Last updated: 03:00 AM ET, Wed October 21 2015

Tokyo’s New Branding Campaign: Is It Really Tokyo?

Destination & Tourism | Josh Lew | October 21, 2015

Tokyo’s New Branding Campaign: Is It Really Tokyo?

Tokyo is trying to reinvent its image ahead of the 2020 Summer Olympics. The vast Japanese metropolis is already pretty well known to travelers thanks to its urban landscapes, crowded subways and high-tech features.

A new promotional campaign will include things that have always drawn shoppers, business people, anime fans and tech heads to the city. At the same time, it will also try to highlight other aspects of Tokyo.

Is this effort, simply but aptly called the Tokyo Brand Promotion Campaign, really going to change anyone’s picture of one of the world’s most famous and well-known cities?

Highlighting Tokyo's endless menu of  attractions

The slogan for the new promotional push is almost humorously to the point: “a city that promises all kinds of fun by constantly generating new styles while bringing tradition and innovation together.”

The logo is a large ampersand over “TOKYO.” The idea is that travel in Tokyo can be defined by an endless list of “ands,” and tourists can find whatever suits their fancy somewhere in the city.

“&Tokyo” will be combined with different attractions, descriptive words and corporate brands to illustrate this point. (For example: “Fashion &Tokyo” or “Asahi Beer &Tokyo”). The hope is that private brands will want to be associated with the campaign and will use the “...&Tokyo” idea voluntarily.

Painting a realistic picture of Tokyo?

The list of possible &s is endless. However, the campaign will focus on five core values (or keywords) that supposedly define the city.

The first is “unique.” Tokyo is unique in more ways than one. If you are coming from the U.S., though, the things that make the city stand out are probably not what the campaign is focusing on. There is all that cultural stuff, certainly. But other things will probably make the biggest impression on Tokyo newbies. Buses and trains run on time down to the second. Vending machines sit unguarded on sidewalks, but no one ever robs them. Come to think of it, no one will ever rob you either. Tokyo has an extremely low crime rate despite a metro area population that tops 30 million.

The second keyword is excellent. Yes, Tokyo has well crafted products, great food, and unfailingly polite service. You can get amazing sushi, but you can also get French food that is as good as it is in Paris. The &Tokyo site is quick to point out that “excellent” also means sophisticated. Too true. You will always feel underdressed or fashion deficient in Tokyo. Almost everyone is impossibly stylish.

“Exciting” is third descriptive word. This is probably the one that &Tokyo would be best served by. Tokyo is a massive city and most tourists operate under certain assumptions when visiting. There is something different (and often something that seems quite strange) around every corner. You don’t have to spend your whole trip in Shinjuku or Roppongi, you can simply wander and discover something interesting, eye catching or bizarre no matter what district you are in.

Number four is “delight.” According to the &Tokyo web site, this means Japan’s trademark politeness and aptitude for great service. Tokyo is polite to a fault. This is great when you first arrive and are worried about committing cultural faux pas. But if you want to know what someone really feels or you want someone to correct a mistake, you will usually find yourself out of luck.

The final core value is comfort. High tech toilets, lightning fast internet, and the politeness we’ve already mentioned certainly back up this descriptive word. Yes, you might argue with this image of Tokyo if you end up smashed on a Metro train at rush hour or if you find yourself at a station with only Japanese signage.

&Tokyo is a pretty well-thought-out branding campaign. It may well serve to give people a different impression of the city. At the same time, once they arrive, first-time tourists may find that the things that &TOKYO focuses on are not the aspects of this destination that make the biggest impression.

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