Tissue pack marketing, when part-time workers on the sidewalk hand out packets of pocket tissues with a small advertisement on the bottom of the plastic wrapping, is a type of guerrilla marketing popular in Japan.
The premise is simple. The pack of tissues is given to potential customers, who place it in their bag or pocket. By the time they have used the entire pack, the potential customer have inadvertently glanced at the advertisement a couple of times. The same person might just throw away a leaflet without reading it, since the leaflet offers nothing of immediate value.
An estimate of 4 billion packs of tissues are distributed annually. At between 10yen and 20yen per pack, it is a cheap and effective way to get your message across.
In the last month, I’ve been handed packets for fitness clubs, bars, beauty salons, loans, and “massage” parlors (that sell a lot more than just massages).
Personally, I’ve never used a product from or contacted an agency because I saw their add on a pack of tissues… but I’ve also never (consciously) purchased a product because I was handed a leaflet, saw a commercial on TV, or saw an advertisement on the train. Some people do, though, and that’s why this system works.
A lot of these distributors, who are often paid between 800yen and 1000yen per hour, are told to target a certain demographic. For instance, as a white, young, female, I often receive the tissue packs for makeup, but not for porn shops. Even if we are walking hand-in-hand, my husband will get a collection of tissue packets from “massage parlors” or “girls bars” in Shibuya, while I end up empty handed.
So next time you’re walking around in Shinjuku and the tissue distributor skips over you, don’t get (too) offended. You are probably not in their target demographic. And if it keeps happening and you need some free tissues, you can always go up to the next one and politely ask for a pack.