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COMMENT: Great Japanese Brands Being Destroyed By Lousy Marketing.

COMMENT: Great Japanese Brands Being Destroyed By Lousy Marketing.

You only have to look at the history of Japanese consumer electronics brands to see the brand carnage created by a penny pinching mentality and a white hot belief that superior technology will sell itself. 

 The Japanese make some of the best consumer electronics in the world but when you start to look at brands that are now dead and gone in the TV market such as Fujitsu who delivered one of the first flat panel TV’s or Pioneer who were credited with making the best ever plasma TV’s, or Toshiba, or NEC you start to realise just how bad the actions of these marketers have been.

Panasonic is the latest Company to fall victim to a lack of brand marketing and one has to question how these Japanese Companies have managed to give away the TV market to Korean competitors.

What the Koreans did was invest year in and year out in big budget TV advertising and what followed was massive market share gains. There TV’s are now seen as being superior to Japanese TV’s despite reviewers constantly picking products like the Panasonic VIERA TV’s as being superior. 

Five years ago Panasonic Australia convinced their Japanese masters that they needed to invest in local brand advertising if they were to get their highly popular Lumix cameras off the ground. 

What followed was the now famous Panasonic skipping advertisement for their Lumix waterproof camera. 
Shortly after the TV advertisement which showed a man skipping a Lumix camera across a river was aired sales shot through the roof.

At the time Gemma Lemieux the then marketing manager at Panasonic Australia credited the advertisement with “seriously” giving the Panasonic brand a “kick along”. 

The advertisement was so popular that Panasonic USA picked up the advertisement for the US market. 

But that was yesterday. Today Panasonic is trying to convince people that brand advertising on TV. Billboards or radio is not needed to grow sales. What the Company is now doing is spending so called millions on “getting to know” their customers better.  

They believe that consumers who visit a retailer’s web site or the Companies own site are going to be predisposed to buying a Panasonic TV, sound system or Blu ray player. 

This is pure hogwash based on a strategy that will fail. 

This is not the decision of local management, this is a directive of Panasonic Japan.

This is the same Japanese marketing mentality that has seen brand after brand fail.

When did you last see a big budget advertising campaign for Toshiba or Pioneer both Companies who had excellent TV’s on sale in the Australian market?

 The answer is never because their Japanese marketing departments refused to give them budget approval for local TV advertising. 

They worked on the principle that if they incentivised retailers with dollops of Co-Op funding that that, would be enough and then maybe if sales were good they would think about  investing further. The only problem was that Samsung and LG were already out marketing the Japanese brands.

Japanese marketing management are destroying some great brands, Canon, Sony, Toshiba the list is endless.  

In the mid-1990s, when people were still getting use to home computers. Japanese engineers at Panasonic were way ahead of the curve, and in 1996 when I first launched Computer Reseller News and Windows Magazine as well as one of Australia’s first IT web sites IT News, Panasonic came out with a touch screen PC for the home market. They decided to market the product aggressively in the US using a mascot called Woody. 

At the time, the American created Woody Woodpecker cartoon character was apparently huge in 1990s Japan.

After securing the rights to use Mr. Woodpecker and conducting an amount of research so infinitesimal that marketers are still studying it today, Panasonic proudly dubbed their new touchscreen computer “The Woody”, not knowing that “wood” is American slang meaning “hard penis”. But wait, it gets better-to truly set their touch screen capability apart from the competition, Panasonic named the feature “Touch Woody.

“Things went south from there. Panasonic had no clue that anything was wrong with the slogan until the day before the ads were set to launch, when an American staff member informed them of the sexual slang connotations. As a result of this mistake, its highly innovative product was a failure and the campaign became infamous.

What Japanese management need to do is look at the likes of Samsung who after a disastrous multimillion dollar investment in the 2000 Olympics decided to bring on board an American called David Steele as worldwide marketing director. 

Very quickly Steele convinced the board to invest in UK and USA marketing, he employed European design consultants, US advertising agencies and PR Companies. 

The transition in the perception of the Samsung brand was spectacular. Today Samsung is seen as a truly global consumer electronics brands whose products are leading edge.
During the same period Japanese Companies failed to invest, instead they pulled themselves into a huddle cutting budgets and advertising. 

 Gemma Lemieux quit her role at Panasonic Australia claiming that she was not prepared to operate with no marketing budgets. Since then sales at Panasonic Australia have fallen despite the Company having the #1 microwaves, Blu ray players and tough notebooks as well as a brilliant range of digital cameras.