Searching for the Next Big Thing? Look to Japan

Consumer Conference Panel Discusses the Asian Country's Hottest Products

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NEW YORK ( -- What's in store for American consumers? Maybe aromatherapy pillows and green tea that fights bad breath if consumers -- or marketers -- take their cues from Japan.
Green tea products that fight bad breath are hot in Japan.
Green tea products that fight bad breath are hot in Japan. Credit:

Consumer conference
These were among the ideas that emerged today at Advertising Age's "The American Consumer Conference," where one panel offered clues from the world at large.

David McCaughan, director of strategic planning at Interpublic Group of Cos.' McCann Erickson in Japan, said sleeping products are all the rage among Japanese consumers. Among the hot products: pillows and sheets with aromatherapy features designed to clear nasal passages, making for a good night's sleep.

Non-alcoholic beverages
Non-alcoholic beverages with specific product benefits also are a hot property in Japan, Mr. McCaughan said. One example: green tea with a mushroom extract that fights bad breath.

Consultant Jeremy Hildreth of Saffron Brand Consultants suggested emerging opportunities in "fair trade" products, such as coffee or sugar, with consumers "tithing at a point of purchase" to support a movement.

Andrew McLean, chief client officer at WPP Group's Mediaedge:cia, discussed the explosive growth of wireless among teens around the world. The cellphone is often called the third screen, but Mr. McLean said that for many teens, "this is actually their second screen" -- after the PC, but ahead of the TV.

Internet and wireless consumers
In another discussion, American Demographics founder Peter Francese staged a live on-stage focus group with four consumers representing various age groups. While different in age, the consumers were all active users of the Internet and wireless.

But there was some good news for the TV business: The youngest focus-group participant, high-school junior Marcus Howard, proved to be the panel's biggest TV watcher. Mr. Howard said he relies on TV, not the Web or print, for his news and sports scores. And the TV, stationed next to his home computer, is always on.
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