Anyone with a business wants their business to have rock star appeal. You know those businesses where customers queue for hours around the corner to buy their products, love to talk about them, share on social media and become the thing that you just have to do, must have or need to be? Everyone is looking for that elusive formula, that magic combination that unlocks viral marketing and takes your business to the next level. Tokyo Banana have done it and, anyone who has been to Japan will have encountered this genius concept that we could all learn from.

Tokyo Banana, for those who have not had the pleasure, are small desserts made from a thin layer of cake wrapped around a creamy custard-like filling and are shaped like and taste like (surprise!) banana. There are versions with printed love hearts, leopard skin, flowers, giraffe skin and a range of spin-offs including biscuits and other sweet treats. Ginza Strawberry is the sister product, creating a filled strawberry cake that uses the same method. The product itself tastes pretty good, although certainly not the best cake you have ever eaten.

So how does an average-tasting cake become the must-have gift from Japan, with queues at every store and outlet? It is the whole package of Tokyo Banana that creates a product so irresistible that you find yourself buying not only for yourself, but for everyone back home.

Let’s take a peek into that gooey banana filling to explore the reasons why it’s a must-have.

Product. The cake is impossibly cute and something you have never seen before, something you just have to try and buy, share and give to your loved ones.

Packaging is an extension of the product, super fun, super cute and high-quality. The fun starts with the opening of the box, even before you get to eating it.

Tokyo in the name identifies the product with a city most people love, with a certain quirkiness and style that feels fun and perfectly crafted, very Japanese.

Shelf life is long enough to buy for gifts, so they are easy to transport to other countries, but fresh enough so they feel like they have just been made.

The Gift Value is very high, as travellers will love giving them to their friends and talking about them.

Momentum, the attraction to be doing what everyone else is doing, to see what people are queueing for and experiencing. It draws people in.

The unique combination of these factors make Tokyo Banana a product that markets itself, with such strength of brand and shareability that it is a runaway success. What is even more amazing is that Japan does not grow bananas in any appreciable quantity.

Small businesses so often struggle with marketing and spend a lot of money with trial-and-error marketing campaigns and little result. Yet product and service can be overlooked in marketing strategy development. Do your clients tell everyone they know about you? If they do, the marketing takes care of itself and your customers will market for you. Every small business should look at how Tokyo Banana have used their own unique style, to inspire them to create their own self-marketing system.

Dr Warren Harmer