Oct 27, 2017

What to do when you need a Tissue in Japan

If there is one country that does things differently it’s Japan. Frankly, they hover between being weird and totally innovative. One of the most innovative things I have seen in Japan is Tissue Pack Marketing. Something as simple and as mundane as tissue paper packets are used very effectively as means of advertisements.

The first time I encountered this type of marketing was when I was walking down the street in Osaka minding my own business when suddenly this young girl jumped in front of me and started waving a tissue pack under my nose. While I gingerly touched to my nose to see if there was something on it that had made this kind stranger offer me a tissue pack, she started talking about a makeup product, smiled, handed a very bewildered me the tissue pack and left. It was then that I realized that there was a paper advertising the makeup product  at the bottom of the plastic packet. 

Tissue paper marketing is a sort of guerilla marketing popular in Japan. It’s cost effective and hits the human psychology pretty well. Think about it, if you are handed a flyer advertising a product you’ll most likely throw it in the bin, but who would say no to a free pack of face tissues. By the time you have gone through the entire pack you would have probably glanced at the advertisement at the bottom of the transparent wrapper at least a dozen times.

Also, this strategy seems to work on the Japanese sense of obligation pretty well as most Japanese will tend to think that if they have got something free they might as well as look at or consider the product that is advertised.

An estimated 70 billion yen worth of tissues packs are distributed every year in Japan and they advertise everything from a new spa to cheap loans to makeup to car rental companies

People giving out these packets are usually youngsters in school and college out to make some extra money. They are there everywhere, standing strategically at all busy roads and station exits. Seriously I sometimes wonder why shops in Japan sell tissues when all you need to do is walk down to the nearest station and at least three different smiling young men and women will hail you in their high pitched nasal voice and offer you a free packs of tissues.

It doesn’t matter if you can’t read or understand Japanese all you need to do is grab the tissues and smile a thank you. You get your free tissues and the business gets a potential customer.

Another reason the tissue pack marketing is so effective as compared to adverts is that the tissue distributors can easily target a certain demographic. For example as a foreigner I might get advertisements for Japanese language schools or makeup or travel companies.What I most certainly won’t get is advertisements for shady pubs or a massage parlor. My male Japanese friends may get these though !

Tissue packs even when not used for advertising, can be pretty interesting. Most tissue packs across the world will have mundane pics of the manufacturer but some of the packs in Japan have interesting covers such as that of Mt Fuji, Bullet train etc. These packs are often kept as mementos by tourists. 

Then there is a wonderful thing called lotion tissues. Extremely soft and very soothing to the skin. The best of tissues in India will seem as rough as burlap once you have used them.

Although I usually turn down my nos at freebies, I never said no to a pack of free tissue in Japan, even bringing them back to India and using for as much time as I could. 

I don’t really know if I am helping the products being advertised in the tissue packs but tissue paper manufacture must have gone up a wee bit thanks to me ! 


  1. Bad sushi triggered tissue nostalgia?
    But this is a brilliant marketing strategy. Nobody has issues with tissues.

  2. Great idea.Why can't we do it? Given the heat and dust, we would love free tissues at signals and crossings.

  3. Interesting read. I am sure the tissue manufacturers are happy about your contribution! :)

  4. Interesting concept. I was wondering what might work here - something that people might accept willingly. Perhaps saunf supari. But knowing us, we will litter everywhere with used packs of those!

  5. I love how cute japanese products and their packages are. If not for anything, I would buy just for the cover. You gotta give them for marketing😀

  6. Interesting. I think tissue based adverts have picked up in the US too.one good place for advertising is in toilets..plenty of time to read..hehe

  7. Thanks for raising this issue. I agree that it is the type of thing Mozilla should be doing...

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