jacket, so you will be able to remove it to see the original cover art underneath.

Now, the other reason this is so interesting to me is albeit a personal one: My mom is a big fan of Anne of Green Gables, and often cites it as a reason why she named me Anne (with an "e," of course!). We even ventured to her house up in Prince Edward Island (or is it the author's house?) back when I was too little to remember much of anything and spotted a Japanese couple getting married there! If you haven't noticed, Japan is in love with Anne of Green Gables. I think this must be some sort of sign.

Anyways, I totally dig this sort of cross merchandising, and yet the Japanese seem to consistently be the only ones who get it right. Even though I'm not really interested in New Love Plus, I might have been drawn to purchase said book... I often think it's a very good thing I don't live in Japan, as I'd be wallowing in piles of useless stuff.

What do you think – is tie-in merchandise corny, or cool?


Jennifer Linsky said...

Tie-in merchandise is the cool.

Go to Strapya world, and search "Hello Kitty x Sesame Street."

Alois Wittwer said...

Tie-in merchandise is fascinating and isn't done nearly enough.

I think it might come down to a matter of perception. Here we see tie-in merchandise as a tacky and exploitative tactic a publisher uses to maximise profits for the brand. Man, I even felt bad writing all those marketing words down :p

I see tie-in merchandise as really interesting though and if done well it can generate interest in other things. I can't help but think that sales of Atlus Shrugged skyrocketed when Bioshock was released all those years ago and it was weird not to see any publicity or attempt to use both the book and game in interesting, cross-promotional ways.

Eden said...

Alois: I think the reason you never saw that kind of tie in was that Bioshock was a complete refutation of Atlas Shrugged's philosophy. So it would have been a strange move, marketing-wise! "Hey! Buy the book that was the basis for the failed Utopia in Bioshock!"

I'm sure the publicity around the game helped sales of the book, though.

I do think that cross-promotion, done well, enhances both brands. Because of that, I love to see it done, even when it's a spectacular failure. The main reason I'm here, though, is because: Anne of Green Gables! LOVE.

Bryan Ochalla said...

I'm with everyone else here: I love this sort of thing! Really, I should have been born in Japan. I guess I could say that I should live there, but I don't think that's ever going to happen, sadly. Oh, well, hopefully I'll visit at least once in my lifetime :)

Adam said...

I didn't know they made an Anne of Green Gables anime

apricotsushi said...

Jennifer – Ah, yes, I forgot about Strapya!!

apricotsushi said...

Alois – Your comment "Here we see tie-in merchandise as a tacky and exploitative tactic a publisher uses to maximise profits for the brand" is so spot-on! Maybe you should go into business ;) I would definitely like to see more interesting tie-ins outside of Japan in the future. Particularly if they relate to video games, of course!

apricotsushi said...

Eden – You like Anne of Green Gables, too? Yay!
And I wasn't aware of the connection between Bioshock and Atlas Shrugged... Probably because I never played Bioshock. D:

apricotsushi said...

Bryan – I hope you'll be able to make a trip to Japan someday, too! You'd be in heaven!

apricotsushi said...

Adam – Yes, there is! The cover of the book I posted here isn't of the anime but is a tie-in with one of the female dating options in the game New Love Plus, though. The anime looks like this: http://www.animepalm.com/series-images/anne-of-green-gables.jpg

I haven't watched it yet, myself. I definitely should put that on my "to do" list, though!

David said...

As a Canadian, it's interesting to learn that people from countries other than Canada and Japan appreciate Anne. Because she's a true symbol of Canada (for better and for worse), along with Mounties and beavers (yes, I know what I just said). Of course, I was aware of Japan's obsession with Anne. What does that say about their character? I assume they appreciate her ability to ah, express herself openly, and her willingness, nay, drive, to speak truth to power.

And I know the 1980s mini-series aired on PBS and in many other countries, as did some of the Canadian spin-off series. So, aside from the books being around for 100 years, it makes sense Anne would spread around the world.

As for me, one of my first boyhood crushes was on Megan Follows, the actress who played Anne in the mini-series. Maybe I'll hit up IMDB to see what she's done in the past 20 years.

As for the Love Plus tie-in, it's just all so charming, in an admittedly bizarre way!

apricotsushi said...

Hi David! Thanks so much for your thoughtful comment!

Oh, where in Canada are you from? My father hails from Nova Scotia :)

Yeah, I'm curious myself as to why Anne has captured the hearts of so many Japanese. I don't believe, for example, that the Little House on the Prairie stories with Laura are nearly as popular, even though for all intents and purposes they're very similar in style. It definitely must lie in her character.

I've never seen the mini-series, but after so many people suggesting it to me, it's definitely high on my list of things to check out! I'd love to see the Anne of Green Gables anime sometime, too.

David said...

Yeah, I think of Anne as a Canadian "Little House", but maybe "Little House" is just an American Anne.

I haven't seen the mini-series since I was a teenager (ie. a long time ago), but it's very charming and well-produced, and has fine actors like Colleen Dewhurst and the amazing Richard Farnsworth.

I'm in BC, so the other side of the country... though Canada is like a small town in a lot of ways, just spread out over the world's second largest nation.

Mac said...

Effective merchandising demands the most effective use of available retail space, with all retail practice ultimately seeking to capture the impulse of the customer to buy more and to buy better.

Merchandising New England

LindaW said...

I loved reading this one and how they are using "Anne of Green Gables" ...from Mom

There was also Queen Anne !!