It’s a Panda World!
As everyone knows, Japan is the vending machine capital of the world. As such, there is an incredible turnover of new drink products from the major manufacturers with new advertising campaigns appearing with astounding frequency.
In summer the focus of course is on cold drinks. Images of splashing liquid, ice and condensation abound. Whereas in the west it is the horrendously unhealthy sugar-filled, carbonated soft drinks that dominate the cold drinks market, in Japan it is the staggering variety of unsweetened and healthy cold tea products – black tea, oolong tea, lemon tea, herb tea, bean tea, rice tea and the biggest of all – green tea. So the battle to dominate the green tea market is a fierce one.
As is often the case in Japan, products and brands are accompanied by a character to help in marketing. If the character is popular enough (by virtue of cuteness) this has the side benefit of generating a huge demand for character-based merchandise , a great money-spinner. This in turn helps promote the product further, which helps sell more merchandise, and the whole thing snowballs.
And this is where Kirin(*) has hit the jackpot with the Namacha Panda. Namacha is Kirin’s green tea product, and the panda they have created to promote it has become legendary.
I first encountered this cute green and white(**) bear in 2009 when posters were hung throughout one of the main concourses of Shibuya Station (one of Tokyo’s busiest) along with an installation of oversized bottles, pandas and the obligatory vending machines. Simultaneously, identical poster campaigns exploded across Tokyo and the rest of Japan.
The campaign of course stirred up huge interest, and crowds gathered to view images, video and fluffy characters and to get their hands on samples and merchandise.
Michael Panda, a declared panda addict, offers a vivid description of an earlier 2006 campaign here.
Don’t miss his link to the incredible PakuPaku Studio
To this day the Namacha Panda remains cute and popular with young and old alike. He graces all kinds of merchandise and appears prominently on many pages of eco-fun for kids on the Kirin website.
And if you’re keen on expanding your own collection, there are some downloadable pdf files so you can make your own Namacha Panda goodies!
There are a huge number of sites like this one sharing recipes for Namacha Panda-shaped rice balls for your children’s lunchboxes!
And finally, here are over 250,000 more Namacha Panda images and links to an incredible variety of merchandise and products!
(*)Kirin is probably best known in the west for its beer. Ask most foreigners to name a Japanese beer and odds are it will be one of the big three – Sapporo, Asahi or Kirin. However in Japan, Kirin also sells a wide range of other products – bottled water, canned coffee, health foods, cold medications, yoghurt and more.
(**)The panda’s green incarnation was a new one. He had originally appeared in the more standard black and white panda form.