With a debt of $353 million, Yubari City in Hokkaido, Japan, went bankrupt in 2007. Our challenge was to promote Yubari, reenergize its citizens, and help erase the debt burden. Our PR strategy focused on the fact that Yubari boasted the lowest divorce rate in the whole of Japan and as such we created the idea, 'Yubari, no money but love.' In expanding this idea we created a couple of loveable, yet slightly ironic characters called 'Yubari Fusai'. “Fusai” means both “debt” and “married couple” in Japanese. Then we collaborated with the City Government to create a series of schemes positioning the city as a destination for happy couples – one of the many promotional schemes we initiated was the formation of Department of Happily Married Couples issued official Happily Married Certificates. Important to our strategy was the need to be upbeat and positive, protecting the sensitivities of the local residents, ensuring that our efforts didn’t demean them in any way. The idea of “no money but love” was an honest, yet endearing articulation of the situation they faced. Added to which, and in a country obsessed by cute characters such as Hello Kitty, the Yubari Fusai icon, proved to be a potent vehicle in generating WOM, print and broadcast PR.
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