Friday, August 31, 2007

Sampling Japanese-style

There are some cities that radiate energy. New York is one, so is Shanghai. But if you want energy plus a whack on the side of the head, the place to go is Tokyo. This time the energy is all being channeled by my three favorite Lovemarks elements: Mystery, Sensuality and Intimacy. Called the Sample Lab, this business idea, like most of the great ones, is based on very simple, very human insights. People love trying things out (Sensuality), people love being in on new stuff (Mystery) and people love being part of a special community (Intimacy). The Sample Lab is housed in the wonderful “Iceberg” building in Harajuku and extends what cosmetics companies, in particular, got started: Inspiration through experience. Think Sephora creating a playground for women. The Sample Lab picks up sampling and mixes it with the idea of a membership. You have to pay a fee (not a big one) and that gives you entrance to the Lab by pressing a code on your cell phone. Once you’re in you’re free to sample beauty products, test stuff like exercise equipment, and generally have fun. How you respond is part of what the Lab offers back to manufacturers as feedback. Check out the site. It’s in Japanese so a few adventurous clicks will draw you in.


Susan Plunkett said...

And dare I least in my culture..most people like getting/receiving [an experience] for free. The fee in this case if small would still provide a sense of 'free' and a good sense of membership (Kevin voiced community).

I was laughing with someone the other day - remember the Jetson's cartoon and how Jane and Judy could just stick a unit on their head and see hairstyle after hairstyle? And a similar zappy unit for clothing?

I know there are similar units now - along the police forensic lines - to show you how you'll look with different hairstyles.

Perhaps what the lab offers is more than enough however I am always intrigued about what else could be added to such systems to prolong and extend the play and experimentation element AND to kickstart people into greater analytical awareness.

I'm curious at the demographic that primarily uses the lab space. Harajuku is of course the fashion centre of Tokyo isn't it and any images I have seen have always been of young women - along the lines (of course) of Gwen Stefani's Harajuku girls. I see no seating apparent in the image - probably a technique to keep people moving, however an older age group would perhaps prefer seating - as would anyone with a disability.

Apologies for being pragmatic amid the fun and I DO think the lab a great idea. A market theme park. :)


It came to mind last night to say this and I will. I hope there is no socio-cultural mindset growing that "older people" have had their day and had their fun and so all the concentration is on the youth market (primarily) and what works for them. I'm seeing this you see and yet I'm not seeing it discussed because I suspect awareness is low.

Most items we see pitched to the older market are exclusive and expensive - does this suggest that the mass market of older people is an unattended group as compared to the mass youth market?

I love the energy Kevin shows me is out there. I do. However where is our (the plus 50 market) time to play if we're not in the higher socio-economic bracket?

And Yes, I could go to the Sample Lab, if they offered me a chair :)

Susan Plunkett said...

Was just thinking about that 'community' element you mentioned Kevin. Interesting you view this as intimacy whereas I have been wondering whether it's more like being given a treat. When I was little and used to wander through department stores I would think of all the things I could buy when I was grown up. The idea of being allowed to play with many products as per the lab would have blown my wee mind. Couldn't it be feasible that a large element of the fascination is a combination of ultimate treat and fulfillment of early childhood visions/desires?

Piotr Jakubowski said...

This sounds like such a great concept. In a world where our magazines are filled with smell samples, small packets and other temptations to try free samples, this is a great way to put all of that together in one place. I definitely love its play on the Mystery and Intimacy that you mentioned. I'm sure there are many people out there who are mystified by the range of products available in different categories, yet don't have the faith (or financial commitment) to try a few different ones. So when will they open one up in New York???

Another interesting idea spawned by the Japanese is the Number 1 Store. RanKing RanQueen is a chain of stores in Tokyo that sell the top 3, 5, 10 products in a variety of different categories. The shelves change everyday based on different sources of data.

How cool would it be for people not having to research the trends before buying,?

Susan Plunkett said...

Interesting concept you mention there Piotr re the RanKing and Queen. Intriguing business orientation.

Anonymous said...

It's now some time since the sample lab was established yet there still seems no sign of this concept sprouting up outside of Asia.

Anyone have any views on why it has not been pounced on as an opportunity?