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COVID-19 in Japan and its impact on marketing


COVID-19 in Japan – History to date

The first cases of coronavirus infection in Japan were announced on January 16th, 2020. Then on February 3rd, the British-flagged cruise ship Diamond Princess, which already had infections on board, docked in Yokohama. From there, news of the infection spread worldwide. The first deaths occurred on February 13th.


Since then, the number of infected people has continued to increase slightly, with the government announcing in late February that it would be postponing and cancelling events and encouraging people to work from home. Then on February 27th, the government decided to close primary and secondary schools across the country. Social distancing and isolation began to increase gradually from this point in time.


In early March, stronger restrictions were placed on entry from other countries. Firstly, on March 5th, a two-week quarantine was issued for Chinese and South Korean nationals entering the country. This was also to include northern Italy from the 10th. By this time, the deteriorating situation in these countries (and Iran) was all over the news in Japan.


Rules against events still continue. In Japan, online conferencing tools, such as Zoom, and business collaboration tools, such as Slack and Teams, have become popular and the culture of working from home has taken root.


As we move into the second half of March, big news continues to come in frequently. On March 18th, a 14-day quarantine was requested for travelers from 38 countries, including Europe, Iran and Egypt. On March 22nd, travel across the United States was suspended. And on March 24th, it was officially decided that the Tokyo Olympics will be postponed to the summer of 2021.


Currently, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government has asked people to avoid going out at weekends. As of March 30th, 1,647 people have now been infected in Japan.



For the above timeline, we refer to the article in Newsweek.

For more information on the number of infected people, Toyo Keizai’s “Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Situation Report in Japan” is very useful in understanding the situation.



Remote work in Japan

As mentioned earlier, working from home has been requested by the national and local governments. In Japan, the introduction of online tools such as Zoom has been slower than in Europe and the United States, but it has started to spread quickly. There seem to be more webinars going on than ever before. However, in large cities such as Tokyo, the trains remain crowded during the morning rush hour.



Japan’s most falling and growing industries

According to data from “JCB Consumption Now”, released in March, the industries that grew in February included supermarkets, convenience stores, pharmaceuticals, and discount shops. Various types of e-commerce companies are also experiencing significant growth. More and more people are using delivery services like Uber Eats in the city. On the other hand, the industries that experienced a decline were entertainment, such as amusement parks and movie theaters. Izakaya (Japanese pubs) for eating out. And as you’d expect, the travel and tourism industry, including hotels, has also been struggling.



Advertising and marketing measures in Japan

The Olympics has been postponed, and a drop in advertising spending is highly likely. Dentsu, Japan’s largest advertising agency, announced in its consolidated earnings forecast for the fiscal year, ending December 2020, that the coronavirus will cause a decline in advertising demand. The Olympics have been postponed rather than cancelled, but there is still some uncertainty. As things play out, public opinion will be shaped by whether this decision will be viewed positively or negatively. In the future, when consumer sentiment is taken into account, it is expected that companies will be less likely to launch mass advertising and the share of online advertising will increase. In Japan, it was only last year that online advertising finally overtook television to take the top share of the overall market.


The global crisis is making it very difficult for companies to steer their branding. How can we act in a way that is friendly to consumers rather than just seeking profit? I think that’s what’s being tested here. Ipsos has put together a concise resource on this, which you may find useful.


The above is a summary of the state of the new coronavirus in Japan from the perspective of the content marketing industry. This article will be added to and revised as we find shortfalls or as information is updated.


TAMLO’s slogan is “Languages, Cultures and Markets. Make Things Borderless”. As a global content marketing agency, we will overcome this difficult situation together with the help of people from around the world.

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