Why is Muji so successful in China? A New CSBR Report


In China, Japanese home-ware brand Muji has enjoyed enormous queues outside their flagship stores.  While the brand has created a unique retail story, their success in China can also be attributed to a very strategic and consistent digital message.

China can be tough for Japanese brands

China can often be an unforgiving market for Japanese brands.  Due to resentment and anger about Japan’s wartime atrocities in the country, including the Nanjing Massacre, anti-Japanese movements caused by a flaring of tensions between the neighbours, can lead to boycotts of Japanese products.

Often brands have consciously hidden their ‘Japanese-ness’ from Chinese consumers, through the projection of more globally generic brand and product images.  Uniqlo and Sony provide two such examples, where their are limited direct reference to the brands’ Japanese origins.

However Muji has bucked this tendency, by presenting a Japanese viewpoint of design and lifestyle to Chinese consumers – and they really love it.


A retail stand in Muji’s China stores

Muji is winning big with its retail in China

Recently, we conducted a retail safari project for a global client, where we used in-store ethnography and semiotics to understand how local Chinese consumers interact with retail environments.  Of the stores that we visited, Muji stood out as the retail space where locals felt most engaged and comfortable.

Muji provides a cultural and educational journey, introducing and displaying products in the context of books, popular culture items and famous photography.  Also they offer and in-store personalization zone – Muji Yourself – where customers can use stamps and blocks to create unique cards, and also have Muji bags embroidered with personal messages.

Add to this a special Muji restaurant that adds to the brand’s ‘lifestyle’ story – anchoring the perception of Muji as an innovative experience, rather than a set of products.

So Muji is winning on the retail floor, but what about digital – a hint, they are winning there too.

A new Resonance CSBR Report (No.48) – Muji’s Digital Passport

Naturally, as Resonance, we were curious to see if this messaging was also being translated in Muji’s digital efforts in China.   We suspected yes, but were genuinely impressed with how they create a digital ecosystem that could engages Chinese consumers with different aspects of the brand, with the strategic use of different digital assets – Weibo, their website, and their brand app.

Look out for our 48th CSBR Report on Muji later this week – in the meantime, check out the other 47, and join as a member, to gain one-year access to our previous and twice monthly reports.

About Author

Jerry Clode

Jerry Clode is Head of Digital & Social Insight at Resonance. He leads Resonance SMART, providing leading-edge research, strategy and naming for brands in China using bespoke methodologies. Jerry also produces Resonance's popular China Social Branding Report, a bi-weekly publication covering modern marketing methods of the world's top brands.

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