Selling-Marketing

Confections assumed different identities when sold. Nowhere was this difference more prevalent than in advertising - a new medium through which an imagined space opened up between seller and buyer. Most of the adverts for confections that appeared in newspapers during the 1890s tended to be makers of Japanese sweets. Despite the large numbers of confectioners in operation, only a handful embraced this new marketing tool; and of those that did the adverts tended to be very small, reflecting in part the limited capital that traditional confectioners could harness to support their marketing activities. They were also characterized by an emphasis on the products’ appearance, rarity or seasonality. One of the most prominent was the Ginza maker Kogetsudo who advertised its ‘novelty sweets’ (chingashi) in various guises throughout the year. Each month its advert would announce a different-themed product. In June, it would be ‘a beautiful and rare confection’ that reflected the rainy season; in August, the theme would be changed to the lingering summer heat.[1] As Western influences became more marked, Kogetsudo effortlessly incorporated Christmas as part of its advertising tactics, adding biscuits to its line of products in an attempt to offer them as gifts for the New Year.[2] Giftgiving was thus also an important role accorded to confections. In 1896, for example, Toraya advertised its chimaki - traditional confectionary wrapped up in bamboo leaves - in time for gift-giving in mid-summer.[3] Made with selected ingredients and sought-after Kyoto bamboo leaves, Toraya explained the confection was a tasty and aromatic product that would be perfect for mid-summer greetings and as gifts for convalescents. Medical warnings about sweets had, it seems, little impact on how traditional confectioners sold their wares at this time.

At the beginning of the twentieth century, as yogashi became more widely available, adverts for Western-style confectionary proliferated, eventually outnumbering those for wagashi. Even so, the content and style of adverts retained the flavour of what had gone before. Between 1905 and 1913, Morinaga published relatively small newspaper adverts, which essentially adhered to the traditional convention of associating sweets with the seasons and the custom of gift-giving. For example, one advert placed in the Yomiuri Shimbun encouraged readers to buy sweets either as winter gifts (seibo) or for Christmas.[4] During a similar period, Fugetsudo, which only used adverts to announce a new line of products, also encouraged the purchase of their sweets for gift-giving purposes. Both companies also plugged the health benefits of their products, touting their sweets as nutritional and hygienic, benefits that did not accrue to wagashi. Similarly absent were references to the importance of appearance or rarity - which had been a distinctive part in the selling of wagashi - but these omissions did not represent a paradigmatic shift in the way the two styles of confectionary were marketed.

After 1914, however, Morinaga’s advertising strategies changed. For one thing, newspaper adverts became more frequent. Rather than concentrate on July and December - traditional occasions for the exchange of gifts - adverts became a daily onslaught. Consumers were encouraged to buy more regularly and throughout the year. Second, as instances became frequent, the focus shifted to individual products, especially those that promised better sales, not on a panoply of products. During the 1910s, milk caramel became the main target. Later in the 1920s, the focus shifted to chocolate. Third, more money was injected, resulting in larger, more elaborate and visual representations. For example, in 1915, Morinaga placed on the front page a large advert that contained a visual report on the achievements of a Japan naval air force commander.[5] It depicted scenes of a cheering crowd celebrating the lieutenant breaking the 500- mile record - a feat that only Western powers had previously recorded. Such an achievement was thanks to Morinaga’s pocket caramel that provided lieutenant Umagoshi with energy.

Thanks to its success, other companies joined Morinaga in the expanding market for yogashi. Established in 1916 as Tokyo Confectionary (Tokyo Seiko), Meiji, which quickly became Morinaga’s rival, employed similar tactics. Injecting the vast amounts of capital it had generated through its erstwhile operation as sugar refiners, Meiji made a name for itself through the marketing of its chocolate products. Many of the adverts depicted men as well as women engaged in non-domestic pursuits. High jumpers, businessmen, women about to embark on vacation and female tennis players were some of the ‘consumers’ that made appearances (Fig. 1).[6]

It was thanks to chocolate that high jumpers broke records, businessmen could succeed at work, female travellers were able to carry large amounts of luggage and female tennis players recovered from fatigue. Both Morinaga and Meiji created an advertising discourse, which powerfully marketed their sweets as sources of productive energy that helped support consumers’ public activities. Consuming them was to become modern citizens.

