How to Create a Hit Product

The sales staff is showing a parasol (one of the selling products) and explaining something about it.
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Chat GPT? Hi-Chew candies?

What is the best hit item for you last year? At the end of every year, the hit product ranking is published in Japan, and I always look forward to it. To be honest, I’m not interested so much in hit products themselves, but I like to delve into customer psychology, creators’ enthusiasm, social requirements, etc. seen in the background of product development. Today, let me introduce some items I’m impressed with in “The Hit Product Ranking 2023.”

A convenience gym

The first one is not a product but a service: A convenience gym. It’s smaller and simpler compared with ordinary existing gyms, opening 24/7, with no staff, no shower, and no locker facilities, at a cheaper monthly fee, with an easy procedure for admission and withdrawal via App. People just drop by, like a convenience store, on the way back home from work for a quick exercise only for 10 minutes for example. Now, only for one year and a half from its launch, the number of gyms reaches 1000; the membership number exceeds 1 million; top market share in the gymnasium industry in Japan.

From the success of the convenience gym service, we can see that there’s a big hidden demand for everyday exercise, and that the demand is brought to light by eliminating as many barriers as possible. I know. It’s the most basic of business basics to eliminate barriers, but I’m impressed with the huge amount of the hidden demand. Furthermore, the new service deserves high praise because it also works to improve public health. I really like it, though I’ve been a member of one of the other ordinary gyms

Men’s parasols (anti-UV umbrellas)

Another one is men’s parasols (anti-UV umbrellas). As I believe the situation would be almost the same in many other countries, parasols are generally thought to be women’s items in Japan. We men knew parasols could work well to cool us down by blocking direct sunlight, but we couldn’t use them due to the stereotypical idea and feminine design. The newly launched men’s parasols have broken the stereotype and created a new market.

“Sell the hole, not the drill.”

Do you know Theodore Levitt? He is a legendary marketer, well-known for his saying “Sell the hole, not the drill.” He argued “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill; they want a quarter-inch hole.” His point is that we marketers should focus not on products or services themselves but rather on the purposes people want to achieve by using the products or services. In that sense, the above hit service and product are thought to have become new and unique by slightly changing their purposes: providing a quick and light exercise for not health-conscious but ordinary people; blocking direct sunlight not for women but for men.

Using his theory, I feel like I can create something new and unique only with a small change even in our wooden furniture industry as well. For example, what do you think about a service to engrave each family member name on their respective dining chairs. The purpose of furniture is commonly thought to be “making living space comfortable,” but the purpose of the name engraving service is “making the place where family members return to.”  It may make parents sad after kids have flown the nest, though.

Using his theory, I feel like I can create something new and unique only with a small change even in our wooden furniture industry as well. For example, what do you think about a service to engrave each family member name on their respective dining chairs. The purpose of furniture is commonly thought to be “making living space comfortable,” but the purpose of the name engraving service is “making the place where family members return to.”  It may make parents sad after kids have flown the nest, though.


Photo credit: https://www.japantimes.co.jp/business/2023/09/21/tokyo-umbrellas-heat/


Shungo Ijima

He is travelling around the world. His passion is to explain Japan to the world, from the unique viewpoint accumulated through his career: overseas posting, MBA holder, former official of the Ministry of Finance.


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