The dominance of Japan’s car brands is striking in Interbrand’s Japan’s Best Global Brands for 2017. Toyota is at #1, Honda at #2, Nissan at #4, Lexus at #9, Subaru at #10 and Mazda at #13. Subaru’s brand value also grew the most of any of the Top 40 – rising 28% on the previous year. Mazda’s brand value has doubled over the past three years.
According to Interbrand Japan’s CEO Masahito Namiki, in Diamond magazine, Subaru and Mazda’s brands have grown because “they have understood their own individuality. Subaru is about safety and fun and they put this into their craftsmanship in developing a driving support system ‘EyeSight’. On the other hand Mazda puts its strength into design and a real focus on the colour red.”
By contrast, Nissan is an example of success through a top down strategy. Carlos Ghosn has recently published a series in the Nikkei newspaper about his life. In the 22nd part he mentions how he puts his all into maintaining the brand, so the brand is given emphasis from the top.
“They are focusing their technology on electric vehicles and driverless cars, and coming up with features which are ahead of other companies. You cannot develop a brand just by saying “let’s make cars which sell”. Nissan has set clear targets and has stabilised its image as having strong technical skills.”
Apart from the automotive brands, Namiki singles out Yakult at #28 for having strong “internal branding” – employee loyalty and “fans” inside the company. Yakult brings all its sales staff together for Yakult Global Conferences and tries to develop staff who love the product. “It’s a mistake to think that if you advertise the brand image will improve. What’s important is the product or service you offer, and the experience surrounding them in the shops or the people who provide the service – the brand must be experienced in all aspects of the company.”
Financial services companies are entering the global brand rankings for the first time as their overseas earnings break through 30% cut off point. This year Tokio Marine entered the rankings at 15 and last year MUFG joined at #6.
On the other hand Japan’s electronics companies are suffering – Toshiba was at #9 and Sharp at #10 in 2010, but now both have dropped out. Panasonic (#7) seems to be stabilising but its brand value shrank 1% on the previous year.
However Sony’s brand value grew 8% – the first positive sign in a while. “Finally we are beginning to see a new direction with their technology” says Namiki.
Other brands such as Olympus and Nissan have managed to rehabilitate themselves after dropping out of the global ranking. It’s not just recovering a solid financial footing but also the revival of the brand that needs to be secured before you can truly say a company has come back to life, says Diamond magazine.
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