Shiseido Tsubaki Strategy: Delivering the Promise
1. Shiseido Tsubaki is one of the main products from the hair care market in Japan, being positioned as a luxury brand. Becoming soon after its launch a very desirable brand, the company succeeded in entering the nearby Asian markets, such as China or Korea.
2. By approaching the Eastern culture, promoting the Japanese beauty within a market dedicated to Asian population, Shiseido Tsubaki succeeded in transmitting to its targeted clientele (Japanese women) that “Japanese women are beautiful” (which was actually the slogan of the communication campaign). The strategy applied for advertising the product was memorable due to the presence of six of the most beautiful and most known Japanese feminine figures. This generated two outcomes: positioned the product as a luxury brand and attracted an impressive number of customers and exceeded the forecasted sales;
Shiseido Tsubaki applied the Blue ocean strategy in this case, for creating new needs for the customers. The blue ocean strategy concept defines new advertising space, unlike the red ocean strategy, which sets clear borders that limit the products in terms of market share. However, blue ocean strategy evolves from red ocean strategy, when a company exceeds or breaks its market limits (Kim & Mauborgne, 2004).
This was the case of Shiseido Tsubaki. Its marketing team understood the importance of creating dreams, ideals for the Japanese women, so they included beautiful, famous women in their commercials, with the purpose of transmitting the idea that those stars are using the promoted shampoo; like this, Shiseido Tsubaki was easily associated with the idea of beauty. It was rapidly adopted as a must-have hair brand and it practically removed the competition.
Another marketing concept which can be retrieved out of Tsubaki’s case is the innovation. The product contained camellia oil, a natural product, very suited for the Asian hair. Therefore, Tsubaki’s producers and its marketing team have anticipated that including this natural element in the shampoo and promoting it would generate new customer needs. Goldenber, Horowitz, Levav and Mazursky state that usually customers lack imagination about what they would need. This is where market comes in, for telling the customers what they need, explaining them why they would need a specific thing (2003). This is how Tsubaki succeeded not only in delivering an innovative product, but also in creating loyal customers, convinced by the effectiveness and sensory benefits (scent and sensations) that the product delivered (Datamonitor, “Shiseido Tsubaki Case Study”).
3. Shiseido Tsubaki’s case study illustrated that combining the marketing concepts with intelligent retail strategies and production innovation create an efficient communication mix that supports and assures the sales.
As mentioned, Tsubaki entered the market as a luxury brand, promising new dimensions of beauty through the endorsement of six of the most beautiful Japanese celebrities. Moreover, the company succeeded in keeping its promises, and delivering effectiveness through a very feminine, floral scent (due to the use of camellia as the key ingredient, plus the PA/MA polymer and the pearl extracts included for more shine and health for the hair) and a pleasant touching sensation, leaving the hair smooth and bouncing (Datamonitor, “Shiseido Tsubaki Case Study”).
Nonetheless, the company went beyond keeping its promise and delivering effectiveness, and it introduced a retail technique: the refill packs formed of shampoo and conditioner (Datamonitor, “Shiseido Tsubaki Case Study”). The strategy did not stop here. The company also needed to retain the customers, by determining them to commit, to become loyal to the brand.
Shiseido organized a “thank you” campaign, which had impressive sales (43 million shampoo bottles, exceeding the initial JPY 10 billion and reaching JPY 18 billion) (Datamonitor, “Shiseido Tsubaki Case Study”). This was a perfect opportunity to not only express the gratitude for the brands’ customers and to reward them (by offering free bottles of Tsubaki shampoo), but also to gain new customers, meaning more market share, in the detriment of its competition. This marketing strategy, combined with the other techniques (innovation and retail strategies) permitted the product differentiation, which practically created fences around Tsubaki brand (Porter, 1979).
4. Even successful brands need permanent revitalization for maintaining fresh the customers’ interest and for blocking the competition from gaining more market share. My plan for the next five years for this company would include an orientation of the brand from beauty to health and beauty, emphasizing more than ever the health aspect and its benefits to the beauty of the hair. In this purpose I would create a free “hair testing” campaign, and place it in malls and hypermarkets, locations with heavy traffic.
This campaign would suppose testing women’s hair by a hair doctor, with professional equipment (for offering credibility to the action) and proposing solutions for improving the hair’s health, proposing solutions for minimizing its fall, its degradation, or the dandruff, by introducing them the Tsubaki shampoo for all types of hair.
Another marketing strategy would be to create partnerships with the beauty parlours or even wellness spas, following the health orientation. This would offer the opportunity for diversifying the company’s products into creating face and skin products, for a beautiful and healthy body.
Datamonitor (2010) Shiseido Tsubaki case study. Datamonitor View.
Goldenber, J., Harowitz, R., Levav, A., Mazursky, D. (2003). Finding your innovative sweet spot. Harvard Business Review, 81(3), 120-129.
Kim, W.C., & Mauborgne, R. (2004) Blue Ocean strategy. Harvard Business Review. 82(10),
76 – 84.
Porter, M. (1979). How competitive forces shape strategy. Harvard Business Review, 57(2),