What’s Frying in Google Japan?

Recently, I stumbled across an intriguing headline – smartphone-flavored potato chips brought to you by none other than Google! And I am sure a few of you will roll your eyes thinking, “What is she on about? That’s not news! Google launched a similar promotional campaign last year for their new creation, containing Google’s first semi-custom mobile chip, blah-blah-blah…” I know. I will go as far as to say that I even know the flavor of their 2021’s “crusade” – ‘Googley Salty Flavor’.  

Symbolic: a bag of chips is actually a smartphone

So, why am I making it sound so special? Well, I would dare say this fall Google is stepping up its game. How come?

  • This year there will be four flavors instead of one;
  • Only 2,000 people have the chance to get their hands on a bag box of chips via lottery instead of last year’s 10,000

(Google is hoping to get even more engagement by limiting the number of “prizes”, huh?)

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Of course, this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to my [true] interest.

Now, where’s the catch? Only Japan

A favorite snack of many that is now made by Google is, unfortunately, not hitting a global market this fall. But why are these potato chips exclusively targeted at the Japanese audience? While there are a few probable answers to such a question, in my humble opinion, the answer lays in Pixel’s launch geography:

The Pixel 5a’s availability was far more limited, only landing in Japan and the US compared to the Pixel 4a’s eight countries.

Hadlee Simons @AndroidAuthority

Even though it is hard to evaluate the exact number of Pixels sold around the world, it has been speculated that the Japanese phone market comes second to the US in welcoming the product. And that is reasonable – Japan is often ranked #1 in being both: the world’s technologically advanced and literate nation. That in itself explains a natural demand in the increase of technological consumption as noted by Statista Research Department.

Chips are one of the most lucrative snacks in Japan – everything about them is inviting. They are said to be perfect for almost any occasion: from picnics to road trips, parties, and even binge-watching Netflix. Many convenience stores like 7/11 offer them in a huge variety of shapes, textures, flavors, and even thickness. They are so popular that many consulting firms carry out exhaustive surveys to investigate the Japanese potato chip obsession. One of such companies, My Voice Communications, rolled out concrete numbers[1,2]:

  • 85.2% of Japanese purchase chips;
  • 66.6% of Japanese are chip hoarders*

The Way to Man’s Heart…

“What’s so special about these statistics? What’s your point?” you may wonder. Well, let’s consult what Google has to say:

These potato chips are meant for sharing with friends and family ahead of the Pixel 7 launch this fall, but they should definitely be treated as a collector’s item.

Google @9To5Google

As a technology-centric company, Google knows how to exploit human weaknesses. In fact, the whole potato chip campaign is one of its many methods targeted to capture and manipulate our attention. Look at Twitter going crazy over the new snack “brand”.

On a more local scale, the company knows its audience quite well – in their advertisement, Google Japan predominantly focuses on symbolism and bizarreness which are one of the most crucial aspects of the Japanese soft-sell[3]. I mean, having potato chips stored in a box that resembles the marketed product surely matches the spirit. 

What is specifically interesting is that if offered chip flavors are, indeed, good then does it mean that the person eating them would subconsciously warm up to whatever Google is trying to sell them? Perhaps. If a technology-leading country is going to fall in love with a special kind of potato chips – the sales are likely to go up, setting the global trends.

Are we victims of Google’s offline pop-up ads then? 

* (In spring 2017, Japan faced a national potato shortage. Calbee and Koikeya – Japan’s most prominent snack manufacturers – were forced to temporarily/permanently halt production of roughly 40 brands of potato chips, causing loyal customers to rush to their nearest stores for a stock-up).


[1] https://japantoday.com/category/features/food/japanese-people-most-like-to-drink-green-tea-with-their-chips-incredibly-dull-survey-finds

[2] https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2017/04/14/these-pictures-tell-the-sad-tale-of-japans-potato-chip-shortage/