Visual GPS: The Japanese Consumer

Trends / Realness
Maki Nakamura
Kate Rourke
Jun 16, 2020
Our recently launched Visual GPS research in Japan shows what is important to today’s Japanese consumers, what kind of visual content engages them, and, ultimately, what leads them to make decisions. We discovered the similarities and differences between Japanese consumers and professionals from all over the world by surveying 10,000+ people across 26 countries and translated In 13 languages. By combining Getty Images and iStock proprietary data as well as our external visual analysis, we found several factors, including attitudes and behaviours, that inform and impact decision‑making. We are calling them Forces because we found that they are a powerful influence on the way people behave and help to understand what is important in the marketplace. These Forces are Wellness, Realness, Technology, and Sustainability.
Visual GPS revealed how greatly Japanese customers were impacted and influenced by visuals and colours. 91% of Japanese agreed that "it’s true, a picture really is worth a thousand words”, with 80% agreeing globally. And 87% agreed “certain colours can change my mood”, 66%  globally.

We asked consumers in Japan to rank key things they stand for and wellness charted the highest! This was a similar story globally. Wellness isn’t only about physical health which is where visual expression tends to focus on — it’s also about emotional, mental, spiritual, family, and relationship fitness. The Japanese consumers place equal value on their mental and physical health at 82% and 81% respectively, and they valued “the health and wellbeing of the family” above their own personal health. A sentiment reflected globally. Wellness is also about staying in touch and in sync with ourselves, being more mindful and intentional, and wanting to align lifestyles and leisure pursuits accordingly.  Interestingly, Japanese customer searches for “Mindfulness” are up 342%, and “Meditation”  is up 206% since the global pandemic. Similarly, our research found that mindfulness increases with age making the 50+‑year‑old an essential audience. This is a key takeaway for brands as we have historically seen the visualization of wellness focusing more on the younger generations.
 "The Japanese consumers value 'the health and wellbeing of the family' above their own personal health. A sentiment reflected globally."
It’s hard to imagine our lives without technology, especially in the current climate. Technology, while being a source of inspiration it also created the most dynamic tension in both Japan and the rest of the world.  Technology adds the convenience many consumers crave, but there is concern around our personal data and cybersecurity. On the one hand, 48% of Japanese consumers said having a mobile device helps them feel connected to those that matter most, contrasted with 80% believing “there will be a major cyberattack in their country”.  Where Japan differs to rest of the world is around the future of technology and its possibilities. Just 29% of Japanese consumers said “AI makes me nervous” compared to 43% said so globally.

Realness and authenticity are hot topics in media, in the arts, and, more and more, in the business world. When it comes to Realness, our findings showed consumers are looking for brands to have a transparent point of view with two‑thirds of Japanese consumers wanting to know “what goes on behind the scenes when a product is being produced”. People want and expect imagery to be representative of themselves and the world they see around them.
55% of Japanese consumers surveyed said “companies need to show people with all body shapes and types”, and 50% believe “it’s important to me that companies I buy from celebrate diversity of all kinds”. This is slightly lower than what we found globally, but growing In Importance for Japan. Diversity searches have grown by 438% In Japan during the COVID‑19 pandemic.
Our research found that all generations, genders and regions value Sustainability – but at the heart lies a conundrum, with our attitudes differing from our actions. Globally, 81% surveyed consider themselves to be eco friendly. However, 48% surveyed know they should do more but convenience takes priority. In Japan, 79% believe that the way we treat our planet now will have a large impact on the future. 75% are worried about air pollution and 72% are concerned about our oceans. Yet only 48% see themselves as eco‑friendly and just 23% buy products from brands that try to be eco friendly. In the last 25 years of visual research, we’ve seen a historic trend that, environmental concern increases with economic prosperity. Similarly, interest in the environment falls as economic prosperity falls. Interestingly during the COVID‑19 pandemic, our Wellness has been inextricably linked to the environment despite an economic downturn. Over the last 3 months, Japanese customer searches for “sustainability” increased by +400% and “Nature” +166%.

To find out more about our findings please click on the Visual GPS tab of this site.
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