Trademarks as “Global Merchants of Skill”: The Dynamics of the Japanese Match Industry, 1860s-1930s

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This study argues that existing accounts of the early evolution of the Japanese match industry under-estimate its role as major challengers and in changing the dynamics of the global match industry. Japan built international competitiveness by combining low-cost and low-price strategies with differentiation. This differentiation was achieved through the registration of trademarks for all matches exported, total quality control, and strong investments in graphic design, to adapt brands and their imagery to different host markets and cultures. This study also illustrates how trademark data provides alternative and complementary angles on particular economic phenomena, in this case by highlighting the significance that branding strategies might have in the global competitiveness of industries and countries technologically less developed. Trademark registrations are shown here to be associated not with the uniqueness of products, but rather are used to create differentiation for products that would otherwise be undifferentiated.
Original languageEnglish
Article number559-588
Number of pages30
JournalBusiness history review
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 18 Feb 2022

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