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Next-Generation Vending Machine

December 13, 2010 Leave a comment

When I went back to Japan this summer, I realized that vending machines an capable of accepting an IC card were placed at almost every train station. However, technological innovation was far beyond my expectation. To my surprise, one company has introduced a new vending machine. It is a beverage vending machine which can market its drinks by itself and sells the best product at the time based on the customer.

This vending machine has a camera that identifies the person who is in front of it. It can identify his/her age and sex. In consideration of age, sex and the weather, it shows some suitable drinks on its display, as if there were a human in the vending machine. Whenever I stand in front of the vending machine in Walker Building at Emerson College, I almost laugh at myself because I always have to worry if I have enough small coins or if the products would fall correctly. I have never imagined these worries when I was in Japan.

The company can control its display because it uses Wi-Fi and digital signage. If there is no person in front of the vending machine, it can show the best advertisement for that moment. If it is a very hot day in summer, it will show some cool bottle of juice and water. Also, if the customer uses an IC card which is instrumented on a cell phone, it sends information about the brand’s mobile web site to the cell phone.

Due to legal protection of personal data, the vending machines cannot store the images of customers, but they can collect and store the information about the customer’s age, sex and taste. This data will be used as marketing research. Although still 43 percent of the 2009 vending machine sales used an IC card, The sales can be expected to increase in the future. Why? It’s ridiculously convenient. Why wouldn’t you use it?

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Recent Japanese Advertisement Trend (2)

October 15, 2010 Leave a comment

Recently, Japanese IT companies acquired some game developers and online companies abroad. Behind this trend is the fact that users of online games are increasing at a rapid rate. According to the New York Times, the social games market would grow to $1.5 billion in 2014. A virtual space has become a crucial role for communication on the internet.

“Ameba” is a membership web site for blogs. Its members reached 10 million people this July in Japan. Many people write their blogs on this site even celebrities. Recently, companies use this “Ameba” as a subsidiary for their promotions. Ameba has a unique tool for creating a buzz: there is a place where its bloggers can communicate with each other. Through this tool, popular bloggers of this site spread new information to other people.

How can members communicate with each other? There is an “Ameba pigg”, which is a virtual town for members’ communication. People have their own character, “Avatar”. And you can customize your character as you like.

This spring, Pepsi executed its promotion through this Ameba. Pepsi designed its own virtual town with these advertisements. Furthermore, Avatars can wear Pepsi’s special items, such as T-shirts, caps, jackets and so on. The Avatars which wear special items can dance in the virtual space and people can even take pictures of their dancing. These experiences make people want to write a blog. Their blogs cause new people to visit Pepsi’s virtual town. In this way, a word of mouth spreads gradually among people.

Taking pictures in the virtual town… I do not have interest in taking pictures in the virtual space. However, in fact, several hundred thousand people visited this virtual space during this promotion. Also the company said they could use this site efficiently for making a buzz. As far as I know, people around me do not have Avatar. Maybe there are more closet geeks who have fun with this Avatar than I expected. Or maybe Avatar is no longer only for those people. I am not a resident of the net and I rarely tweet or facebook. But, now I am afraid that it will be difficult to make friends and keep in touch with them in the future if I do not have an Avatar.

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Recent Japanese Advertisement Trends (1)

October 5, 2010 Leave a comment

Have you ever seen a crowded train in Japan? You cannot do anything because you are bound hand and foot. Some of the only things you can do are listen to music, watch web sites, text and space out.

Naturally, you look up in order to get some fresh air. There is a paper advertisement suspended from a train ceiling. In the Japanese trains the paper advertisements are suspended from the ceiling at a regular interval. These paper advertisements cannot use movement. However, digital signage can use movement and make advertisements more interactive tools.

E-paper for the train advertisement

Average commute time to work in Japan is 51 minutes. I spent a round trip commute of three hours to go to work and stood at almost same spot in the train for around hour. There is nothing that can keep people for a long time without doing anything as well as a crowded train. This E-Paper advertisement is still developing. However, it will be a useful tools of communication in the near future. For example, it will be able to lead people playing with their cell phones without any purpose to the web site of a company’s products or services immediately.

By the time I go back to Japan, I hope the crowded train that is more of a pain than anything will become a more entertaining place.

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