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Comparing & Contrasting American & Japanese Marketing

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Competition in the business world is fierce and in order to survive companies must expand. “With the increasing globalization of markets, companies find they are unavoidably enmeshed with foreign customers, competitors, and suppliers, even within their own borders,” (Cateora-Graham, 2007). One way in which many companies have done this is by going global. International marketing, although more prominent than ever before, is still a difficult arena for marketers to master. Although religion and culture are not immediately brought to mind when business is brought up, marketing is one aspect of business that is highly sensitive to culture. Not only culture, but also politics, the economy and the law effect marketing strategies. This paper will examine the differences between the American and Japanese marketing environments.


“It should not be surprising that Japanese marketing practices vary from traditional Western marketing practices because marketing is the process of satisfying wants and needs and these desires vary tremendously among cultures,” (Howard, 1999). The Japanese have been noted as leaders in marketing techniques. However, the Japanese may not be as adept in the marketing field as once thought. The Japanese view the field of marketing much differently than Americans do. The Japanese believe that “if a good, quality, lower-priced product is produced based on consumer information, people should buy it,” (Howard, 1999). The Japanese do not place marketing very high on their list of priorities. This is very different from their American counterparts. American companies value marketing highly. Japanese companies place more emphasis on production and manufacturing.

Cultural differences between American and Japanese markets have a great influence on the marketing in both countries. One of the interesting facts about the Japanese is that they share a high standard of quality in their products. Although Japan exports many inexpensive products, such as inexpensive electronics and toys, Japan imports high-quality, more costly goods than the United States does. The Japanese culture demands higher quality products than the American culture. “Americans seem to be able to conduct a trade-off between price and quality, and are willing to accept lower quality goods (discount stores, etc.) for a break in the price,” (Howard, 1999). This is very different from the Japanese consumer, who believes that the labor that goes into high-quality goods and services is the way in which a company can demonstrate to the customer that they are valued. Americans however, demand more variety, lower costs, and faster service. The Japanese desire for high quality, paired with the focus on manufacturing, is somewhat detrimental for Japanese marketing. Today’s business world is fast-paced and timing is essential. While American marketers are able to get their product out to the consumer almost as soon as a need is identified, Japanese marketing is often slower.

Another cultural difference that marketers in both countries must take note of is that Americans hold a “cultural worship of the individual and his or her rights compared to the Japanese obligations to its society and the acceptance of some limitations for the greater good of the country and the corporation,”(Howard, 1999). Because the Japanese culture places such high priority on the product that they purchase, Japanese marketing includes high standards for “product quality, durability, and reliability,” yet Japanese consumers also force marketers to provide them with “fashions and styles that match their individual lifestyles and ages,” (Howard, 1999). This has become a key feature of Japanese marketing, high-quality partnered with individualization. The Japanese culture strives for perfection, therefore marketers in Japan must also aim for the same. This has led to Japanese advantages in the international marketing directed towards other countries. American companies also look to provide new and exciting products early, sometimes even before the consumers are aware of the need. Japanese marketing is more dependent of the consumer, relying on the consumer to dictate their creativity.

Japanese marketing has been highly successful in such divisions as the automobile industry, and electronics. These types of industry are less susceptible to the impact of cultural differences. The Japanese have less “success in markets where major cultural differences are paramount; their success has been almost exclusively in product markets where the notion of function and utility are reasonable consistent across cultures,” (Howard, 1999). American companies, however, have been successful in marketing the more creative products, such as music, movies, and television.


Even though the United States and Japan have two very different government structures, politics still play a role in the marketing of both countries. “Japanese managers allow the government to guide their business/marketing decisions and to secure investment. The relationship between government and business in Japan has been one of cooperative effort,” (Ogden, 2004). This is very different from American businesses and marketing, who tend to lean more towards a “hands-off” approach to governmental roles in their decision-making. Companies in the United States almost resent any sort of political interference.

Another way in which politics influences the marketing in both the United States and Japan is seen in the way that the world views the country due to its political stance. For



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