While Japanese brands are fully adept at their intrinsic values, they are lacking in extrinsic qualities and are falling flat when it comes to the emotional connection with consumers, according to Shiseido CEO Masahiko Uotani.
Speaking at the Nikkei Global Management Forum in Tokyo regarding the challenges for luxury brands, Uotani suggested that while Japanese luxury goods makers are successful in technology, functionality and service, work needs to be done on how they engage in ‘emotional fulfilment’ and what the company’s stand for.
Uotani said, “A brand is an identity. When customers touch, listen to or feel our products, we are presenting to them our brand’s commitment.” And to do this in the best possible way, brands need to firmly believe in who they are and what they stand for. Uotani continued, “Everyone in the company, from salespeople to the CEO, needs to share a common brand identity.”
Indeed, it’s clear from the 2015 Best Global Brands ranking by consultancy Interbrand that Japanese firms aren’t connecting as they should, as it saw no Japanese luxury brands or FMCG companies making the top 50.
Alongside his mission to give Shiseido a stronger emotional connection, Uotani is ringing the changes elsewhere too. Most recently the cosmetics company released a video online which quickly went viral attracting 8 million views. In the film, entitled High School Girl? a room full of high school girls reveal themselves to be boys when they remove their make up. The campaign was said to want to meet consumers in new ways and caused waves, with many viewers not expecting the company to create such a video.
Another big move under Uotani’s leadership is the set up of regional headquarters in the US and Europe, with local offices being core to the company keeping in touch which its brand identity. According to Uotani, “As mobility increases in the world, it is becoming more difficult to divide our markets into cities and countries.”
R&D is also a main focus for the brand, with the opening of a global innovation center in Japan. Shiseido aims to grow its R&D spending by 40 percent by 2017, with its research staff set to grow from 1,000 at present to 1,500 by 2020.