Saturday, 20 February 2010

Designer black

Black continues its niche (but well promoted) presence among Japanese products. Black was already back some years ago, but this month saw a push for two Black-named cigarettes. Marlboro's Black Gold (new 8mg!) got promoted to the extent of, for example, shrouding the above cigarette-vending machine in advertising and modifying it to sell only Black Gold.

Not to be outdone Lark cigarettes promoted their Black Label pack - launched at the end of last year - in competition with Marlboro on my local convenience store's counter.

Why "Black" fags should be big in Japan (and Asia?) but not elsewhere, I'm not sure. (Admittedly, smoking is less restricted in Japan - compared to, say, Europe and the US - but that is in the process of rapidly changing, to the extent of a new law on smoking in offices and restaurants being considered.)  The colour's traditional association with "cool" may explain its appeal, but why another association - with the colour of smokers' lungs - doesn't spring to mind, again, I'm not sure. (Incidentally, Black Marlboro have a Facebook fan page with over 5,000 members - and they can be bought online priced in US dollars from Indonesia!)

But black labelled cigarettes are just one presence in maintaining a definitely small - but presumably reliable - selection of black products in Japan. Three years ago, the now-defunct (but archived here) online Ping Mag mentioned various goods - for example, black cotton buds - which are often still available now in Japan. Meanwhile, for another month Panasonic will be plugging their "night color" (ie, black) product range in a campaign that started in October last year, as, coincidentally, did Ponds' advertisement for their black face-cleanser which is also currently on TV. (The cream may be black - charcoal based - but it leaves your face clear, naturally.)

Add to these black face-packs, nose-pore cleaners and more. It may be that black is a designer's favourite, "alternative" but somehow mainstream, but it obviously connects with a minority of steady, alternative-but-mainstream buyers in Japan. To gain a small niche, perhaps, think black.

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