It is an unfortunate fact that ‘Made in Japan’, once synonymous with ‘cheap and high quality’ in the automotive, electrical and other industries, has lost some of its lustre in recent years. There is not just one reason for this loss of shine, but several. In this issue, we examine the situation from various angles.

1. delayed response to changing market needs

The product-out strategy based on ‘monozukuri-ism’, which has been in place since the period of high economic growth, had the advantage of producing high-quality products through thorough quality control and advanced technological capabilities. In recent years, however, consumer needs have become more diverse, with greater emphasis being placed not only on functionality and performance, but also on design, brand image, price and convenience.
However, many Japanese companies have been slow to respond to these changing market needs, and it has been pointed out that they have not been able to develop attractive products that appeal to consumers’ appetites. For example, in the smartphone market, Japanese manufacturers used to dominate the mobile phone market, but have rapidly lost market share since the introduction of the iPhone, and in recent years have been overtaken by Chinese and Korean manufacturers.

2. weak marketing skills

Even if a company is able to produce a high-quality product, it is meaningless if it is not communicated to consumers. It has been pointed out that Japanese companies have weaker marketing capabilities than their western counterparts. In particular, they are said to lag behind in digital marketing and global marketing.

For example, Western companies attract consumers around the world with clever marketing strategies that utilise social networking and video streaming services. Japanese companies, on the other hand, have lagged behind in such digital marketing efforts, and their excellent products are not being made known to consumers.

3. increasing global competition

The rise of emerging economies such as China and South Korea has intensified competition in the manufacturing sector. These countries are able to manufacture and sell high-quality products at lower prices than Japanese companies, thanks to lower labour costs and government support.

Western companies are also actively engaged in technological innovation, which threatens the dominance of Japanese companies. Under these circumstances, Japanese companies need not only to cut costs and innovate, but also to make fundamental reforms, such as developing new markets and business models, if they are to remain competitive.

4. changing consumer attitudes

In the past, consumers tended to favour high-quality, long-lasting products. In recent years, however, consumer attitudes have changed and consumers are increasingly focussing on price and design.

In addition, in recent years, consumers have become increasingly concerned about environmental issues and are increasingly looking for sustainable products. In order to respond to these changes in consumer awareness, companies need to improve the price and design of their products and develop more environmentally friendly products.

Various reasons such as these have led to the decline of the Japanese brand, which was known as ‘the country where the sun never sets’.
In addition to this, Japan’s unique management methods are another major factor in its inability to cope with globalisation.