Case Study


Clash of cultures: organically building a truly global organization

The challenge: the big bet to make innovation meaningful and real

Preparation: ensuring that global leaders come prepared to the global workshop

Toshiba’s home appliance business had not kept pace with rapid marketplace changes. The brand’s center of gravity was strongest with an older population but across broader audiences was on a downward trajectory. 

China-based Midea saw an opportunity to build on its OEM success and acquired Toshiba Home Appliance with the intention of rebuilding a globally recognized brand.

Battle of two mighty cultures

To make the acquisition successful, innovation and category disruption were vital to growth. While senior leadership cast a bold vision for the Toshiba brand, the reality was two organizations coming from two very different mindsets and strengths. Midea, a Chinese success story with global ambitions juxtaposed with Toshiba, an iconic brand connected to the development of Japan but with a declining role in consumers’ lives. To realize the potential, an open mind and mutual trust needed to be formed so that a market approach cemented with a defined risk appetite for failure and milestones in time could be created. 

Quest for differentiation and relevance 

Consumer tastes and lifestyles are rapidly changing with the redefinition of a “home”. From shrinking footprints, dual income providers, the gig economy, to the many pressures of parents nurturing their children’s success, an exponential list of emerging needs continues to grow. Yet the category is dominated by established brands. LG and Samsung were the new appliance giants integrating design and technology into their product lines. They had elevated the quality of their products and were resonating with younger and more traditional consumers. While Bosch and Panasonic built their brand on consistency and quality, in which their broader products continued to be entrenched in their customers’ homes.

Identifying the core and scaling the reach

The original goal of the project was to have a global team build a singular brand platform for the Toshiba brand. But what became apparent early in the process was the need to aggressively sustain progress while simultaneously getting global market leads aligned on a singular brand strategy that could be calibrated to unique local needs.

Foundationally, there was the potential for the Toshiba brand to redefine what Made in Japan means to consumers and leverage its perceived technological strengths. If the complementary strengths of Toshiba with its Japanese DNA, technological halo, and brand awareness could be combined with Midea’s speed, responsiveness, and future-focus, the Toshiba brand would be credibly relevant and differentiated.

But the biggest challenge was to align on a core target audience and isolate one competitor as the brand to “beat.”

After a lengthy global audit and research study, global and corporate leads participated in a week-long series of group activities and sprints. The team landed on a working mom persona with a full range of problem statements and solutions. Given the complexity of the persona’s home and worklife balance, LG (and Panasonic in select markets) was identified as the brand to beat. While the brand platform established the brand’s tone in terms of visual and verbal expression, it also served as the platform to innovate offerings from the outside-in. Co-creation with new and existing partners accelerated a vigorous commitment to building the “next” IoT platform, industrial design standards, and co-branding relationships. 

The plan

  • 1. One Toshiba brand – establish a sense of urgency for change and create a global versus country-by-country approach
  • 2. Customer-driven – cultivate a mindset that builds on consistent quality and durability to one that emotionally can connect with consumers
  • 3. Unleash the next generation – encourage employees to speak up and think of customers that don’t fit a traditional, male focused audience segment
  • 4. Rebuild and relaunch – close the natural trust deficit and elevate the strengths of a Chinese and Japanese heritage

Culture will ultimately determine Toshiba and Midea’s long-term success. If the organization can connect and build a meaningful relationship with its core target audience, the Toshiba brand can scale to a broader range of audiences and elevate the Midea brand portfolio.

Brand sprint: making every minute, perspective and insight count

Immersive: one week of activities that included workshops and site visits

Focus: building a global brand with a clear focus on a target audience

Localization: adapting the spirit of the brand and adapting in a local manner