To Win Hearts of Japanese Men, Focus on Their Hair

Dave McCaughan From Shanghai

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There is a subculture of young men in Japan known as garu guys, or girl guys -- not because they are effeminate, but because they are young playboys always trying to impress. They might be considered the ultimate metrosexuals: They are perma-tanned, with perfectly cared-for skin and hair that is shaped into bouffants that look straight out of their favorite mangas. About a year ago, when we at McCann Pulse began looking at how they took care of themselves, we were not surprised to find that they used hair gels extensively. What did surprise me was that they carried an average of three or more types of gel with them everywhere they went. Apparently there are required formulas for different parts of the hairstyle. And the supply of male hair gels seems never-ending. One brand has just launched a range of 12 different variants.
Dave McCaughan
Dave McCaughan is exec VP-director of strategic planning at McCann Erickson and a Tokyo-based trendspotter.

But, of course, men of all ages can get fixated on their hair.

Dying your hair to remain perfectly black is still common enough among middle-age men. But a bigger problem is the dread of hair loss. In Japan, hair loss was such a sensitive subject that just referring to it was seen as almost shameful. So when our client Banyu Merck developed a product called Propecia that could help with the problem, it also had to come up with a way for men to refer to hair loss. A whole campaign was developed to educate doctors and potential patients to refer to the complaint as AGA (andro-genetic alopecia ). That seems to have been successful as surprisingly large numbers of men asked their doctors for the new product.

In less than a year, more than 250,000 men got prescriptions. But research showed that continued compliance was a problem, with many patients ceasing treatment within the first six months, generally before any effect could be seen. So a retention program called Propel was initiated. Patients are sent an e-mail magazine via their mobile phones. It contains information about alopecia, the product and how it is working to regrow their hair. It also has daily lifestyle information such as weather updates, news clips and even English lessons to increase stickiness. But what is really cool is that patients are encouraged to record and track hair regrowth through an interactive "My hair album" website where they can load pictures they take of their hair with their mobile-phone cameras and track progress for themselves.
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