February 16, 2017 10:30 pm JST

Subaru, Shimano among Japan's top growing brands

Muji, Tokio Marine debut on the country's top 40 in Interbrand ranking

TSUBASA SURUGA, Nikkei staff writer

TOKYO -- The value growth of Fuji Heavy Industries' Subaru brand was the strongest among Japanese companies for the fourth consecutive year, surging 28% on the year to $3.57 billion in the latest global brand ranking released on Thursday by Interbrand Japan.

As a strong performer in the North American market, Subaru continues to set "safety and enjoyment" as a center for its brand image, gaining loyal fans around the world called "Subarists," the branding consultancy said.

Japan's Best Global Brands 2017, which ranks the country's top 40 global brands, is based on factors such as their impact on consumer purchasing behavior and their financial standing. The ability to create loyalty and future growth is also measured as "brand strength." Brands must be based in Japan and achieve at least 30% of their sales abroad.

Nissan followed Subaru by growing 22% on the year to $11.07 billion. Interbrand Japan attributed the strong growth to the company bringing autonomous driving technology as part of its main business pillars to realize the brand's competitive edge.

Strong rise

According to Interbrand Japan, the average growth in brand value of the global Japanese brands was 6.3%, well above the 4.8% growth of the separate Best Global Brands, in which the agency ranks the top 100 brands around the world. 

"Even compared globally, Japanese brands are faring extremely well," said Interbrand Japan's CEO Masahito Namiki at a press conference. He said the high growth average shows the "strengths of Japanese companies," stemming from safety and reliability.

Bicycle parts giant Shimano's brand value was $1.19 billion, up 20%. As a strong leader in the bicycle-parts market, Shimano is setting the de-facto standard for some bicycle products. Namiki added that the brand's clear product differentiation has realized premium pricing, leading to higher profitability.

Muji also grew 20% to $1.28 billion. The retail brand, symbolic for its simple design, has gained a wider global audience, especially in China and Western countries. This was the first time the brand entered Japan's top 40, along with Tokio Marine, as they met the ranking requirement of over 30% of its sales abroad.

In overall ranking, Toyota was Japan's most valuable global brand for the ninth year in a row. The automaker's brand was valued at $53.58 billion, up 9% on the year, thanks to the company's long-term perspective in business strategy and strong brand appeal via digital media, Interbrand said. 

Automakers dominated the Japan's top 10, with five brands ranking. Subaru entered the top 10 for the first time, up two positions in the ranking since last year. Meanwhile, Mitsubushi Motors dropped five places to the bottom of the ranking, hurt by a fuel-efficiency scandal.

Interbrand's 100 Best Global Brands 2016, which was released in October, ranked Toyota fifth, making it the first Asian company to join the top five. Samsung Electronics was seventh, and was the only other Asian company in the top 10.

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