How to become a topic of conversation
The story of a Japanese ice cream brand and an apology for a 9 cent price hike
On March 11, 2016, a Japanese ice cream company called Akagi Nyugyo had bad news to announce.
Akagi Nyugyo was about to increase the price of its Garigari-kun popsicles for the first time in 25 years.
Garigari-kun is Japan's best-selling popsicle.
Japanese kids love Garigari-kun popsicles.
For two reasons. Because kids can afford to buy Garigari-kun popsicles with their allowance. And because of the variety of flavors.
From traditional flavors like soda, grapefruit or kiwi. To weird flavors like ramen, corn potage soup or napolitan spaghetti.
But now Akagi Nyugyo was raising prices from 60 yen to 70 yen (that's a 9 American cents increase).
Japan's slow economy meant that the cost of most things hadn't risen in 25 years. But wages and the buying power for most Japanese had also declined.
This meant that almost any price increase would certainly make the news headlines.
Fearing a backlash, Akagi Nyugyo makes a pre-emptive YET bold move. They make a 60-second commercial and run it on National Japanese TV channels.
The commercial showed Akagi Nyugyo's President Inoue Sota, chairman Hideki Inoue and staff bowing to viewers. The apology ended with copy that said, "We held on for 25 years but… 60 →70”.
So instead of a backlash, Akagi Nyugyo became a topic of conversation in Japan.
And earned millions in free media coverage from Japanese and International press, including the New York Times, The Washington Post or The Independent.
All because Akagi Nyugyo's copy simply told the truth about why they were increasing prices.
And with a simplicity and cultural relevance that proved to be more persuasive than empty excuses to justify the price hike.
Sometimes the right way to solve a nasty marketing problem is to simply to tell the truth.
Takeaways for your business:
1. If you’re going to raise prices, be honest and tell your customers why. A price increase is a price increase. So don't try calling it fancy pancy names like "adjusting price", "updating price" or something else. Be open and tell customers why you're increasing prices.
2. When you tell the truth and admit your flaws people tend to like you more. Because it makes your brand more human. Psychologists call this the Pratfall effect. That’s why in copywriting one of the most persuasive ways to get into people's minds is to be open and tell the truth.
3. A good trick to earn FREE press is to learn how to think of your ad campaigns as newspaper headlines. Because as ad legend George Lois once said, “All your ad campaigns must be built-in PR campaigns. If your advertising doesn’t have the power to become a topic of conversation for everyone in the nation, you forfeit the chance for it to be famous.”
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