What Led To The Fall Of Japanese Consumer Electronics Brands?
摘要： How can the once extremely popular Japanese brands just disappear? Several internal and external factors might contribute to the fall of Japanese consumer electronics brands, such as the fierce competition among Japanese brands, and the inability to catch up with the new trends.
Once upon a time, the Chinese consumer electronics market was dominated by “foreign” brands, especially Japanese ones. Products such as Sony's walkman, game console, earplug and mobile TV, Panasonic's washing machine, TV and battery, and Sharp's TV used to be something to show off with. Today, however, Japanese brands are gradually disappearing from everyday Chinese life. It could be really hard to find Japanese consumer electronics products in major Chinese shopping malls now, and the sales of these products on encompassing e-tailers is also significantly low.
What went wrong? How can the once extremely popular Japanese brands just disappear? Several internal and external factors might contribute to the fall of Japanese consumer electronics brands, such as the fierce competition among Japanese brands, and the inability to catch up with the new trends.
Over-reliance on patents
On the one hand, Japanese TV brands such as Sony and Sharp were often recommended on SMZDM.COM for their low price and price-quality ratio; on the other hand, they can barely sustain such low profit margin. Take the example of Japanese smartphone brand Sony: statistics suggest that the revenue of Sony Mobile business dropped to 280.5 billion JPY, a plunge of 16.3% year-on-year, while its operating loss also reached 22.9 billion JPY. According to IHSTechnology, the shipment volume of Sony has been declining in every quarter, while its global market share in Q2 of 2015 also dropped to 2.5%, 0.2% lower than that in Q1. Indeed, Japanese consumer electronics brands are declining even in the global sense.
To make up for the loss, some Japanese brands make use of their patents by authorizing other manufacturers, others choose to directly sell their patents. For example, Lenovo bought over 3,800 sets of patents from NEC Corporation last year, most of which were related to 3G/LTE technologies and standards.
It was also revealed near the end of this November that Sharp would further authorize some Chinese and Indian manufacturers to adopt its patents and technologies. BOE, one of the leading display manufacturers, was one of the candidates in the waiting list. The deal was expected to bring Sharp hundreds of millions of JPY. In addition, Sharp was said to authorize Indian display manufacturer Sterlite Technologies to use its large screen liquid display technologies in exchange for 7 billion JPY. When revenue goes lower, Japanese consumer electronics brands tend to make ends meet through their patents.
Inability to adapt to the new trends
Yasunori Tateishi, author of Farewell Our Sony, wrote in his book that Sony rose owing to technologies but failed due to an over-dependence on technologies. For a long time, Japanese consumer electronics brands believed that technologies were the foundation of their development and technological breakthroughs would ultimately win over more consumers. However, it seems that products with a good advertising campaign and concept are enough to win over consumers, while key technological breakthroughs are often neglected by consumers in today’s market.
This is especially true in the Chinese market, where a good advertising campaign is more effective than a major technological breakthrough. Chinese brands such as Xiaomi, Meizu and LeTV rise exactly because they carried out several effective marketing campaigns. In comparison, Japanese consumer electronics brands are not down-to-earth at all and seldom launch eye-catching marketing campaigns. No wonder they began to decline here in the Chinese market.
In an age of mobile Internet, the strengths of traditional Japanese hardware manufacturers are gradually declining. Worse still, they failed to catch up with the new trends, bring out innovations, and adjust their marketing strategies in time. This is why they are outperformed by Chinese counterparts as time went by.
Failure to adjust themselves in time
However, they are well aware of their weakness and have long had the sense of crisis. They did attempt to do something do save themselves, but could do nothing but witness their ultimate decline. Fundamentally, they failed because it was too risky and difficult to adjust their strategies in terms of both its supply chain and its corporate structure, as is put by Mr. Yasunori Tateishi:
“Despite the constant changes in the corporate structure, the everyday work of ordinary employees hasn’t changed much; despite the constant changes of surbordinate divisions, the workplace never changes. New concepts such as eHQ, GH and digital HQ have basically no impact on ordinary employees.”
What Mr. Mr. Yasunori Tateishi is trying to demonstrate is the difficulty of Sony to carry out reform among mid and low-level employees. Since Japanese consumer electronics brands commonly adopt the lifelong employment system, their employees tend to be less creative, enthusiastic and refuse to change.
From the aspect of supply chain, Japanese brands are more familiar with centralized product development and manufacturing, and find it hard to adapt to the segmentation of the market. What's worse, as their technologies are also gradually replaced by late entrants, they are indeed facing enormous challenges. The harsh fact is that if they fail to come up with some solutions to save themselves in time, then who else can they turn to?
[The article is published and edited with authorization from the author @Constantine, please note source and hyperlink when reproduce.]
Translated by Levin Feng (Senior Translator at PAGE TO PAGE), working for TMTpost.