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What I Learned from Japan About Branding: Japanese People & Wrapping Paper.


I was in Tokyo for 9 days for a holiday with my family. It was GLORIOUS. But when I got back to the office, I had 41 missed calls. ( Well, that’s not too bad, considering.)

Anyway, my observation from shopping around Tokyo? Japanese people really, REALLY like wrapping paper.

When I bought knick knacks and souvenirs from several stores, the store assistants would always insist on wrapping each thing INDIVIDUALLY with wrapping paper. Refer to photo below for a sample:


When my mum bought cute pouches for her sisters, the shop owner asked, “Present?” And then proceeded to putting each pouch in a plastic sleeve, put ribbons and ‘Made in Japan’ stickers on each of them.

Sounds pretty excessive and wasteful in a way, doesn’t it? It’s like the Japanese are using MORE plastic, MORE paper for the packaging than what is absolutely necessary.

Also, when they were wrapping my stuff, I was like “Ummm are you done?” I wanted to leave but it took a while for them to finish. But then I thought: Maybe it’s not excessive.

Maybe they’re on to something here.

Here are my thoughts:


1) Some products deserve that special treatment.

I was buying things like pretty handkerchiefs, keychains and stuff, not groceries. So it kinda makes sense for them to be wrapped. They’re not "every day" products.

It’s like, some things deserve to be wrapped, some are fine in plastic bags. Yaknow?

Since souvenirs have that extra sentimental value + cost relatively more, it makes sense that the shops would take an extra step to make them look more special.

This would definitely work for you if you’re selling something that’s also ‘special’. Like a handmade item, something that’s made with love or something that you want to make more premium.

I think it's a great investment to make for your brand. Anyway, if you go with wrapping paper like the Japanese, you’ll do fine with:

  1. Thin paper in your brand colours / patterns. Choose something like tissue paper rather than anything thicker. Makes it easier to wrap around your product.
  2. A small sticker / tape to secure the wrapping. It can also be in your brand colours / patterns.

2) How you present your product reflects on your brand.

Wrapping paper is not just wrapping paper. The packaging is not pointless ruffles.

When the shop assistants wrapped my stuff, the act of wrapping itself represented the values of ‘Made in Japan’. Craftsmanship, quality and pride.

It’s as if Japanese people have this nation-wide conspiracy to make people fall completely in love with Japanese brands, and not just the products. And it worked! (I bought a lot of knick knacks.)

It’s like when my grandma takes out her nice cups and plates when we have guests over. She would NEVER serve guests with our everyday plates, even if logically her cooking will taste the same.

The whole principle behind it is that how you present your creation (or product) reflects on your brand itself. If you present it beautifully, people can appreciate the product AND the brand.

But if you ignore the presentation aspect, people may appreciate the quality of the product, but they may not fall in love with the brand.

It really depends on how you want people to perceive your brand. What kind of values do you want to present? See if you can infuse those values into the whole buying process from A to Z.


3) The experience doesn’t end when the customer hands over the money.

Logically, wrapping the products or putting them in nice packaging AFTER the customer has bought them isn’t necessary. The customer has already paid. Put the stuff in a plastic bag and say bye-bye. The customer will enjoy the product any way.

And if you asked me: Hey, do you want wrapping? It’ll add an extra 50 sen and 3 minutes. I’ll be like nah, it’s fine. Not necessary.

Most customers won’t say yes to something that adds cost and time to their purchase. We always want a good deal. We don’t want to spend more on things that we don’t think is necessary.

But when I got back home, it honestly felt so nice to unwrap the souvenirs. It felt special, AGAIN. I already know what’s inside the wrapping paper, but it felt special all the same.

There’s nothing wrong with a plastic bag of course. I’m not even someone who cares if her presents are wrapped or not. But unwrapping my things made me happy!

My point is: you may need to make that nice unwrapping experience ‘obligatory’ for your customers. Make the act of unwrapping or opening the packaging of your product a great experience. As if they’re opening a present for themselves.

This isn’t an excuse to charge high prices just because of nice packaging. But if your ‘unwrapping’ or opening the packaging will create a legit experience that customers will enjoy, go ahead!

Here’s some ideas for your wrapping/packaging:

  • Scented tissue paper wrapping.
  • Nice solid box.
  • A note for the customer.
  • A cute sticker.

These are just my ideas, so feel free to brainstorm according to your brand’s personality!

Over time, your customers will begin to think that your brand and products = special. It’s like when you go to a really fancy restaurant. The food may be really good, but it’s the decor, ambience and the way waiters treat you that make the meal extra special. And whenever you want to feel special again, you go to that fancy restaurant.


At first, I thought that my things were wrapped and packed so nicely because I was clearly a tourist buying souvenirs. But I saw that other Japanese customers also got the same treatment. So I guess it’s their culture.

I don’t think that as Malaysian brands are doing anything wrong. But there’s something to learn from Japanese people and their wrapping paper, for sure. 😊

Do you think wrapping products is a worthy investment for a brand? Let me know by commenting!