Ukon no Chikara (aka the Power of Turmeric)

Japan’s House Foods has been expanding sales of its “Ukon no Chikara” (literally Power of Turmeric) drink in the US.  It’s a supplement that claims to prevent hangovers.  The 100ml bottles come in several different flavors and are usually sold for around 200 yen at convenience and drug stores.  Ukon no Chikara has been a hit in Japan likely because of the country’s drinking-communication culture and it’s already available in Hawaii and the West Coast of the US.  As a very “Japanese” product, it will be interesting to see what kind of reaction it gets in the US.

One of our Japanese partners is a loyal drinker of another supplement/energy drink, Otsuka Pharmaceutical’sOronamin C.”  Because of the high sugar content, it’s not something you can drink every day, but she buys the drink fairly frequently.  In recent years, Red Bull has also entered Japan and become a competitor.  Not only foreigners, but also young Japanese businessmen can be seen purchasing Red Bull at convenience stores.  Thanks to product placement in American TV dramas and Hollywood movies, as well as the brand’s active sponsorship of sporting events, the Red Bull logo appears fairly often in the Japanese media.   According to our partner, Oronamin C is the “king” of energy drinks in Japan, but outside Japan it’s clearly Red Bull.  Oronamin C has become more visible in East Asian and Southeast Asian markets and as a fan of the product, our partner hopes it continues to do well.

According to an investment firm, one of the reasons for Red Bull’s global success is its massive efforts in creating sports sponsorships, advertising and other PR activities.  Red Bull was originally created in Thailand as a competitor to Lipovitan D, a Japanese product that was the first in Thailand.   The flavor was changed to fit the tastes of the local people and sold as a canned carbonated beverage, which was a big step for the brand.  Also, the product name was easy to understand.  Although it wasn’t targeted just at men, the image of the energy drink consumer was male.   The original “red bull” name and package design were kept as-is and that is one of the major reasons for its success.  Many corporations try to avoid using proper names for brands, but by using a brand name, awareness level increases quickly and there’s a “friendly” sort of feeling more than with using a category name.

We wonder if the product will be sold as in the US as “Ukon no Chikara” or “Power of Turmeric.”  Product naming for new markets is often the key to successful marketing.  Hopefully Ukon no Chikara has developed a name and design for the US and other markets that is easy to understand like Red Bull.

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