Based on my experience in Taiwan (which is about 2 years of study and research scholarship residence) we take look at the differences between the marketing cultures of Japan and Taiwan—it turns out that under the atmosphere of freedom and democracy in Taiwanese and Japanese societies, clear understanding is needed to form a good business environment for the marketologists and salesmen.

In the past few years, the biggest advantage of Taiwanese companies is exactly the opposite of that of Japanese companies: Taiwanese companies are very “flexible” and can always make quick entry/stop loss decisions.

If you are asked to compare the differences between Japanese companies and Taiwanese companies, can you answer right away?

Just imagine one talanted entrepreneur who has been starting a business in Taiwan for 4 years. In the past 1 or 2 years, due to the epidemic situation, Japanese business customers have reduced their budgets, and some have even withdrawn from the Taiwan market. So his team began to think about how to use our advantages to cooperate with more Taiwanese companies and how to increase customers in Taiwan. After adjusting their strategy, he started to gain some new customers from Taiwan despite the severeness of the pandemic situation. Because of these experiences, his team can observe Japanese customers and markets, and Taiwanese customers and markets at the same time, and also see the cultural differences between the two, as well as their respective advantages and disadvantages.

Now let us share the characteristics of Taiwanese and Japanese companies that actually observed in the industry. We hope that whether it is a Taiwanese company or a Japanese businessman, everyone can learn from each other’s characteristics to make up for their weaknesses.

Selling Flowers

Can you guess when flowers are selling well in Japan but not in Taiwan?

Of course Mother’s Day – in Japan, since many children would send flowers to their mothers on Mother’s Day, but Taiwan’s relative sales are not very good.

So, when are flowers sold well in Taiwan but not in Japan then?

The answer is Valentine’s Day. In Taiwan, flowers sell very well on Valentine’s Day; but in Japan, people usually send chocolates on Valentine’s Day, but flowers are not as popular as expected.

There is no right or wrong among them, it is just the differences in culture, customs, and consumption habits. Celebrating the same festivals and buying flowers, Taiwan and Japan show quite different consumption habits. It can be seen that even in the era of globalization, it is extremely difficult or even impossible for a country to completely “assimilate” the culture of another country.

Therefore, the correct way of cross-border sales should be to understand and adapt to the local culture first. But when it comes to this, some Japanese business customers still think that “the Japanese buying habits are the “correct””… Many of us can’t help but feel puzzled.

Advantages of Japanese companies

So, where are the cultural differences between Japanese companies and Taiwanese companies?

The biggest feature of Japanese companies compared to Taiwanese companies is that they are very “patient”. Of course, in other words, this also means that they are relatively slow at setting stop loss points, but they are usually more willing to stick to what they think is right and believe that there will be good results in the long run.

For example, one marketing company has a Japanese customer who sells Japanese animation products on the Internet. Since the company started promoting in Taiwan in 2018, its performance has not improved—they spend a lot of money on advertising every month, but their performance has not been very good.

However, despite being unable to make ends meet for nearly two years, the company still insists on operating the Taiwan market. Until the end of 2019, they decided to set up a small pop-up store at an exhibition, but unexpectedly sold extremely well on the spot, good enough to make up for all the losses in the past. This was the result of their persistent sales in Taiwan.

By the way, the reason why Japan’s animation industry is popular and even internationally famous is the patience and persistence of the Japanese.

For example, there are two very famous weekly comics in Japan: “Weekly Shonen Sunday” (サンデー) and “Weekly Shonen Magazine” (マガジン). The most famous serials of the former include “Detective Conan”, etc., and the famous serials of the latter are “Kindaichi Boy’s Incident Book” and “GTO”.

What you may not know is that the two publishing houses behind サンデー and マガジン: Kodansha and Shogakukan , as early as 1959, more than 60 years ago, began to promote comics in the form of weekly magazines – they gathered different cartoonists. Serialized works reduce costs and sell at low prices, hoping to make comics, which were still a minority at the time, become popular culture.

