A new Facebook app, the first of its kind at least in Japan, allows members of the social networking service to create a mini “magazine” based on their own personality and preferences, including with themselves as a front cover fashion model. After editing the magazine users can then publish it online on their Facebook wall for friends to view and comment on.

Offered by skincare product retailer Dr. Cilabocom on its official Facebook page, the Dokumo Debut is being touted as a fun way for any female who wants to imagine herself as a top fashion model to make their “debut” with only a few clicks on their computer.

The name references “dokusha-moderu”, literally “reader models”, a fashion trend for using ostensibly amateur models as representatives of the voice on the street for both fashion shoots but also for columns in magazines, “day-in-the-life” articles and so on. (The “modebut” is a play on words for “model debut”, which in Japanese merge easily as “mo-de-ru day-byuu”.)

Although no doubt creating a mini fashion magazine will prove the most popular, in theory you can select lifestyles and interests to match your own. Thus, if you love dogs you can generate a pet magazine adding your profile photos and personal information into the template. You can also use icons and photos of your friends and other users to create a kind of community “magazine”. It is quite light-hearted: Some of the available templates include “scandal” and gossip pages from tabloid-style magazines.

Facebook, which has seen recent growth in Japan after a disappointing start in the market, is distinct from other local SNS in that users must use their full name and profile. Most Japanese social network users prefer to use avatars and pseudonyms. The Dokumodebut app taps into this pool of users who already have committed to “publishing” themselves online and are keen to play out fantasies of making their “debut”.

The unique nature of Japanese fashion models themselves also comes into the fore here. A lot of even the top models lack the “superstar” celebrity presence of western equivalents. They are presented to the female consumers in a much more direct, intimate way, through blogs, non-fiction books and meet-and-greet events. Although beautiful, many are portrayed as on a level which is obviously elevated and desirable, but certainly not unattainable. Likewise, ordinary female consumers feel that even they or their friends might just be a step or two away from being a model.

The link between the free app and Dr. Cilabocom’s products is not wholly transparent, although it may likely be an attempt to build up publicity for the company and connect interactively with female consumers in a fun way.

Trend potential
The more imaginative and inventive “magazines” will be shared and “liked” by users, creating a communication tool and buzz as it spreads. This is clearly meant as a fun exercise in narcissism but it cleverly utilizes existing trends in Japanese fashion, and latent ones in growing user online self-awareness. Allowing consumers to transport themselves into their dreams customized interactively to their interests makes for a lot of goodwill that will manifest itself in word-of-mouth about the project.