When CBD brand Naturecan launched in Japan in 2020, due to strict drug laws the consumer was wary. Over two years on, Naturecan has established itself as the market leader in the space and is still growing, seeing a 403% revenue increase YOY.

There’s no denying it, creating a successful brand in a market where demand is little to none is a challenge. Selling a product to a market that have no prior knowledge (or incorrect knowledge) of the area means creating the demand from scratch. Which is exactly what the Naturecan team did when they launched into Japan.

The Background

Naturecan provides high quality, safe and effective CBD wellness products to aid people’s lives. CBD has been widely accepted and increasingly more common in western society however, with other markets tending to adopt these trends slightly later, CBD is still classed as emerging in other territories. Naturecan has scaled rapidly since its launch in 2019, particularly focusing on global expansion and Japan was identified as a market with huge potential for the business.

The Challenge

The challenge however was the incredibly low demand. When Naturecan launched, there were only two competitors in the market, CBD was not well known and there were many incorrect perceptions of this ingredient. With incredibly harsh drug laws in the region, people were wary and afraid of the potential penalties around purchasing CBD based products. Additionally, the more traditional methods for raising brand awareness and increasing product knowledge such as paid social and PPC, were unavailable due to the strict regulations Facebook and Google have in place around advertising CBD brands.

However, the possibilities for incredible brand success were there. Within Japanese culture, overworking, stress, anxiety and sleep issues are common and CBD is a great aid to alleviating this. Therefore, the Naturecan team set out on a trust-building mission around launch, to educate, increase awareness and create demand.

The Strategy

Key to the strategy was education, making people aware of exactly what CBD is, the effects and medicinal uses of Cannabis. The team focused in on a influencer led approach to this supported by the wider marketing channels.

Influencer marketing is the largest and most effective marketing channel in Japan and to aid the education and trust building process, honest reviews were integral. Therefore onboarding a variety of influencers with presence across a wide variety of channels was key; focusing on YouTube, Instagram/ Twitter and traditional written blogs.

In order to challenge any concerns or taboo’s, the Naturecan team worked hard to provide one-to-one video calls with the influencers to fully explain and immerse them in the brand so they would be comfortable and confident in promoting this to their followers.

The results were huge, seeing positive MoM growth, in particular through key trading periods such as Black Friday.

To date, Naturecan have worked with a network of over 500 influencers and it remains the biggest revenue generating channel to date.

This work was supported by a strong SEO strategy, CSR campaigns to put society at the heart of the brand and top-level customer service. Ensuring that as demand grew, Naturecan grew with it.

Today, Naturecan is now the No. 1 CBD brand in Japan.

The brand has seen a 403% revenue increase YoY.

Launch of Naturecan Fitness:

In 2021, a sub-site was launched specifically for the Naturecan fitness products, separating non-CBD items and allowing more of a focus on this already established product category.

With the main Naturecan site mainly geared towards the established CBD category, the fitness site allowed Naturecan to reap the rewards of their growing brand presence in a product category that, unlike CBD, had a high level of demand.

Naturecan Fitness established themselves as something different in crowded market, focusing on:

Being ethically focused; a carbon neutral brand that donates a % of profits to a wide variety of projects around the world

Using high quality and local ingredients; 80% of ingredients are sourced in Japan

Creating a unique product range that blends active ingredients

A customer centric approach; maintaining the highest possible levels of customer service with 90% of the product range fulfilled in Japan to ensure quicker delivery versus competitors

With the broader and more well-known category, Naturecan were able to capitalise on an area that already had huge demand, with a concept that was unique in the market and leveraging a wider array of marketing channels versus the initial CBD launch.

Both strategies have led to a successful launch and continued growth in the market, showing that low demand doesn’t necessarily mean a difficult or less successful launch for ecommerce brands when exploring new territories to aid global brand growth.