[Tokyo] Japan's Heiwa Medic Co. has transformed a mundane drugstore staple, cotton swabs, into a high-profile hit by turning it black. Sold under the brand name "Life," the black cotton swabs score both functional and emotional points with local consumers. Japanese consumers believe they work better, because anything removed by black swabs can be viewed more easily than on white swabs. "But this is a sensorial experience, too. The color is very unexpected and surprising, and there is a satisfaction associated with such hygienic acts when the results seem more pronounced," said Craig Briggs, Hong Kong-based managing director, Asia, of French branding consultancy Desgrippes-Gobe. "[Japanese] love products that are different and surprising. This product is one that people talk about and want to try." The black swabs were introduced by Heiwa in Japan two years ago, but only recently appeared on store shelves in Tokyo, where they became an instant hit, even though the brand has no advertising or public-relations support. Heiwa has started selling the black cotton swabs in Taiwan and is considering other markets like South Korea and even the U.S. "Although we plan to sell them overseas, no concrete plans have been determined," said company spokesman Masahiro Kurokawa.