Sample Cafes Target Trendmakers in Tokyo


I’ve always known that Japanese women in their 20s are infinitely cooler than I am.  Even at my coolest I couldn’t compete with their unbelievable braveness when it came to starting and growing trends.  This article in the Wall Street Journal last week has reminded me that these women are enabled in their quest for cool by innovative marketers and outlandish ideas.  In a nutshell there are a group of “cafes” called Sample Labs or Lcafe that offer new brand experiences and sampling to their target audience of cool, young Japanese early adopters. 

 “Once registered, the customers get tokens based on the amount of food or drink they ordered. Those tokens are then brought to a brightly lit “sample bar” where customers redeem the tokens for samples. After being open less than two months, the café has more than 2,000 registered members.”

Women register via mobile phone (is this the future of the screener?) and can come to these cafes (that serve liquor) from 10am until 4:30am!  Men are allowed but are outnumbered 9 to 1.  Interestingly men aren’t allowed in after midnight, “dubbed Cinderella Time” which I think is a genius name.

In Tokyo the cost to execute this is ridiculously low for marketers and I can’t imagine that being a reality if there were American interpretations of this.  But the marketers get awesome exposure, grassroots research and tracking abilities.  I know that NYC always has a pop up store popping up but they tend to be unfocused and visited by throngs of tourists waiting to grab as many samples as they can. 

Could you imagine this here?

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July 2, 2022
by Mary Lou Quinlan

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