How to Sell Noodles – Ramen Marketing and Virality

Over the past year, ramen shops have sprung all around the capital of the Philippines, Metro Manila. How did ramen take over the urban community by storm? How did expensive bowls of noodles make people crazy? Welcome to the world of Ramen Marketing.

Ramen Marketing in the Philippines
Ramen is a Japanese noodle soup dish. It consists of Chinese-style wheat noodles served in a meat- or (occasionally) fish-based broth, often flavored with soy sauce or miso, and uses toppings such as sliced pork (chashu) dried seaweed (nori), kamaboko, and green onions
Now that we know what ramen is, let’s take a look at how ramen shops peddle their delicious imported-culture product to us Filipinos. And yes, I am a true ramen fanatic.

Exclusivity Factor

If there’s one sure way of making sure any product gets a high desirability factor, it’s to make access to it limited. It’s the simple rule of ‘demand and supply’. There is a high demand for a product – in this case, ramen – and by limiting supply in sometimes obvious ways, ramen shops ensure a steady stream of consumers.

Observe ramen shops – they mostly have the following features:

Small spaces.
Strong air-conditioning.
Limited number of seats.
Limited items on the menu.
Little to no appetizers or desserts.

The small spaces and limited seats ensure waiting lines are visible to the passersby. This sparks a thought in us: “What are people lining up for there? It must be something.” Voila – interest. Having virtually only ramen in the menu also ensures shops sell their primary product – at prices they can dictate freely. The very nature of ramen as well – hot soup – makes it only enjoyable when hot. The temperature of the establishments, I suspect, help ensure quick turnovers between incoming and exiting customers.
Price Point

Like any other ‘premium’ product in the Philippines, it must be one of three things:

Expensive to make.
Hard to acquire.
Imported.
The ramen is all of the above. Fresh squid appetizers at an establishment I frequent cost half a bowl of ramen; at another, a pea-size serving of Japanese chili costs more than a dollar. From the first point on Exclusivity, ramen is sometimes challenging to acquire. Maybe this isn’t unique to the Philippines, but imported food *cough CRONUTS cough* give out an aura of being ‘culturally important‘ and, again, increases the desirability factor.

Ramen Marketing – Ikkoryu Fukuoka Ramen jsncruz
Ikkoryu Fukuoka’s “AKA ramen”

The average ramen in Manila costs between $10 to $12 a bowl. For a country where the majority of the population makes less than that a day, it’s really quite the high price point. Having ramen is, in essence, to eating out as Apple is to the family laptop.

Social-Optimized

(Of course, no marketing article from me would be complete without a social media point-of-view). The ramen, to make clear, is food. That fact alone makes it ripe for social sharing; food is the most-shared content on Instagram for Filipinos. Ramen are also quite nice to take pictures of; being Japanese in nature, there is a certain level of presentation involved in the serving of these hot bowls of noodles.

Ramen Marketing – Ramen Yushoken jsncruz
Ramen Yushoken’s “tantanmen”.

Food images gain a lot of traction on social media by capitalizing on two things: the popularity of visual media online, and the desirability of food as a subject matter. Hence the term “food porn”.

To further underline this point, there are 751,000 entries on Instagram under the hashtag “#ramen” as of today. That’s a whole lot of bowls.

How does this apply to your product or brand? Ramen marketing has done a very good job of making itself, for lack of a better term, viral. Highly-desirable, talked about a lot, and easy to share – these qualities help anything get traction in terms of awareness and being top of mind. The simplest product, when marketed as a desirable item only ‘a few’ can access, instantly makes it ‘must have’ and talked about massively – ‘viral’.

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