Japanese brands must adapt

02 February 2011

TOKYO: Some of Japan's biggest brands fell in value last year, and are also now facing rising competition provided by emerging Chinese rivals.

Consultancy Interbrand reported that the net worth of the 30 largest Japanese assets, earning at least 30% of revenues overseas, had dropped 3% year-on-year in 2010.

Among the primary contributors to this trend were the contractions observed by carmaker Toyota and its luxury range, Lexus.

More specifically, Toyota retained its position at the pinnacle of the rankings but witnessed a 16% decrease to $25.7bn (€18.6bn; £15.9bn), mainly due to a spate of vehicle recalls, and Lexus was off 19%, on $2.5bn.

Excluding these auto marques, Interbrand's sample enjoyed a 2% jump annually, a figure argued to demonstrate the strength of many Japanese brands despite unfavourable exchange rates.

Elsewhere, automotive giant Honda's worth grew 2%, reaching $18.5bn and helping it cement second place.

Computer hardware manufacturer Canon took third following a 9% expansion to $11.4bn, leapfrogging Sony, down 5% at $11.3bn.

Gaming expert Nintendo lost 1%, yielding $9.2bn, while Panasonic's corresponding $4.5bn constituted an 8% improvement.

Completing the top ten were carmaker Nissan, overtaking Lexus after a 4% uptick to $2.9bn, electronics firm Toshiba, flat on $2.2bn, and cosmetics operator Shiseido, growing 3% to $2.2bn.

Mobile provider NTT Docomo led the table of brands deriving under 30% of sales abroad, posting $10.8bn, beating financial services company MUFG's $5.8bn, and fellow telco Softbank's $4.1bn.

SMFG, the bank, claimed $3.6bn, mobile group Au delivered nearly $3bn, securities and investment specialist Mizuhi hit $2.8bn and retailer Uniqlo received $2.6bn.

Food and beverage titan Kirin was on $1.8bn, personal care firm Kao recorded $1.6bn, and Rakuten, an online and ecommerce pioneer, generated $1.4bn.

The analysis also gauged the current status of Japanese brands globally, and compared with their peers from China, which dethroned its Asian counterpart as the world's second largest economy in 2010.

Interbrand stated that China Mobile, the most valuable asset in China, is worth $29.7bn, thus boasting a greater total than Toyota.

Looking solely within the auto sector, Toyota continues to lead Germany's Mercedes-Benz, at an estimated $25.2bn, and BMW, logging $22.3bn.

Dongfeng Motor and BYD, two of the foremost Chinese players in the category, lodged just $781m and $455m respectively.

Focusing on electronics, Apple's $21.1bn and Samsung's $19.5bn far outstripped Sony and Panasonic, and China's Lenovo and Haier, on $1.5bn and $457m in turn.

"The value proposition of most Chinese white goods is low price, which does not equate to brand value," the study said.

"Japanese brands must create clear brand images in the global market… before Chinese brands begin a push to shift from the low-price track to the brand-centric high value-added track."

Conditions differed concerning financial services, where the China Construction Bank scored $14.1bn and compatriot ICBC secured $11.4bn, measured against JPMorgan's $12.3bn and HSBC's $11.5bn.

Japan's premier members of this industry could only achieve around half of these amounts, however.

Regarding personal care, L'Oreal dominates on around $8bn and Nivea is worth $3.7bn, well ahead of Shiseido and Kao, while no Chinese brands have even come close to making a meaningful impression.

Data sourced from Interbrand; additional content by Warc staff