Yasushi Akimoto not only created the world's largest pop band, AKB48, he's also master of a marketing machine that 's unrivaled in Japan.
The 60-plus -member girl group AKB48 is based on the idea of "idols you can meet every day" and is seen all over Japanese media. They perform daily shows at a theater in Tokyo's geek mecca of Akihabara that are so popular the tickets are sold by lottery. An oh-so-Japanese blend of sweet and sexy, innocent yet suggestive, the girls from Teams A, K, B and their members-in-training sell not only bubble-gum pop but also products ranging from coffee to "cram" schools -- specialized courses that help students meet specific goals, such as gaining entrance to university.
"They are the second-most beautiful girl vs. the No. 1 beautiful girl," said Noriko Hayashi, strategic planner at Beacon Communications in Tokyo. "The biggest difference compared to idols from past generations is , with past idols we think they don't go to the toilet or eat McDonald's. But [AKB48] will make funny faces and talk about dirty jokes. They've come down to the same level as consumers -- that 's the biggest appeal."