One to Beam Up



Two things caught my eye last week: the Bank of Japan, which decided to lay off the monetary stimulus, and Jim Beam — the latter not for reasons you might think.

BOJ Governor Haruhiko Kuroda is a smart and battle-tested policy maker. By now, he has to know that pumping more money into the econony won’t end Japan’s deflation. Falling prices are as much about the aging population as anything else, and only structural change can arrest the trend. Kuroda seemed to admit as much by taking no new action as the BOJ’s historic stimulus fails to gin up money and credit growth.


But where does Beam come in? Here:

Japan needs more gusty moves overseas. In this regard, few even come close to SoftBank’s Masayoshi Son. This week, local media circled Japan’s second-richest man to chronicle his comeuppance over a failed nine-month effort to acquire T-Mobile US. What I’m more intrigued about is what’s next for the Son after last year’s cross-border triumph buying Sprint? Where might a guy with the smarts 14 years ago to invest in Alibaba, this year’s sexist initial public offering, be looking? Let’s give Son an “A” for effort and stop the Monday-morning quarterbacking. Too bad there aren’t more in Japan like him.

As for Suntory, it was an early Japanese adopter of using Americana in brand-building. Forty years ago, it tapped Sammy Davis Jr. for a series of memorable commercials. Many will also remember Bill Murray’s turn as a Suntory-shilling Hollywood has-been in 2003’s “Lost in Translation.” (Pitch line: “For relaxing times, make it Suntory time”). Now, the company is putting American consumers with a yen for Jim Beam, Laphroaig and Maker’s Mark in the starring roles of its latest project.


Japan (I’ll spare you the I-told-you-sos about Japan’s failed stimulus) hasn’t been able to generate domestic growth for a generation. Smart companies are looking overseas, particularly to US brands. But for how much longer will American tastes and American consumers be able to keep the global party going?


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