8:21 pm - 02/04/2018

Oricon interview: JYPE Japan director talks about marketing TWICE for a Japanese audience

On their way to Kouhaku: TWICE’s company director talks Japanese expansion and the circumstances surrounding their big break

Beginning with 2PM, JYP Entertainment Japan has continued their streak of successes with this year’s massive breakout hit TWICE, appearing for the first time at the 68th Kouhaku Uta Gassen and surpassing 200,000 sales of their Japanese debut single “One More Time” within its first week of release. We spoke to the company’s representative director, Shannen Song (Song Jieun), about the promotional strategy behind TWICE’s breakthrough and how they cultivate artists.

Careful target analysis ahead of TWICE’s Japanese debut

―― TWICE made their Japanese debut just this year and have already become a quick success. Can you tell us about how you achieved this?
Ever since their Korean debut, the response from Japanese consumers has been great. We saw even from YouTube analytics that Japanese viewers were accessing their videos in almost real time to the Korean release. With that in mind, we conducted quite serious target analysis as to how they might be received in Japan even before their Japanese debut had been decided.

―― TWICE first made a splash in Japan when the “TT pose” from their song “TT” went viral.
Japanese models and entertainers shared the “TT pose” one after another on social media. At that point in time, though, the trend was purely limited to the pose, and K-pop fans were the only audience who connected it to TWICE. Because of that, we first concentrated our energy on working to bridge that gap. From digital research, we learned that the response from Japanese women in their teens and twenties was especially good, so we thought about different ideas our target demographic would enjoy.

―― Becoming Shibuya 109 image models and featuring a giant advertisement for TWICE on the building was also impressive.
Japanese fans are paying close attention to all nine girls’ individual cuteness and fashion sense, so we were very grateful for the collaboration with Shibuya 109 since it’s such an iconic fashion spot. The TWICE cover dance contest held prior to their Japan debut in March and June through MixChannel, a video app popular with young people in their teens and twenties, was another initiative designed to please Japanese fans. We had thought from the beginning that TWICE’s main selling point would be their dances, but as dance has become a compulsory subject in Japanese elementary and middle schools and performing cover dances at school festivals grows commonplace, I believe their characteristic of “dances that are captivating but easy to copy” was a major driving force behind their breakthrough in Japan.

―― The Japanese “TT” MV has quite a different atmosphere from the Korean version. What was your goal in taking that approach?
The Korean version was done in a fantasy style with the members wearing fairytale-themed costumes, but for the Japanese version, we focused on their natural cuteness and girl crush appeal. We also thought that many people may have already seen the Korean MV on YouTube, so a totally fresh and new Japanese version might be more enjoyable for those fans.

―― The lyrics were also localized into Japanese, but conversely, there seems to be no change in sound between the two versions.
When 2PM began their expansion into Japan in 2010, we localized their sound rather heavily. In 2PM’s case, they were already reaching the top in Korea, so this was partly to differentiate their activities between the two markets. On the other hand, while TWICE have significant popularity in Korea as well, they’re still at the stage of being rookies, so our plan is to let them grow and mature simultaneously in both industries. Generational shifts have been another factor. In 2010, social media hadn’t spread to the extent that it has today, and because everyone is watching their Korean activities in real time now, we think doing something completely different would feel incongruous. We intend to keep the girls’ fundamental charm and concept the same between both Japan and Korea. What’s most important is to create songs and concerts that will satisfy their fans.

The most important factor in doing business is a relationship of mutual trust

―― JYP Entertainment Japan was established in tandem with 2PM’s advance into the Japanese market in 2010. You also took your position as representative director of the company at that time. Did you feel any confusion or culture shock over the difference in business practices between Korea and Japan when you started out?
I wasn’t confused as much as surprised that the entertainment industry is so subdivided. For example, starting even one project requires many meetings with different partners. Checks for visual and audio materials are detailed and go through multiple stages, so it was difficult until I adjusted, but it left a positive impression on me that they handled our company’s artists with so much care. Sony Music became a reliable partner for me when I first started working in Japan under JYP Entertainment, so I feel as if they’ve helped raise me as well.

―― How have you been able to utilize the past seven years you’ve been working in Japan through your dealings with TWICE?
We received many good offers for which we were thankful, but after troubling over the decision for some time, I settled on Warner Music Japan where Mr. Kobayashi Kazuyuki serves as representative managing director and CEO. Mr. Kobayashi originally worked with 2PM as the representative director at Epic Records Japan. It’s our motto at JYP Entertainment that the most important factor in doing business is a relationship of mutual trust, and our company representative and producer J.Y. Park asked that I choose a company with whom we could build a mutually happy and beneficial partnership, so I gave my support to Warner with confidence.

