Staff Reporters
Jun 6, 2016

Japan: Traditional powers struggle

While the top two brands in Japan remained static, there was a good deal of movement elsewhere in the market.

Japan: Traditional powers struggle

While the top two brands in Japan remained static, there was a good deal of movement elsewhere in the market.

In this year’s study Panasonic came out on top in Japan once again, followed by Sony. Neither brand is doing anything particularly exciting or original in terms of their marketing, but they remain trusted and respected operators across very sizeable categories. Apple is close behind though, having moved up to third.

Panasonic and Sony also continue to enjoy strong perception regionally, although Sony fell one place to 3. The other Japanese brand to make the top 10 regionally was Canon, at 8.

In Japan’s top 10, Shiseido moved up three to 5. The brand should be commended for regaining a more adventurous approach to branding, especially in the online video space with work like ‘High School Girl?’.

Sharp and Toshiba dropped—Sharp from 7 to 16, while Toshiba fell three places but remains just within the top 10. It is unlikely that Toshiba’s accounting scandal affected the average consumer’s perception of it, but both can be seen as companies that have failed to place enough importance on building and maintaining energetic brands.

Surprisingly, Mitsubishi Motors jumped from 71 to 38. It’s not clear what led to this change in fortune, but it is unlikely to last in view of the current scandal around falsified fuel efficiency. Though one of Mitsubishi’s smallest divisions, Mitsubishi Motors is the company’s most visible and now risks denting the reputation of other brands in the group.

There was movement in the premium automotive space. Aggressive repositioning from Mercedes-Benz away from its image as a stodgy ‘chairman’s’ car to a sleeker and more dynamic choice for younger people looks to have helped give it the edge over BMW. This year, BMW fell to 212 from 172 as Mercedes climbed from 210 to 200.

Other troubled brands include McDonald’s, which dropped from 78 to 107. The burger giant is still struggling to emerge from food safety scares as consumers continue to move to healthier, higher quality fast food options.

In the retail space, Amazon, which entered the ranking last year, has had a stellar year in terms of business and this is reflected in its ranking at 22, a full 20 places above domestic player Rakuten.

In the tech sector, Yahoo fell one place behind Google to 25, but the brand remains strong and profitable in Japan in contrast to elsewhere and its Japan entity is seen as a key chip in attracting bids for purchase.

While Twitter inched up two places to 79, Facebook dropped significantly—from 79 to 92. The platform remains popular for both personal and business networking, but its momentum appears to be flagging.

Two new entrants to watch in the travel & leisure space are Airbnb and, which come in at 326 and 314 respectively. Both face different challenges from more conservative industry players, but their placement suggests consumer appreciation is there. It will be interesting to follow the fortunes of these and other more “disruptive” companies in Japan over the coming 12 months.

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