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CONNECTING WITH THE MASS AFFLUENT

Part II: Motivating Affluent Women
— Interview with the Originator of the Terms "Celeb" and "Ele-girl"

In this installment, Hiromi Sogo, editor-in-chief of Hearst Fujingaho's 25ans and Richesse, magazines with a broad readership among affluent women, joins Dentsu's Masashi Koyama and Kaori Ishii in a three-way conversation. They discuss ways to connect with and motivate wealthy women, based on the results of the survey presented in the previous installment examining the attitudes and purchasing behavior of affluent women in Japan.

Note:

The definition of "affluent segment" used for this survey is "people with household assets (net assets excluding mortgages and other debt) of ¥100 million (approx. US$880,000) or more," or "people with household income of ¥20 million (approx. US$176,000) or more."

Part II: Motivating Affluent Women

From left: Dentsu's Koyama, Hearst Fujingaho's Sogo, Dentsu's Ishii

◆ A close relationship of trust, as with a personal shopping representative

Koyama:

According to surveys, around 42% of the readers of 25ans are affluent, while the average annual income of Richesse readers is ¥29 million (approx.US$255,000). I think it's fair to say that you are truly creating magazines for the affluent segment. What points do you consider particularly important?

Sogo:

First of all, we are careful not to deviate from the worldview developed in the years since the magazines were first published. We still adhere to the slogan of "users first." For 25ans, ever since the start of publication in the 1980s, we have sought to create a magazine in which you can visualize the faces of the readers, and to build a relationship of trust with women.

Koyama:

This is not a magazine with millions of readers, is it?

Sogo:

That's correct. In a sense, it's like a magazine for enthusiasts. That's why we need to address the things that our readers are seeking, and put them into practice.
Some of our readers are flashy yet conservative, while others see themselves as a princess, and want to be protected by a self-assured man. We take the worldview, shaped by accumulating these details, and advance with the times, all the while continuing to embody the authentic luxury at the magazine's core. I think that's what has led to the trust we have with our readers.

Koyama:

Since you're featuring high-priced products, I suppose you need to be a reliable source of information. In that sense, your position is similar to that of a personal shopping representative for a department store, isn't it?

Sogo:

That’s right. In rural areas in particular, information is limited compared with that available in Tokyo, so I’m pleased that 25ans has come to be regarded as a trusted source of information. We take pride in producing a magazine with content readers can rely on, and that offers the latest information.

◆ Terms for the affluent—"celeb", "Hong Kong madam", "ele-girl"—a sign of the times

Part II: Motivating Affluent Women

Koyama:

Incidentally, you coined the phrase "ele-girl," didn't you?

Sogo:

Yes, I think it was around six or seven years ago. The phrase "elegance school" was originally used during the 1980s. But this was a little unwieldy, and calling something a "school" had an old-fashioned ring to it. We tried different combinations, incorporating the desire of all women to feel young, and finally settled on "elegance girl," which was shortened to "ele-girl."

Koyama:

It spread quickly, and is an excellent catchphrase well suited to the readers of 25ans.

Sogo:

Many words have been created at 25ans reflecting current trends, such as "Hong Kong madam," for example. We also thought up the word "celeb," by the way.

Ishii:

Really? That's a common term now, in widespread use.

Sogo:

During the 1990s, U.S. fashion magazines began featuring actresses and other famous persons on their covers rather than supermodels, and the term "celebrity" emerged in Japanese to describe such people. We shortened the word, and began using it in 25ans around 1998.

Koyama:

It's really important to get a feel for the times, and present phrases that resonate, isn't it?

Sogo:

That's right. "Ele-girl" emerged from trends during the era. At one time, 25ans could be expressed, in a word, as "gorgeous." It's a phrase that perfectly conveyed the showiness and glitz of the bubble era during the late 1980s.
Today, however, things have calmed down (in a good way), and affluence is more refined. People don't like such flashy styles. In the West, "gorgeous" has a positive meaning of splendid beauty, but in Japan its nuance is mocking.

Ishii:

Yes, the flashy style of the bubble era does seem out of step with the current era.

Sogo:

The desire of women to always look attractive hasn't changed, but there is an idea of attractiveness to fit the times. Today, "sparkling" holds more appeal for women than "dazzling." Skillfully expressing the sense of the times in concrete form is important.

Koyama:

It proves the adage that "magazines are mirrors reflecting the times."

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