Innovation matters in Japan

09 March 2012

TOKYO: Consumers in Japan hold the most favourable views of brands with strong innovation credentials, a study has found.

Nikkei BP Consulting surveys thousands of shoppers each year about more than 1,000 brands and products, covering 20 metrics such as "quality", "innovativeness", "charm" and "friendliness".

These results were combined with those from a similar poll of business executives on measures like strategy, corporate governance and workplace credentials.

Apple, the electronics giant, led the charts, having been in eleventh last year. The iPad also improved from 90th to 15th spot, and the iPod claimed 18th position, versus 50th place in 2011.

The iPhone actually remains the company's least popular offering in the country, but still climbed from 73rd to 50th position.

David Aaker, of brand consultancy Prophet and part of the advisory panel for the BrandJapan study, said Apple's success was due in large part to its perceived "innovativeness" and "uniqueness".

The launch of the iPad 2 and iPhone 4S, alongside the passing of Steve Jobs, also "focused attention on the larger Apple story", Aaker suggested. The firm was also in the top three for "appearance" and "charm".

By contrast, Nintendo, the gaming specialist, has seen a considerable decline after failing to build on hit products like the Wii. It took the number one spot in 2008 and 2009, but fell to 14th in 2010, 18th in 2011, and is now in 41st.

More broadly, 40% of the leading 25 brands were from the technology category, with Google and YouTube also performing well alongside Apple, and equally drawing praise for their prolific R&D.

Aaker suggested this quality also applied to Uniqlo, the fast fashion chain that was third in the overall rankings, and McDonald's, which was in sixth, and has proactively adapted its menu to suit local tastes.

Daiso, a 100-yen discount store in ninth, and MosBurger, a quick service chain offering products like rice burgers, in 23rd, also made a mark by "maintaining energy" in the same area, Aaker said.

Turning to the packaged food sector, Nissan Food Products was the leading player in eighth position, while Suntory was in eleventh, both mixing "product vitality" with perceptions of being "friendly".

Data sourced from Prophet/Fast Company; additional content by Warc staff