Japanese brands are often associated with quality, giving them a competitive edge, yet their overseas exposure compared to the average of other international markets is letting them down, according to the first ever BrandZ Japan ranking.

Produced by Kantar and WPP, the inaugural BrandZ Top 50 Most Valuable Japanese Brands 2020 report reveals that the combined value of Japan’s top 50 brands is worth more than $223bn (¥24 trillion), a total surpassed only by the US, China, Germany, France and the UK.

Out of the 17 consumer categories that feature in the ranking, it is perhaps not surprising, given Japan’s traditional strengths, that six car brands account for a quarter ($54.7bn) of the total value.

Toyota (#1, $28.95bn), Honda (#3, $11.73bn) and Nissan (#5, $10.46bn) rank among the top ten most valuable car brands in the world, while telecom providers NTT (#2, $20bn), Softbank (#6 $10.36bn) and Au (#9, $8.1bn) are also high on the BrandZ list.

Taken together, telecom providers account for 17% ($38.54bn) of Japan’s top 50 brand value, followed by retail brands ($29.85bn), technology companies ($26.21bn), banks ($18.37bn), apparel ($9.82bn), personal care ($7.40bn), entertainment ($7.2bn) and then other categories.

With 13 brands among them, the retail and apparel categories make up most of the brands in the top 50 ranking, accounting for 18% ($39.7bn) of the total value, and the report highlights Mercuri and Zozotown as good examples of brands that have successfully adapted to shifting consumer trends.

However, even though Japan’s most valuable brands are judged to be the most “purposeful” among the 16 countries that BrandZ ranks – this being a measure of how consumers feel the brand makes their lives better – only two (Toyota at 41 and NTT at 70) feature in this year’s BrandZ top 100 most valuable global brands.

According to the report, the overseas exposure of Japanese brands (a combination of revenue, volumes sold and profitability from overseas) sits below the average of other BrandZ international markets, partly because too many still adopt a ‘monozukuri’ approach to branding. In other words, there is too much emphasis on production and manufacturing processes alone.

As explained by BrandZ chairman David Roth: “Japanese brands have a fantastic opportunity to close the current ‘brand equity gap’ and improve their global competitiveness.

“There is ample room to grow their stature abroad and, with high quality offerings that are coveted by consumers, they have the potential to increase their brand value through exploring factors that underpin their success and amplifying this with good communications, marketing, innovation and other brand building efforts.”

Sourced from BrandZ; additional content by WARC staff