In contrast to the advertising onslaught kick-started by Morinaga, wagashi makers remained sceptical - some downright hostile - to the marketing of sweets. In 1907, Kashi Shimpo reported on entrenched attitudes among traditional wagashi makers who expressed ‘no need to rely on newspaper adverts to spread [their] name’ because their clientele, built up over a century, would continue to ensure that business remained brisk.[7] Modernizers criticized this stance, commenting how these makers were blind to the wider world and stubborn to changes in the twentieth century. Shops continued, the Asahi Shimbun charged, to rely on noren - or fabric dividers hung out in front of shops - and patronage.[8] This, of course, does not mean wagashi makers refused to place adverts in newspapers. It was perfectly

A large advert by Morinaga selling its hugely popular pocket milk caramels

Fig. 1 A large advert by Morinaga selling its hugely popular pocket milk caramels

Source: Yomiuri Shimbun (18 May 1915), Morning Edition, 1

common, for instance, for traditional confectioners to advertise their wares. Founded in 1850, Tokyo-based Baikatei Morita, for example, was one of the few wagashi makers who embraced adverts. Between 1897 and 1916, it regularly bought advertising space - over 300 adverts were printed - in the

Asahi Shimbun. Even so, in contrast to yogashi makers, wagashi makers were less conspicuous. Their adverts concentrated on the seasons and gift-giving, tended to be small and contained little imagery. There was also less verbosity. Their adverts were intended to be subtle, gentle reminders to customers that the time had arrived to place orders - not the in-your-face and colourful razzmatazz that the likes of Morinaga and Meiji increasingly deployed. As the popularity of yogashi grew, however, wagashi makers felt under increased pressure. Waiting for customers to visit was no longer a luxury they could afford. Despite the fact that it had rarely relied on newspaper adverts, Toraya came to embrace them in the 1920s as part of a wider shift towards ‘aggressive’ tactics that included home delivery.59 Yet Toraya, as the owner Kurokawa Takeo (1893-1975) boasted, did not need to be so uncouth. Small adverts were enough - the strength ofthe brand would do the rest. So it was that in 1926 the wagashi maker brought out monaka60 in the shape of a golf ball; but there was very little attempt, as yogashi makers were apt to do, to link the properties of the new confection with a modern sporting lifestyle.

One reason why wagashi makers viewed newspaper adverts with suspicion was that it did not make much sense targeting a large market of consumers. Traditional confectioners, reflecting custom among small-scale producers, catered to local, or at best, regional demand. Even the early pioneer of Western-style confectionary, Fugetsudo, which had built up a network of affiliated stores numbering 16 by the mid-1910s, maintained its regional base in Tokyo.61 Most of the time, however, confectioners operated small, independent shops whose fame spread more by word of mouth than by image garnered through media campaigns. This allegiance to smaller markets received criticism from modernizers. One focus of their attack was ‘novelty sweets’ (chingashi) made manifest in the queues that would snake around shops early in the morning. For customers the attraction of novelty sweets lay in their scarcity. Only so much could be made and sold, and it could only be bought at a particular place, further elevating its appeal. [9] [10] [11]

The soba-manju sold at Nomura or the golden bottan[12] sold at Matsuya, for example, could only be bought at their premises to the devoted few who had invested the time and energy to make the trek and wait outside.[13] Yet critics asked - rhetorically - whether these ‘novelty sweets’ served a wider purpose beyond satisfying a limited and local demand. They may be novelties; they may taste good; they may be famous. These niceties, however, contributed little to the development of ‘the national econ- omy’.[14] Nor did small-scale production, they pointed out, have potential as exports. Foryogashi manufacturers, who shared this view, local markets were an inconvenience because they presented an obstacle to their increasingly ascendant model of mass production. Most manufacturers of sweets in the United States had the power to dictate the prices at which their products would be sold. Regardless of where sweets were made available - ‘at the candy store or in milk halls or in any town in America’ — prices would be the same.[15] Despite the fact that ‘manufacturing is more important than selling’, Morinaga charged that makers of sweets in Japan were subordinate to wholesalers who dictated prices to small shops.[16] Such an observation reflected frustration at creating a national market in which machine-made yogashi could be sold regardless of place or season at a price convenient to manufacturers.