How have these two companies’ ambitions turned out? The answer is: 10 consecutive years in a state of loss .

But they still insisted on waiting for the day when the comics market would blossom and bear fruit—later, as comics gradually became popular, the two companies that had been in the market for the longest time also got a lot of remuneration from it.

Losing money for 10 years without giving up? Frankly speaking, it would be very difficult for companies in Taiwan (or many other countries) to do this, except for Japanese companies.

Advantages of Taiwanese companies

The biggest advantage of Taiwanese companies is exactly the opposite of that of Japanese companies: Taiwanese companies are very “flexible” and can quickly make entry/stop loss decisions.

They pay great attention to cost/performance, and have clear standards for profit targets. Once there are operational problems, they often have the courage to immediately terminate any business that the management thinks is unprofitable.

For example, when we see that Hon Hai Precision Industry acquired Japan’s SHARP and immediately turned it into a profit after a few years, we can be very impressed.

SHARP has been too “patient” which has resulted in overly indecisive decisions in the face of rapid market changes and made for a “nearly impossible to stop loss” environment for this large company. After that, Hon Hai Precision Industry came in, and “gracefully” abolished the unprofitable departments, and finally brought long-lost profits.

However, the Taiwanese company’s determination to quickly enter the market when it sees a niche, and to stop losses immediately when it sees a loss, from another perspective, inevitably gives people the impression of “short-term”: for example, when Portuguese-style egg tarts, hand- cranked beverages, ice products, claw machines, etc. are trendy, countless shops of the same nature can be seen on the streets of Taiwan; after the boom passes, these shops will soon close their doors or start other businesses.

However, culture, long-term trends or brands are unlikely to be established overnight by such short-term operations . Therefore, Taiwanese companies are relatively not so intensive at cultivating culture of building brands.

The “Shogakukan” and “Kodansha” mentioned above started from a loss of 10 years and promoted comics as a kind of “culture”. Those who persist will naturally enjoy the halo of the brand and a reliable and stable market.

In fact, the business models of Silicon Valley technology companies such as Amazon in recent years are similar: in order to popularize services, they are willing to bear losses for many years.

Take advantage of each

Most Japanese companies are very patient and are more willing to persevere in adversity, but their concept of stop loss is weak, and we often see a “dragging” mode. On the other hand, Taiwanese companies value short-term efficiency and often set stop losses quickly, but they are not good at developing long-term business.

Try to ask ask Japanese companies investing in Taiwan: “Do you have a plan to withdraw?” and clearly explain to them how much they should or should not tolerate. But when you ask this question to companies, 90% of Japanese companies have no specific exit plan/criteria. So far, the Japanese companies that have left the Taiwan market have all retreated because of “sudden instructions” from the management to leave.

On the other hand, Taiwanese companies should not only focus on short-term profits, and the monetization model can be more flexible. (In fact, even Google, the global technology giant, didn’t know how to monetize its services at the beginning).

At the same time, it is also possible to manage “brand” and “culture” for a longer period of time: just like the decades of hard work of Japanese manga publishing houses, now new Japanese animations can quickly enter the global market (such as Demon Slayer: Blade, Magic back to war, etc.) – because “Japanese manga/anime” has become a cultural medium known and recognized by countries all over the world.

Of course, I am also a business owner and founder, and in the first year of my business, I almost lived on sideline business, so I may understand the feeling of “being in a loss state” very well. However, we still believe in our services and our own strength, and we continue to persevere, and finally turn losses into profits. To me, if a company gives up its service too early, it actually means that the person in charge has no confidence in itself-this kind of company will face the fate of being eliminated.

Through this article, I hope that everyone can understand the advantages and disadvantages of Japanese/Taiwanese companies, help everyone think about how to make up for each other in work or business management, and get positive inspiration from it.

If you are interested in the prospect of entering the market of Japan or Taiwan, we invite you to program cooperation on the development of markets in East Asia. Write us about regional challenges for your project or line of work and within the next week we will be able to have a conference call with you regarding the prospects for cooperation.

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