Ray worked with B-2-B and Consumer clients throughout the world ... including USA, Canada, Mexico, Asia, the South Pacific, Europe, the Middle-East, Central & South America, Africa.

This website is a compilation of Ray's 10 years on the Web.

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Don't sneeze at this great Japanese idea

Anyone who has traveled and done business in Japan knows that it is like no other place. This mini-story is about Citibank in Tokyo and the surrounding area. One of the most populace places on earth. Citibank is a foreign bank with considerable restrictions on what it can, and cannot do. A very controlled as well as protectionist environment.

Japan has created 9 of the 10 largest banks in the world. They've been extremely successful worldwide, although they still do most of their business inside their own country.

For Citibank to penetrate this type of an atmosphere it has taken some equally creative marketing thinking, planning, and implementing.

Accepting this situation, how do you operate? How do you reach your marketplace, when you have few branches, little awareness, can't offer as many services as the Japanese banks and are watched like a hawk by the government?

Here are just two of the things you do. Since you have less than two dozen locations in a country of 125 million people, you become extremely market selective. You do business where the type of people you want are most likely to find you. You use direct contact. And, direct marketing.

Saying direct marketing today is almost the same thing as saying database marketing. And since databases in Japan are not as advanced as in many parts of the world, Citibank built its own! Something in the neighborhood of 10 million names of the type of people they want to reach.

This has obviously taken considerable time, money, effort, people and dedication. And it is paying off. Here is one example.

Worldwide, golf is a popular sport. In Japan it is a passion. Just getting to play is important. Belonging to the right country club and playing the right courses is status. It is a most important part of the business.

So Citibank has a special program aimed solely at golfers. Golf membership loans. Loans to purchase a golf membership (not unusual to cost $500,000!) Or, if you already have a membership, collateral loans against the credit you have established Where else in this world would such a product exist? As far as I know, nowhere.

A most effective use of database marketing. Selecting a specific audience, and reaching them with a very special message — only for that marketplace.

On the opposite end of the scale is an example of direct contact. Tokyo is a giant city, ranked in the top five in the world according to population. Driving in Tokyo is worse than most cities and as bad as any you may have experienced. Such as Rome. Los Angeles. Caracas. Jakarta. Bangkok.

In order to relieve that situation, there is an excellent train system. Each day tens of thousands ride the trains to and from work. At key locations around the city they dump into the railroad station, change trains or head for the highrise office buildings close by.

It is here that Citibank also makes contact. Where the train station is close to a branch, as people come off the train they are handed a pocket size package of facial tissues. In a nice little package, with a map guiding you to the nearest Citibank branch.

Every time I'm in Tokyo and see this happening, I'm again surprised. Why would this work? Many other companies, including the banks, do the same thing. There is hardly a day that goes by that someone isn't handing out tissues at the train station. So why should Citibank, when they are not yet a big player in the marketplace, follow the leaders?

It works for Citibank for one reason and one reason only. They don't do it daily. They are very selective in the timing — tying this direct contact with a business public who work close to their branch. Inviting them to come in and participate in something special. A new product introduction. Something that is seasonally timed. Maybe a remodel of the branch. Anything "different" that will give Citibank the edge.

Two entirely different programs. Both innovative. Each tied to a particular marketplace. A very direct approach. And very successful.

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