―― The K-pop scene in Japan is radically different now compared to when 2PM first entered the market. Given that, what sort of considerations have become most crucial to the company’s development here?
In 2011, when 2PM began their Japanese activities, it was definitely the “K-pop boom” and K-pop-related media in the form of TV shows and magazines was on the rise, giving us plenty of opportunities to promote the group. When GOT7 made their debut in 2014, their trajectory differed from 2PM due to fewer programs geared towards K-pop and diminished opportunities for Korean artists who speak less than fluent Japanese. There are Japanese members in TWICE, so their situation is somewhat different. Many people in various fields have given them their support as Japanese girls working hard overseas. No matter how trends have changed, though, what we’ve stressed above all from 2PM’s era to now is firmly making our artists understand just how fortunate they are to be working in Japan like this. We tell them, “It’s not enough just to do a concert and then go home. As foreigners, you need to value these people who’ve chosen to be your fans.” Thanks to that, people in the Japanese media have told me that our artists are a little different and have a “JYP style” about them, and we’ve been able to foster long-lasting relationships with companies who have worked with us.

―― How would you describe that “JYP style”?
Our company places importance on character above all else. J.Y. Park has talked about this on both Stray Kids, the recent Mnet program to find JYP Entertainment’s next generation boy group, and SIXTEEN, which aired two years ago to decide the members of TWICE, but he believes the three most important qualities in an artist are honesty, humility and sincerity. By honesty, he means not to tell lies: that it isn’t necessary to exaggerate a story just to be interesting on variety shows. Humility is about recognizing that it’s a privilege to be able to do this work and having a grateful heart towards everyone around you. Sincerity represents never being lax in the effort you make as an artist. No person has a perfect handle on all three of these qualities. However, he believes that by making an effort to come even a little closer to that ideal, artists can maintain long-lived careers. This kind of human education is taught from the time our artists are trainees. Even if they might have talent, we reject anyone whose character presents an issue. Of course, there are surely artists with both character and talent who debuted through other agencies simply because our company couldn’t make the best use of them as trainees, but if nothing else, the artists we currently represent are all diligent and hardworking kids.

―― Among your company’s new faces, the Chinese boy group Boy Story is also fresh off their debut.
This is a joint project through our Chinese branch and Tencent Music Entertainment. The members were selected through an audition in China, trained at JYP Entertainment in Korea and debuted back into the Chinese market. Whether or not this idea moves forward is another matter, but we’ve also been in talks about potentially replicating that method in Japan, if possible, and maybe having the chance to produce a completely brand new kind of artist. I suppose that will also depend on establishing the right partnership.

―― If you could set that plan in motion, the skills you’ve cultivated in Japan would likely be put to an even greater use.
I’d first like to work to ensure that our already debuted artists, 2PM, GOT7 and TWICE, can receive more love from the Japanese public. We’re thinking about some even bigger projects we could only pull off in Japan for next year, so I’d be glad if you looked forward to that.

source: Oricon, my translation

This is about a month old (published the day before TWICE appeared on Kouhaku), but I didn't see it translated anywhere and it goes into some interesting stuff about how JYPE approaches marketing and planning for their groups in Japan, plus some other discussion about how they operate as a company. IDK if I agree that they haven't changed TWICE for the Japanese market ugh the Candy Pop MV but I liked this look into JYPE's perspective on them and how they're factoring that into their branding.
goshipgurl 5th-Feb-2018 03:02 am (UTC)
thanks OP for translating this interview <3
raved 5th-Feb-2018 04:50 am (UTC)
Thank you for translating this, it's really interesting!

She used to make so many cute posts on instagram about 2PM, but she ended up deleting her social media due to some crazy fans. Ugh. I miss her insight.
_clochette_ 5th-Feb-2018 06:32 am (UTC)
super interesting find OP, thanks for translating and posting!
myungung 5th-Feb-2018 10:58 am (UTC)
thanks OP for this!

I’d first like to work to ensure that our already debuted artists, 2PM, GOT7 and TWICE, can receive more love from the Japanese public.

if the music was much better produced/sounding, I believe they'll receive more love
cette_amour 5th-Feb-2018 11:30 am (UTC)
I love these articles which dive deeper into how the industry works! It's super interesting how, even though it may seem like a one size fits all strategy sometimes, they do tailor their marketing approaches accordingly to each market.

Thanks for sharing!
gathyou 5th-Feb-2018 11:58 am (UTC)
Super interesting read, thank you OP!
rainstormraider 5th-Feb-2018 04:32 pm (UTC)
Great translation OP!

Such an interesting post!
vh4n 5th-Feb-2018 04:34 pm (UTC)
Thanks for translating OP! The article is super interesting.

Glad to know the Twice team in Japan is doing research re: how to market Twice even thought having Japanese members makes it that much easier esp. compared to other groups who plan to advance there.

I wasn’t aware that JYP debuted a boy group in China! You go JYP I guess hahaha
hibaalhadid 5th-Feb-2018 07:34 pm (UTC)
Thank you OP for translating, it gave us an inside look to the industry
mortkero 5th-Feb-2018 10:41 pm (UTC)
Thank you OP for the translation, I love stories with insight into how the industry works
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