Brand strategy for Japan

brand strategy in Japan

by Gerhard Fasol

Brand strategy in Japan

First of all you need to take in that the language of Japan is Japanese, and the writing of Japan is a combination of Chinese characters (漢字), Hiragana (ひらがな) and Katakana (カタカナ). Roman characters have a different meaning to Japanese people who grow up with Kanji, Katakana and Hiragana, than to Western people who grow up with Roman characters. You may need to create a Katanaka or even Kanji brand, but you need to think it through.

Its hard to internalize for people working for a long time in a company representing a global brand, that this global brand may mean nothing, or mean something totally different in Japan, even if that same brand is incredibly famous in most other countries. This is a trap, which some of the most famous global brands have fallen into. It can take substantial time to internalize this point, and to react in the appropriate way.

In most cases it is necessary to build a brand in Japan from scratch, from zero, even if your brand is very famous globally.

Building a brand in Japan

To build a brand in Japan you need to connect to Japanese people’s emotions. In many cases you will need to adapt global brands to Japan. Or you may even want to create a new brand for Japan, or use your existing brands in different ways than you do elsewhere.

Read about Japan specific “Lovemarks” from Saatchi & Saatchi Fallon’s Japan-CEO, Philip Rubel.

Brand strategy for Japan: Campaigns

Very often global headquarters wish to have global campaigns, which are distributed to all markets. Global campaigns sometimes work in Japan, but in most cases do not.

In most cases it is necessary to create campaigns in Japan by Japanese people for Japan.

Read about Unilever’s Japan specific campaigns – Social media marketing: Social media is revolutionizing the way we market brands:

Read about Saatchi & Saatchi’s Japan brand management “Lovemarks in Japan”:

Build trust in your brand

You need to deliver with the quality, reliability and timing required by your Japanese customers.

In many cases, quality, reproduciblity, and timing standards are much higher in Japan than in other countries.

We worked with a European precision electronic components company, highly established in Europe and appreciated by all European automotive makers (OEMs).

In Japan the same company was on the “black lists” for unreliable suppliers by most Japanese major car manufacturers, since they did not deliver to the quality and time standards customary in Japan.

Don’t damage or destroy your brand in Japan…

There is a long list of famous global brands, who have seriously damaged or even destroyed there brands in Japan. Once you have seriously damaged or destroyed your brand in Japan, it is almost impossible to recover this brand.

In some cases, severe damage to a global brand in Japan makes it necessary for that company to completely withdraw from Japan. The largest such case is Vodafone (read: “Why did Vodafone fail in Japan and sell to SoftBank?”), but there are many more.

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