konosuke matsushita r.i.p.

Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. has officially changed its name to Panasonic Corp (see release.)  The company also ditched its National brand, which has been in use for over 80 years for white goods in Japan, and intends to have all of its products carry the Panasonic brand, which has long been the firm’s brand name abroad and for audiovisual appliances sold in Japan, by the end of March 2010.

The change is reported to be costing the company 40.0 billion yen ($380.0MM US) — a hefty investment given that the company’s ad spend was only $50MM last year, excluding online, per Nielsen Monitor-Plus.

Moving to a single brand yields efficiencies in marketing and simplicity in communication — and in Matsushita’s case, adopting a brand name with the stronger awareness should bolster equity with consumers as well as other stakeholders (suppliers, distributors, investors, etc.).  Further it facilitates equity sharing across product lines, so established attributes in one product category can provide a positive halo in others.

However tying all of the company’s activities more closely together does come with some downsides.  One is exposure to risk — if one product experiences a recall, for example, all of the company’s products are associated with that quality issue.  Likewise, it may hinder expansion into new categories or markets if the limits of the brand’s elasticity cannot be stretched — consumers may not give Panasonic “permission” to get into productivity devices, for example, because the brand is too closely associated with entertainment.

Apparently the company’s leadership felt the trade-offs were acceptable.   In making the move, the company says it is “bringing the achievements accumulated through the three different names of Matsushita, National, and Panasonic under the one single name of Panasonic to enhance its brand value.”

Panasonic’s current brand value is $4,281BB according to BusinessWeek’s Best Global Brands list (based on analysis by Interbrand) — so it’s #78 on the list.  Other electronics brands are more valuable:

  • Samsung — $17,689BB/#21
  • Sony — $13,583BB/#25
  • Canon — $10,876BB/#36
  • Nintendo — $8,772BB/#40
  • Philips — $8,325BB/#43

So the brand certainly lags these days.  It will be interesting to see whether the change yields the brand value payoff the company is seeking.

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