Innovation That Matters

Rice cracker brand's cafés serve free drinks and snacks

Nonprofit & Social Cause

There’s nothing like free samples to get consumers to try something new, as countless brands have recognized over the ages. Last year we saw that concept put to work on female patrons at Tokyo’s LCAFE, but recently one of our spotters alerted us to an even bolder example, also in Japan: Free Café Harimaya Station, which offers a variety of free drinks and snacks to anyone at any time. Free Café Harimaya Station is the brainchild of Harimaya Honten, maker of traditional Japanese rice crackers. With seven locations already established in major shopping areas nationwide, the Free Cafés serve up freshly roasted and brewed coffee, tea and roasted green tea to their patrons for no charge, along with the traditional rice snacks for which Harimaya Honten is known. The only stipulation, the company says, is that “people treat each other with courtesy and respect each other’s views.” The cafés are a way for Harimaya Honten to give back to society, it says, as well as to promote environmental awareness, a favourite cause of company president Sukejiro Harimaya. More to the point from a marketing perspective, however, is that they also help the company increase awareness of its products among consumers under 40, it says. Harimaya Honten opened its first Free Café Harimaya Station in 2008, and it’s planning to expand with additional cafés in Paris and New York. Part tryvertising, part free love and part brand butler catering to weary shoppers, Harimaya’s cafés may just pack more marketing punch than any other tryvertising initiative we’ve seen so far. How could *your* brand achieve something similar…? (Related: Pop-up café offers ‘5 a day’ for £5High-end beauty samples by curated subscriptionSympvertising & samples help launch new Maxwell House brand in DubaiTryvertising store expands in SpainA tryvertising lab for San DiegoVending machine dispenses free samplesHeated bus stops offer sympvertising and samples.) Spotted by: Murray Orange



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