TOPWhen Giving Away Umbrellas Is – and Isn’t – a Great Business Idea

When Giving Away Umbrellas Is – and Isn’t – a Great Business Idea

By Alec Jordan

A tale of two organizations and their “open-handed” approach to umbrellas.

If this morning’s deluge didn’t make it clear enough, we are in the middle of tsuyu, or rainy season. It’s always hard to say just how damp things will be from year to year, but you’re going to want to have your umbrellas at the ready. Convenience stores do brisk sales at this time of year, of course, but coffee company Dydo is trying out a clever way to keep people dry – and sell their wares at the same time – with their recent campaign.

As you can see from the picture below, the setup is pretty simple. There is a rack for several umbrellas in the box, and any passerby caught in a sudden squall can pick one up in time of need. Once they’ve finished using it, they should be able to return it to another Dydo machine (and just perhaps impulse buying another overly sweet can of cold java in the process). Given human nature, even in Japan, plenty of folks are just as likely just hold on the umbrella or forget it somewhere. Given that the umbrellas that the company is using in its campaign are unclaimed lost and found items that have been decked out with the company logo, it seems to be no great loss overall, and managing to get a few eyeballs on your company’s brand identity certainly can’t hurt.

The campaign kicked off last October in the city of Osaka, and last week, Dydo decided to expand the range of the umbrella vending machine campaign. You’ll be able to find them in Kyoto, Nara, and Wakayama this month.

umbrella-vending-machine
A caffeinated port in a storm? (Image: Sankei)

Less pleased with umbrella poaching is the Hokkaido city of Hakodate, which has been running a promotion in which a stock of 1000 free umbrellas have been placed around town for tourists and locals around the city to pick up and use, free of charge – with the caveat that they are supposed to be returned to any number of the stands where they came from. However, the campaign has not gone quite as planned. According to the Japan Times, of the 1000 clear plastic umbrellas bedecked with a Hakodate city logo that were initially deployed in the promotion, 900 ended up as permanent souvenirs, leaving the city’s chamber of commerce with soggy spirits – and city taxpayers a little steamed.

Personally, we keep our oak-handled bespoke umbrella by our sides at all time during the year, but how do you handle rainy season? Do you manage to hold on to the same umbrella for years or do you cycle through a half-dozen combini umbrellas each time around?