Over the last month in this series, we have attempted to offer up alternative strategies for rebranding Japan to the West. We have established a clear need for a new approach to communications in general from the country which has been in a slow decline in a number of sectors over the last decade whilst its Asian neighbors, such as China and India, nip at its heels.
With Japan’s current PR strategy lying in the hands of a stagnant government, unable to communicate in a clear way with its own people, the image of Brand Japan in the West has become increasingly outdated, stifling international growth in areas that the country should be renowned for. In fact, just the other week the Ministry of Tourism made a huge PR blunder when it turned out that the 10,000 flights offered earlier this year to foreigners who wrote about Japan in order to enhance tourism numbers were not, after all, going to be given away, as the budget for the flights was not approved.
In a recent speech given in Japan, Richard Edelman, the CEO of the world’s largest independent PR firm said, “A huge gap now exists between Japan’s traditional communications models and new external realities. We are already at the breaking point – as Fukushima and other crises have shown, the financial and reputational damage recently suffered by many of Japan’s leading institutions can be mitigated only by applying the core values of fully-empowered public relations.”
What signals Japan emits through their PR to the West should be the start of a conversation that piques peoples’ interest and prompts them to explore further and discover for themselves the unique and outstanding offerings the country has. Not, as it does currently, to provoke deriding laughter normally reserved for the eccentric kid in class with crazy ideas.
Engaging the public’s interest is never easy, but we have tried to show in this series that by focusing on significant, worthwhile subjects— like design, architecture, fashion and technology—we at least stand a chance to spark a conversation that starts people exploring. We haven’t even covered the film and arts scene in the country, which continues to produce content that influences the world. Nor have we explored topics such as literature, its transport system, the car industry, and many other areas where Japan continues to shine.
The country is as relevant today as it was during the bubble years, however, the areas in which it is relevant have shifted. By recognizing what the country has become and how perspectives have changed, focus can then be shifted to promoting Brand Japan with renewed concentration on that which will promote the virtues of a country that still has so much to offer, a real “Cool Japan.”