David Blecken
Apr 10, 2019

How Fujifilm is trying to move beyond its photography legacy

The Japanese company’s global fame as a maker of photographic equipment is a mixed blessing.

A screenshot from Fujifilm's 'Never Stop' campaign, which highlights the diversified business interests behind the brand
A screenshot from Fujifilm's 'Never Stop' campaign, which highlights the diversified business interests behind the brand

It has taken Fujifilm 85 years to get to the point where it sees the need for a global branding campaign, which it rolled out late last year. The B2B-oriented work is designed to inform the world that Fujifilm is more than a maker of camera equipment, as good as that part of its business may be. It is essentially a high-speed tour through the company's history, showing the multiple ways it now applies film technology, from beer brewing to cosmetics.

Like many large Japanese companies, Fujifilm is busy transforming its business for the future. Communicating those efforts clearly is almost as challenging as the transformation itself. In the first of a periodical series looking at the anatomy of Japanese brands and how they are repositioning themselves, Campaign asked Chisato Yoshizawa, Fujifilm’s corporate vice-president and general manager of corporate communications, to explain the thinking behind the company’s ongoing global outreach.

Yoshizawa has been at Fujifilm for 33 years, having joined as a graduate. She has worked in corporate communications for nearly two thirds of that time, and now oversees all communications including advertising.

What led Fujifilm to launch its first global branding campaign?

Fujifilm is still known as a photography-related company. This is how we started out, but it’s only 15% of our total revenue today. Back in 2000, more than half our sales came from film-related business. For the past 15 years, we’ve seen our core business disappear, so our major mission has been to diversify into different product lines to survive. We’ve expanded into healthcare and functional materials and have been growing for the last few years. So we thought there was a need for the global market to understand that we’re not just a film company.

Do people really still see you as a ‘film’ company internationally?

I think there’s a strong impression that we are mainly involved in photography. We do consider our consumer business important, but we also want to emphasise that we’re moving forward… In Japan, we’ve run various advertising campaigns that have led to this recognition. But it’s missing overseas. Just trying to reach people ‘outside Japan’ is too broad, so we are targeting specific areas that relate to our business, such as healthcare.

Have you considered changing the ‘Fujifilm’ name?

We used to be called Fuji Photo Film, which we changed to Fujifilm in 2006. The name has high penetration globally, and we use photo film technology in a lot of different areas, so that’s why we continue to use the name.

What do you think made Fujifilm a well-known brand internationally in the past?

I think it was mainly because photo film is an easy product to understand and one that was sold in sightseeing locations all over the world. Of course we advertised too, and that combined with being a ‘friendly’ product made it easily recognisable by many different kinds of people.

Now we’re in areas such as cosmetics and regenerative medicines, people might know the name Fujifilm but wonder, why are they here? So at first there might be some gap in understanding, but that can work as a hook to impress customers and is something we use in our communications as well. When we first introduced cosmetics products, people were confused, but if you explain that collagen is used in a similar way in film [to remove imperfections], they remember it. We used logical communications that encouraged people to try the products.

Do you plan to develop this part of your business globally?

At the moment our cosmetics business is only in Japan and Asia. We are doing research to see where potential exists in other markets, but nothing is decided yet.

Chisato Yoshizawa

How have you communicated your efforts to diversify up till now?

We haven’t been very active in communicating that aspect. We haven’t been strong in conveying a total company image to the global market; we’ve been more focused on product-based communications.

Fujiflim’s slogan is ‘Value from innovation’. How did you decide on this line?

We introduced it in 2014 when we celebrated our 80th anniversary and started to become a more diversified business. We conducted a survey of all 78,000 employees asking them what symbolises Fujifilm. We combined that information with a brainstorming session involving younger team leaders and management.

Do you worry that it isn’t differentiated enough?

It is true that that word ‘innovation’ can be used by many different players in the world and isn’t really anything special, but I think it has meaning when presented along with the stories behind the company. That’s part of the thinking of the ‘Never Stop’ campaign.

Japanese companies (not just Fujifilm) often have a lot of subsidiaries. What challenges does this pose for brand communications?

When each business is talking to people in their field, it’s easy for them because they have specific products they can talk about. At a group level, it makes it difficult for people to imagine what kind of company we are. This campaign is a step to overcoming this challenge.

How is your marketing department structured?

Our headquarters is in Japan but we have regional headquarters in China, Germany, the US and Singapore. Global communications meetings happen in Japan so that’s where we decide our messaging and that’s taken back to other regional offices.

What do you think it means to be a ‘global’ brand?

Something beyond just recognition, so that when you hear the brand name a specific image comes to mind. It is also a promise for the future, an expectation that this company will always bring something new and interesting.

What’s the most important lesson you’ve learnt in your career at Fujifilm?

I’ve been involved in corporate communications since around 2000, so from when the company started transforming its business. The most important thing has been to understand the true intentions of the management; what they are thinking, and how that can be properly conveyed under a changing environment.

What is the more effective tool for brand building, advertising or PR?

Both. And so for the last few years I’ve had everything underneath me and that has made it much easier for us to be consistent.

Source:
Campaign Japan

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