Family Mart Debuts New Rice Balls Suggested By Twitter Users

Following the cooperation between soft drink company Calpis and noodle maker Acecook with Mixi in 2008, we have yet another case of social media integration into product development in Japan. Major  convenience store chain Family Mart is concluding its campaign [J] where they release new rice ball flavors according to the suggestions of Twitter users [J]. During September, twitter users imagined and tweeted new flavors of rice balls for Family Mart – which were then selected based upon a popularity ranking on the campaign website.

As of November 30th, Family Mart released the top five rice balls including 1) fish egg cheese 2) seaweed beef and egg and 3) bacon and cheese, with many more flavors to follow. Family Mart also published some of the more interesting ideas which they eventually turned down – two popular ones being “russian roulette” rice ball – where you have a 1/3 chance of having a wasabi-filled rice ball, or a Fami-Chicken rice ball, with a piece of Family Marts trademarked fried chicken in the middle. You can find more detailed photos / dissection of the products over at Gigazine [J].

As Twitter rises into one of the dominant, marketing friendly social networks in Japan, its use in mainstream product campaigns has risen like with Georgia Coffee’s twitter novel campaign, or Sony Vaio’s outdoor installation displaying tweets. Depending on the success of this rice ball campaign and the sales of the product, Family Mart may have taken a small but important step forward in integrating social media into other parts of business like product development.

Answer For What is PROJECTION CLOCK】2名様」! On Twitter Trending Topics

The strange phrase “PROJECTION CLOCK】2名様」!” appeared on the Twitter Trending Topic sometime early morning in UTS October 4th. (morning to night in Japan Standard Time)

That phrase itself is mix of English and Japanese, which means

…PROJECTION CLOCK] for 2 persons”!

It is a part of full sentence in a marketing campaign run by Nifty, one of the biggest Japanese ISP/portal. They have been running a lottery for tweets on its new Twitter clients on web/feature phone/iPad App.

The original whole sentence that Nifty tried to let people tweet was

ついっぷるくじのボタンを今日12345番目に押したなう。本日の賞品は「【プロジェクタークロック ANALOG PROJECTION CLOCK】2名様」!

In English,

I pressed the button for today’s Twipple lottery in 12345th now. Today’s prize is “[Projector Clock ANALOG PROJECTION CLOCK] for 2 winners”!

That Analog Projection Clock is this one,

Projection Clock プロジェクションクロック [アナログ/ブラック]

And this clock projects analog clock on wall like this,

Twipple Lottery(Twipple Kuji in Japanese) has its Twitter account @twipple_kuji and that reports there are tens of thousands users tweet the designated text every day.

Twitter is very popular in Japanese but its Japanese handling is still poor, the extracted text being strange seems that Twitter could not parse Japanese correctly. Probably that is one of the reasons that Twitter Trending Topic is not provided for Japanese users.

As Nifty is quite big in Japan, it is not so strange that their Twitter promotion made many users to copy the tweet. But this lottery has been done since September 9th for every day, and this clock should not be the most popular prize. These are prizes list with photos,

Maybe every day for short time these lottery tweets showed up on the world trending topic, but this time, by some unknown reason, some non-Japanese users found and propagated by asking what it means. I do not see what part made people today’s phrase so special. It could be some influential foreign user began this time buzz in English and other languages.

Unfortunately, the campaign has some strict rules like you have to tweet from that Twipple, the prize will be sent only within Japan, etc. So even if you tweet the full Japanese text above, you won’t get this nice(?) analog projection clock, Nintendo DSi LL or first class round-the-world ticket.

As 18% of the world’s tweets are said to be from Japan, not only by this Twipple lottery but other Japanese promotion campaigns could cause the similar things.

[Update] About 14:20 UTS, Twitter seemed to remove the broken phrase from the hot topics, which I guess done manually by official, though the word “PROJECTION” still remains.

Twitter Followers Serves You Free Sushi, Boardgame And More In Japan

Suddenly in Japan, small shop owners start thinking Twitter as a guerilla marketing tool. Ashton Kutcher could have eaten over $40,000 worth sushi in Tokyo if he knew it.

The first one was a board game shop Sugorokuya(@sugorokuya) [J] at Koenji of west Tokyo, which offered “discount by number of your Twitter followers” campaign [J] from January 25th.

That was rapidly spread among Japanese Twitter users. Within a week, at least three popular blogger/Twitter users, who are followed by over 100,000, visited the shop, @akiyan (report), @taguchi of 100shiki and @kotoripiyopiyo of Gizmodo Japan.

All of those big names, however, used very small chunk of their massive followers power. On their report, all of them got one inexpensive game for free, and purchased another. Instead they wrote a report on their blog and all of them were in hot topics.

They could have bought $2000 boardgames, but the shop’s condition is to tweet about the purchase. So person who already took fame may not want to dump their reputations. It seems working so far.

Their discount will last until February 7th, unless their campaign budget exhausts (this condition was added by advises on reply tweets).

The second follower is a sushi restaurant Saisho in Shinagawa, Tokyo.

On their twitter, “discount by number of your followers” day was announced, which was today February 4th.

There are some really popular Twitter users appeared,

and more.

Inside of the sushi restaurant was broadcasted both on Ustream and TwitCasting which was just released yesterday. Total viewers of them passed 1,000, though it was not known who would show up.

There is a hotel offering the same “number of followers” discount in Mie prefecture. Takoyaki restaurant in Kagoshima prefecture announced “1/10 of your followers discount”.

Mobile barcodes:Huge success in Japan so far.


In Japan, mobile barcodes(QR Codes:local version of the 2D barcodes) has been widespread and acquired a stable position as one of the familiar media to provide a direct access to customers these days. They are mainly targeting mobile-savvy group of twenties to mid-thirties leading them to sales promotion sites for products such as snacks and beverages.

In Real Life of Japanese mobile user and Internet

69.23 million Japanese out of its 120 million population access Internet via mobile phones. It is about the same number of 66.01 million internet users via computers(According to the data of 2005). And almost all of the mobile phones in the market now have equipped with a barcode scanner by default.

Popular usage of mobile barcodes

  • product site for mobile
  • sales promotion site
  • personal contact info(Email and phone number)
  • others
    • job recruting
    • online survey
    • online request for brochure
    • downloading standby image
    • downloading free ring-tone

Near-at-hand Barcode

More on jp.girl@flickr.

Mobile barcdes do move people closer to Internet/products

Internet and mobile phone have given great impacts on modern communication technology globally. Barcodes may become a smarter and quicker way to open a new door leading consumers to Internet in the next future as it is in Japan currently. In fact, with barcodes, lots of Japanese who don’t own a computer at home access Internet via mobile phone. In addition, even those who own a computer are using Internet from mobile phone for its handiness. The same idea can be applied in the U.S. and other regions.

If I point out the current bottleneck of barcodes service, it tends to become ad-hoc content service and does not provide further path to stimulate the consumers. Of course the service providers need to come up with an exciting idea to continue users attracted, however, at the same time, it is necessary to explore and improve UIs and others on mobile phone.