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The Brand Council case studies: Asahi

Originally published in 'Cool BrandLeaders', August 2002. The book reviews the UK's strongest cool brands as judged by the independent Brand Council Judges.

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Super dry, super cool Asahi beer is the embodiment of modern Japan. Not the traditional Japan of tea ceremonies or picture postcards of snow-capped Mount Fuji but the Japan of the 21st century -- style, design and minimalism.

Asahi's clean, crisp, refreshing taste -- 'Karakuchi' in Japanese -- together with its funky metallic packaging and cutting edge advertising has ensured its rapid ascent. Asahi, which means "rising sun", is the world's third biggest beer brand (Source: Impact 2000) and is available in 50 countries worldwide. Asahi was established more than 100 years ago. Asahi Super Dry brand was introduced 15 years ago.To ensure freshness for Asahi customers throughout Europe, Asahi has been brewed at the Branik Brewery, Prague, by Prazske Pivovary AS since January 2000.There, Asahi is brewed with identical ingredients and to the same exacting standards as in Japan.

Asahi is a distinctive, high quality alternative to mainstream European and American premium lagers. However, it is not a beer targeted at the mass market but is aimed at the cognoscenti -- sophisticated, trend-setting consumers who are selective about what and where they drink. Careful decisions are therefore taken as to where Asahi is sold. It can only be found in cool bars, clubs, hotels and restaurants.

Asahi's advertising reinforces the brand's Japanese heritage with more than a hint of sarcasm. One campaign featured minor UKcelebrities such as sports commentator Dicky Davies draped in a fur coat and singer Bonnie Langford playing golf. The accompanying text was a mixture of Japanese ideograms and stilted English translations such as "remarkable and finesse so good". The campaign was a sophisticated parody of Japanese advertising and its reliance upon celebrity endorsement. To many consumers, the kitsch campaign was confusing, but the target audience, the marketing literate, cool elite, got the point immediatelyand recognised that it was about understanding the unwritten rules of what is cool. Last year, Asahi-branded cool rickshaws could also be seen carrying passengers through central London.

The latest campaign, which is again very stylised, uses a backdrop of white with a red circle, reminiscent of the Japanese flag. The line "Pure beer Japan style" in each execution is accompanied with wise words on bar etiquette in a mock proverb style. The ads also feature young people high kicking or sitting in meditation positions.

Asahi also reaches young urbanites through sponsorship of selected projects.The brewery has produced guides to life in Tokyo and to the Japanese club scene, sponsored magazine inserts on Japanese food and drink, and published a guide to Japanese London in association with Time Out.

Asahi also supports art installations, cult films, fashion parties and music events as well as advertising in edgy, underground publications focusing on London's Hoxton art, music and fashion scene.

A joint promotion with Japanese retailer Muji and Asahi's support of Selfridges' month-long "Tokyo Life" campaign which focused on Tokyo youth culture reinforced the aspects of Asahi's Japanese heritage which are in tune with western aspirations, expectations and values.This helped Asahi reach style conscious consumers fascinated by all things Japanese from its food and fashion to Manga comics and iMode superfast internet access via a mobile phone; from 'Kawaii' culture (a devotion to all things cute and fluffy) to high tech vending machines that dispense everything from noodles to CDs.

© 2002 Superbrands Ltd

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