Matsushita no more: it’s Panasonic now

Matsushita no more: it’s Panasonic now

Tokyo: The world’s largest consumer electronics maker, Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. Ltd, changed its name on Wednesday and abandoned a brand used in Japan for eight decades in favour of the Panasonic label known to foreign consumers.

The company is omitting its founder’s name for the first time since 1918 to bank on a brand that’s more recognized than Starbucks and Visa.

The electronics maker, now known as Panasonic Corp., also scrapped National, the label started in 1927 for bicycle lights that helped extend its reach across Japan through a franchise of 18,000 mom-and-pop retailers.

“The Panasonic brand has an image of innovative and advanced products," said Haruhiko Saito, president of the Intellectual Property Research Institute Inc. in Tokyo. “The name change is to send a message to consumers that the company is creative and advanced."

The company said in January that it plans to use the Panasonic label to help boost sales of refrigerators and washing machines this year in Europe, where it previously only sold air conditioners.

Sales of the maker’s appliances outside Japan would probably rise 3% to ¥625 billion (Rs28,583 crore) in the year ending March 2009, accounting for 6.8% of revenue, Panasonic had said on 28 April.

The company aims to raise its ratio of overseas sales to 60%, from about 50% last fiscal year. Annual revenue will probably climb 10% to ¥10 trillion by March 2010, it said.

Samsung Electronics Co., the world’s biggest producer of liquid-crystal display televisions, generates about 80% of sales overseas.

Second-quarter net income at the company, second only to Panasonic in plasma TV sales, climbed 51% to 2.14 trillion won (Rs85.6 billion).

Panasonic was ranked 78th on international brand consultancy Interbrand’s list of best-known global brands for 2008, ahead of companies including Starbucks Corp., the world’s largest coffee-shop chain, Visa Inc., the biggest credit card network, and Tiffany and Co., the second largest luxury jewellery retailer.

The National brand was mainly used for appliances sold in Japan such as washing machines, refrigerators, electric ovens and hair dryers.

The company, established by Konosuke Matsushita in 1918, used the Panasonic name for televisions, DVD players, mobile phones and digital cameras.

Kevin Cho in Seoul contributed to this story.