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Building a Brand Which Grows Strong Beyond Borders

Building a Brand Which Grows Strong Beyond Borders        

Hiroyuki Hosomi

Senior Planning Director

Wunderman Thompson


For a brand to grow strong, it needs strong roots. Roots are underground and not visible from the surface, but they are the source of the life force for growth. Brands’ need for strong roots is universal, and transcends national borders and changing times.

In my experience of working with many Japanese and Western clients, I have always felt that there is a great difference between the stance they take toward brands. While Western corporations tend to maintain and value the consistent core of a brand, Japanese corporations tend to focus on addressing clear and immediate marketing issues, and change the tone and manner of their communication accordingly. As a result, Japanese brands sometimes fail to consistently accumulate brand identity.

The reason why we developed Brand Nurturing model in 2014 was because we wanted to introduce and disseminate a more robust way of viewing brands to Japanese corporations who tend to prioritize short-term solutions.

At the center of this concept is the image is of “roots,” which drive a brand’s growth, and the “sun,” which nurtures the brand, to structuralize the brand’s law of value. The idea is to grow a brand like one would grow a tree.


The sun, which nurtures trees, represents brand supporters. People who resonate with and support a brand make a tree – that is, the brand – grow.

But why do supporters endorse a particular brand and recommend it to others? They do so because only this brand has the intrinsic values that solve fundamental conflicts in their life. These intrinsic values include: Human Insight (the way a brand relates to a fundamental life conflict); Unique Brand Offer (the way a brand proposes to help solve this conflict); Brand Belief (a brand’s raison d'etre and philosophy); and Brand Role in Life (the benefits that a brand offers in consumers’ lives). These four elements are closely related to each other and generate strong “roots.”

We’ve found that intuitive motifs such as the “root” - the invisible yet robust source of growth – and the “sun” make it easy for Japanese decision makers to understand that brand universality and relevance are more important than more strictly functional brand attributes. Furthermore, because Japanese corporations do not see their businesses simply as profit machines, but rather have a strong desire to contribute to society through business, the notion that brands must have philosophy seems to resonate strongly and naturally.

Strong roots go beyond national borders. If you want your brand to grow strong in the global market, having strong roots based on universality is of immense importance, and will be a great asset to the brand.

No one strategy alone will unlock a global branding effort: Flooding local markets with global branding executions will not succeed on its own, but neither will launching totally uncoordinated local executions across a number of markets. In order to pursue the individuality of various markets while maintaining a unifying universal root, brands need a structure that can encompass – and unite – a diversity of perspectives.

We hope the BrandZ Top50 Most Valuable Japanese Brands 2019 will be a catalyst for many more Japanese brands to spread their wings into the world, and that Brand Nurturing can provide a compass for the journey.