Not only were complaints made about advertising, they were also levelled at the shop floor. More attention should be paid; it was urged, on how sweets should be displayed. In Japan sweets were placed haphazardly in boxes, displayed without regard to hygiene and handed over to customers wrapped up in old newspapers and magazines.[17] In the United States, it was pointed out that sweets were displayed in glass containers. Not only was the place of sweets changed from time to time but the contents of these containers were also refilled on a regular basis. In 1906, Kashi Shimpo criticized the old habits of shopkeepers, especially the lack of care they took in displaying fresh confections such as mochi.6 Just like other sweets, it remarked, mochi sellers would leave fresh confections exposed to the elements throughout the day.[18] [19] Oblivious to changes in climate and in the weather, the trade journal charged, shopkeepers remained unconcerned as long as their products looked fine. By the same token, Kashi Shimpo took to task confectioners for packing sweets into wooden boxes.[20] In the West, it noted, it was common to seal sweets in steel containers to prevent moulds from developing. Continuing to use wooden boxes represented, it concluded, ‘a serious hygienic problem’ and called on shops to do away with this practice. Responsibilities of the seller also extended to the area oftransactions. For it was at the moment in which sweets changed hands from seller to buyer that was important. Much of this gaze on the interaction between the two grew out of medical advice. Appropriating medical advice, Amano Seisai wrote in his housekeeping manual that wagashi was a ‘massive’ problem because of hygienic issues.[21] He directed his readers’ attention to the common everyday practice of shopkeepers using their filthy hands to pick up and pack sweets. Regardless of whether the shopkeeper was dealing with fresh or baked confections, it was the same - this was unthinkable with Western sweets. He thus suggested that shopkeepers at least use chopsticks - not their hands - when sales were being conducted.[22] There existed between fingers and nails a multitude of bacteria which, when eaten by the customer, could lead to ‘grave’ consequences.[19] In the United States, customers would be presented with their purchase in boxes wrapped up in paper and tied up so that they could be easily carried.[15] Clearly this remained a problem well into the 1930s and beyond. In 1930, one housekeeping journal wrote about the use of hands to put sweets into bags.[25] One extreme example the correspondent witnessed was a vendor who exhaled into the bag to make it easier to pack sweets.[19]

  • [1] Yomiuri Shimbun, June 13, 1892, Morning edition, 4; August 12, 1892, Morning edition, 4.
  • [2] Yomiuri Shimbun, December 22, 1893, Morning edition, 3.
  • [3] Yomiuri Shimbun, July 12, 1896, Morning edition, 5.
  • [4] Yomiuri Shimbun, December 18, 1912, Morning edition, 3.
  • [5] Yomiuri Shimbun, May 18, 1915, Morning edition, 1.
  • [6] Yomiuri Shimbun, November 1, 1926, Evening edition, 10; June 2, 1928, Morning edition, 6;October 25, 1928, Morning edition, 3; March 18, 1928, Evening edition, 2.
  • [7] Anonymous, ‘Shinise’, 2.
  • [8] Asahi Shimbun, December 22, 1908, Morning edition, 6.
  • [9] Kurokawa, ‘Yogashi ni osare gimi’, 28-29.
  • [10] Sweet red beans sandwiched between two thin wafers.
  • [11] Tokyo Fugetsudo, Fugetsudd shashi, Appendix.
  • [12] Penny sweets resembling the petal of flowers.
  • [13] Anonymous, ‘Shosen chingashi’, 2.
  • [14] Ibid.
  • [15] Mori, ‘Beikoku no kashi’, 6.
  • [16] Kobayashi, Kashi 30-nenshi, 339.
  • [17] Mori, ‘Beikoku no kashi’, 6.
  • [18] Murai, ‘Mise uri no kashi ni tsuite’, 4.
  • [19] Ibid.
  • [20] Anonymous, ‘Kashi no orizume wo haishi seyo’, 6.
  • [21] Amano, Meiryu riso katei shumi, 175.
  • [22] Ibid., 176.
  • [23] Ibid.
  • [24] Mori, ‘Beikoku no kashi’, 6.
  • [25] Niizu, ‘Kodomo to kashi ni tsuite’, 9.
  • [26] Ibid.
 
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