Obligation, Love, and Chocolate: White Day and Localised Ecommerce

We’ve all had time to get over Valentine’s day, but are you ready for White Day? Valentine’s Day as we know it looks a little different in Japan.With a focus on men, the burden of gift-giving falls exclusively on women.

Common gifts include chocolate and edible treats — these are commonly offered to romantic partners or potential love interests; however, it is common to offer gifts to co-workers and classmates, even family. For this reason, two types of gifting chocolate exist known as Giri Choco and Honmei Choco. Giri means ‘duty’ or ‘obligation’ in Japanese. These chocolates tend to be on the cheaper side and lower in quality. Honmei means ‘true feelings’ or ‘heart’s desire’. These chocolates are reserved for only the most special men in a woman’s life. The latter are usually pricier. If you’re lucky, they’re homemade.

The extension to this is White Day. Call it a spin-off, if you will. Taking place a month later, it was created when savvy marketers and company execs decided to cash in on the Japanese obsession with gift-giving. Laying on the pressure of okaeshi, or ‘returning the favour’, men must remember who gave them gifts on Valentine’s Day so they can pay back the kindness either out of Giri, or as the initial ‘80s slogan suggests, ‘Ai ni Kotaeru’ — ‘Respond with Love’. As for their romantic partners, men are traditionally expected to offer something three times the value of what they were gifted a month earlier.

Though the custom originated there, it isn’t exclusive to Japan. Countries such as South Korea, China, and Taiwan observe it, too. While chocolate remains the go-to gift on White Day, men are also known to buy jewellery, accessories, and even clothing for the lucky lady in their life.

This year, Japanese e-retailer Rakuten is offering ¥1000 off with a special coupon code for their White Day promotional campaign. Korean drugstore chain Olive Young is also offering a 30% sale on perfumes as part of a targeted White Day sale. These are just examples of the campaigns held by local companies. Chupa Chups has localised its branding so well that it’s cemented itself as the most popular White Day gift in Korea, with women often receiving lavishly wrapped bouquets of lollipops.

Other examples of international brands that have localised for the occasion are Swarovski, having dedicated a range for White Day in Japan. French brand Louis Quatorze have also introduced a new Romantic Pink Collection especially for White Day in Korea, offering 10% off between 10th-14th March.

White Day’s SV begins to rise from March 9th, peaking on March 13th. For this reason, it’s recommended that preparations for a localised White Day campaign begin at least a week before. If you haven’t done so already, consider it another ecommerce event to add to your calendar.

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