In a 2007 Internet survey of over 100,000 Japanese consumers conducted by Marsh Research, 76 percent said they accept free tissues. (That's a much higher acceptance rate than for leaflets.) When asked if they look at the advertisement accompanying the tissues, slightly more than half said they either "definitely look" or "at least glance at" the advertisement. When asked why, many respondents said they hoped to find a coupon or special offer.
Figuring tissues would have wider appeal (because everyone has to blow their nose, and carry insurance against public toilets with no tissues), Mori developed the machinery to fold and package tissues into easy-to-carry pocket-size packs. The new product was marketed only as a form of advertising and wasn't sold to consumers. Even now, pocket tissues hardly exist as a retail category in Japan because everyone expects to receive them for free.
"Our first clients were Japanese companies, who were already familiar with the concept, but as awareness of the medium increased, U.S. companies began to adopt tissues as a way to promote their brands," says Adpack's Hiroyuki Fukui. Clients include Commerce Bank, PNC Bank, H.R. Block, Kaiser Permanente and Zagat.
The popularity of this latest shop in Tokyo has even surprised its owner. About 1,500 to 2,000 customers enjoy the freebie everyday. One tonne of rice crackers are served during the first month of opening. But the store said it has increased sales by 50 per cent due to the prime location of the store.
Keisuke Kawamura, manager, Harimaya Station Tokyo Kasumigaseki, said: "We supply the rice crackers and the customers buy directly from us. There is no middleman. For that reason, we can use quality ingredients, make good products, and can provide them at a reduced price. At the same time, we can return our gratitude."