Square bicycle lamp developed and marketed

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Sign advertising National-brand square bicycle lamp.

National brand name introduced

With the signing of a three-year exclusive sales agreement with Yamamoto Trading Company, Matsushita's bullet-shaped bicycle lamps were marketed under the name "Excel." Takenobu Yamamoto, president of the trading company, saw the product as a fad, while Konosuke Matsushita felt it had an enduring market. Their ideas on how to promote the lamp differed, and a clash of personalities ensued, with Yamamoto rejecting any attempt by Matsushita to guide marketing strategies.

Meanwhile, Matsushita had become involved in the development of another product, a square-shaped battery lamp, that he wished to market himself. Yamamoto argued that the marketing agreement extended to this product as well, and demanded compensation of ¥10,000 to surrender the marketing rights. Matsushita acceded to his claim, and paid for the right to market his own product. Despite their disagreements, Matsushita greatly respected Yamamoto for his fairness and honesty, his determination and his marketing skills.

Matsushita had been thinking of a brand name under which to sell the new lamp. One day he came across the English word "international" in a newspaper. Checking a dictionary, he found that it was based on the word "national" with the meaning "of or relating to a people, a nation." To him, this meaning was perfectly suited to the product, which he saw as becoming indispensable to every household in the country, so he adopted the brand name "National."

In April 1927, Matsushita began marketing the lamps in a daring promotional campaign, delivering 10,000 samples to stores without obligation. The lamps were a tremendous success, selling more than 30,000 units per month within their first year on the market.

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Panasonic's first newspaper ad. designed and phrased by Konosuke Matsushita, "National Lamps: Buy for Your Assurance, Use for Your Benefit."

Super iron marketed

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Borrowing mass production concepts from Ford Motor Company, Matsushita created a huge market for the rugged, inexpensive "Super Iron".

Electrical appliances for the masses

In 1927, the company moved into electrothermal products. Like the radio, appliances that produced heat electrically were luxury items at the time, and were financially out of reach of most households. Matsushita believed it possible to produce these products, meeting high standards of quality, at prices the average household could afford. In January 1927, he set up an electrical heater division, and placed Tetsujiro Nakao in charge of developing a mass-market iron. The iron was to equal the quality of existing products with a price tag at least 30% lower.

After three months, Nakao came up with a new design, in which the heating element was sandwiched between steel plates. Commercial irons selling for ¥4 to ¥5 were very pricey, considering that an elementary school teacher had a starting salary of about ¥50 a year at the time. Matsushita decided to set the price for the new iron at ¥3.2, but in order to do so, the company had to make 10,000 units per month\more than the combined production of all other Japanese electrical manufacturers. There was no guarantee that the market would absorb this volume, yet Matsushita was convinced that the masses would embrace a high-quality, affordable product. And he was righ-the product was successful.

The company then undertook production of an electric foot warmer, using a newly developed thermostat. The product's price was just half that of other foot warmers on the market, and it proved to be a runaway success. In November 1927, Matsushita set up a research division, placing Nakao in charge. As senior engineer, Nakao guided the company's R&D efforts for many years, developing numerous new technologies and products. More than anyone else, he was responsible for making Panasonic a high-technology company. Nakao died in September of 1981 at age 79.

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Poster for the National electric foot warmer-Japan's first thermostatically-controlled consumer product.

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Tetsujiro Nakao (1975).

Communication media published

Management through collective wisdom

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Inaugural issue of Matsushita Electric Monthly.

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Issues of the Matsushita Electric Monthly and Hoichi Kai Magazine.

Not yet fully recovered from the Great Kanto Earthquake, the country was hit by a financial panic in March 1927. Many companies failed due to a lack of financing. Matsushita felt that he needed to maintain strong connections with employees and sales outlets, so he established two periodicals as a medium of communication.

The first issue of Matsushita Electric Monthly was published in November for distribution to retail stores. In the lead article, Matsushita wrote, "We would like you to understand our approach to sales. At the same time, we would also like to hear any comments or suggestions you may have about improvements that can be made."

In December 1927, Matsushita established the HoichiKai Magazine, dedicated to improving understanding among his employees. In a later employee publication, the In-House Review, he stated, "It is for utmost concern to be aware of changes in the company's operations, policies and guideline, and we believe that a thorough knowledge of these matters will be a source of spiritual peace and enlightenment to our employees."

The publication of these magazines by a privately owned company, so soon after its establishment, evidenced Matsushita's concern with corporate communication.

Innovative Products: Super electric iron

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The inexpensive Super Electric Iron was realized taking a hint from the mass production system adopted by Ford Motor Company.
The iron was completed and put on the market in 1927 as the first electric heating appliance.
The company began business in the electric heater field in 1927. At that time, electric heaters were too expensive for ordinary families to buy. So Konosuke Matsushita wanted to make an electric heating appliance that was of good quality yet was affordable to the general public. As a result, an innovative electric iron, in which a heater was sandwiched between iron plates, was developed as the company's first electric heating appliance. Its quantity was comparable to that of competitive models and yet it was about 30% cheaper. Konosuke thought that if the irons were mass-produced, they could be sold at a price that was affordable to many people, but the volume he came up with was equal to the total volume of the entire market at that time. He believed that a high-quality product at a reasonable price would be welcomed by the general public. The Super Electric Iron sold well and its technology was highly evaluated.