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Hope amid uncertainty

Hope amid uncertainty

In difficult times, Meaningful Difference remains the key to brand success

I am pleased to welcome you to this year’s BrandZ Top 50 Most Valuable Japanese Brands ranking.

The COVID-19 pandemic has tested the world’s leading economies in countless ways – and Japan and its brands are no exception. In a year when the country was set to host the world for an Olympic celebration, Japan has instead been forced to turn inward and make significant sacrifices to slow the spread of coronavirus.

For the first time, for instance, Japan has had to seriously confront the challenges of business digitalization and working from home. Many of Japan’s favored daily rituals have similarly had to be reassessed: from gathering at bars and restaurants, to paying with cash and shopping in-store. What has been evident since the early months of 2020, however, is that Japanese society possesses a spirit of solidarity and mutual care – which has made the country something of a global model for how to combat a pandemic.

This year, the combined value of the BrandZ™ Top 50 Most Valuable Japanese Brands declined by 9 percent. Beyond this headline rate, however, lie the stories of leading Japanese brands that have protected their brand reputations – and sometimes even increased their brand valuations – amidst the most difficult of circumstances.

What these brands have in common is a theme we also emphasized in last year’s inaugural BrandZ™ Japan report. Namely, that authentic and distinct brand building remains the key to economic resilience. Japanese brands have long enjoyed functional superiority over their competitors’ products. But increasingly, Japanese brands are also telling compelling stories that connect distinctly and emotionally with consumers around the world.

In the months and years to come, you’ll read plenty of advice about how businesses can pivot to account for a profoundly changed world. But don’t forget that these companies will need strong brand assets to pivot around. Brand agility and brand resilience go hand in hand - a truth we explore in this year’s analysis of the BrandZ™ Top 50 Most Valuable Japanese Brands.

We know that brand strength is key. History won’t repeat itself exactly, but it is an important guide. Coming out of the global financial crisis, strong brand equity was the key to recovery. Globally, between 2006 and 2020, our BrandZ™ Powerful Brands Top 10 Portfolio increased 285 percent in value, while the S&P rose only 120 percent. The most important driver of that growth was Meaningful Difference — relevantly meeting consumer functional and emotional needs in ways that stand out and are trendsetting.

At times of crisis, it’s tempting for brands to go into “maintenance” mode: to cut back on campaigns and communications, and hope to rely on existing consumer goodwill. But these same times of crisis are also when consumers are tempted to switch away from name brands, and toward generic options. Leading brands realize the danger of ceding ground at a time when consumers are most in need of reassurance - and respond by working harder to remind consumers of their brands’ core value propositions.

At BrandZ™, we’ve seen time and again that strong brands retain more of their economic value during tough economic times, and recover more quickly when market conditions begin to improve. This was the case during the global crisis of 2008, and it shows every indication of holding true today.

Intelligence is key to navigating these complex times. This report contains the latest findings around topics like corporate responsibility, sustainability, and customer service. Thought Leadership and Brand Building Best Practice pieces from experts across our network contain further insight on Japan’s evolving brand landscape.

In this report, you will also find analysis of how brands can leverage new forms of Trust and Difference to retain brand value. And as always, you’ll find an overview of this year’s top performers on the BrandZ™ Top 50 Most Valuable Japanese Brands ranking.

As comprehensive as it is, this report should be taken as a starting point. I urge you to follow up with the experts who contributed to the report. They continue to monitor the impact of the pandemic on brands across categories, around the world, and throughout Japan. We have an extensive library of annual BrandZ™ reports available. Each year we produce the BrandZ™ Top 100 Most Valuable Global Brands, an exhaustive report that delivers knowledge and insight about brand building developments, category-by-category, worldwide. We also produce annual BrandZ™ reports about the most valuable brands in countries and regions such as China, Germany, Indonesia, Latin America, the United States, and many more. I invite to you access the reports with our compliments at BrandZ.com.

One of our key strengths at Kantar and WPP — and a benefit for our clients—is that when we say we cover the world of brands, that’s exactly what we mean. The WPP and Kantar proprietary BrandZ™ database includes information from over 3.8 million consumers about their attitudes about (and relationships with) 17,801 brands across 512 categories in 51 markets. All that produces more than 5.3 billion data points.

To learn more about how to harness our passion to work for your brand — especially during these trying times— please contact any of the WPP companies and Kantar divisions that contributed expertise to this report. Turn to the resource section at the end of this report for the contact details of key executives. Or feel free to contact me directly.

Sincerely,

David Roth 

CEO The Store WPP, EMEA & Asia

Chairman, BrandZ™, and BAV Group

David.Roth@wpp.com 

Twitter: davidrothlondon Blog: www.davidroth.com