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1. Invest in brand to reap rewards

Brands that are healthy and strong in consumers’ minds reap significant financial rewards. They can best generate volume sales, justify a premium, and grow their value at a pace that outperforms brands in general. With the debut of the BrandZ™ Japan report, we can confidently say that investing in brand building pays off in Japan as well as worldwide. And there is every reason to believe that the future will hold similar results. In over 13 years of Global BrandZ™ rankings, it has become clear that the share prices of valuable brands are better insulated from external headwinds, and that these brands make a faster recovery when conditions improve. Over time, strong brands’ returns to shareholders have averaged over four times the returns of a global market tracker.

2. Meaningful Difference fuels brand value

Japanese brands that are seen as Meaningful – as making a positive difference to people’s lives – and that are seen as Different to other brands in their category, are worth significantly more than their less Meaningfully Different counterparts. Meaningful Difference is conveyed through products and services but also through powerful and memorable communications. For brands looking to grow their brand value, the first question should be: What can we do to become more Meaningfully Different in consumers’ minds? Strong brands do more than reach consumers – they move them with distinct communications and brand experiences.

3. Innovation generates the biggest reward

Brands perceived by consumers to have strong Innovation credentials are much more valuable in the BrandZ™ Japan Top 50 rankings. Businesses should realize, however, that innovative products don’t always translate to an overall higher Innovation score for the brand as a whole. There is an opportunity for Japanese brands to emphasize attributes like disruption, creativity, and leadership to boost their overall reputations for Innovation, and win subsequent financial rewards.

4. Salience adds value

If Meaningful Difference helps to position a brand for future growth, Salience can serve to launch it into the top tier. A brand is Salient if it is recognizable and top-of-mind at the time of purchase. Salience is an especially important factor for growth in Japan, where highly Salient brands are worth more than 50 percent more than brands with low Salience. The country’s Top 10 brands stand apart in terms of their salience, fame, and strength of communications. They are a testament to the power of marketing communications to boost overall business value.

5. What works at home doesn’t necessarily translate abroad.

There were nine Japanese brands represented on the BrandZ™ Global 100 in 2006. Today, there are two. This is despite the fact that Japanese brands continue to be highly rated by Japanese consumers at home. The problem is that Japanese brands tend to be much less well known abroad, as well as less Meaningfully Different. There is a need for new strategies to close the gap between Japanese brands’ domestic and overseas reputations. While it’s important to maintain a unified brand image worldwide – and localization shouldn’t come at the expense of this brand cohesion – some brand strategies that work at home might not work as well abroad. It may well be the case, for instance, that Japanese consumers respond best to ads that emphasize functional superiority, while overseas communications might require a more emotion-driven approach. Global consumer research and campaign testing will be vital to solving this puzzle.