Feb 15, 2016

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Konosuke Matsushita Today in History February 23

Fifty-four years ago, Konosuke Matsushita appeared on the cover of the February 23, 1962 issue of TIME magazine, the largest weekly English-language news publication in the world. With the eyes of the world on Japan and its sustained economic growth, Japanese companies were beginning to attract greater attention, and Konosuke himself was receiving more and more requests for interviews from major media outlets across the planet.

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The front cover picture (left) was drawn by Nanpu Katayama, one of the leading Japanese artists of the Showa era. The title of the article was "Business Abroad." It began with a depiction of employees' electrical lifestyles, and went on to introduce Konosuke's history and ways of thinking.

On the front cover and five-page article, the February 23, 1962 issue of TIME magazine offered an in-depth insight into Konosuke Matsushita's career and philosophy, as well as the growth and history of Matsushita Electric. Around two years before this article was published, Konosuke met with public relations representatives from Time Inc., and expressed his deep interest in a corporate PR video produced by the company. He later spoke humorously about this back story to his ultimately being featured in such a globally-renowned magazine.

You've seen that I was on the cover of TIME? That's not an advertisement. They wanted to do a feature on Japan so they needed to put somebody on the cover. They discussed it and decided to use me. But the magazine is being sold all over the world, so in terms of advertising value, some people say it could be worth a million dollars. Even if others might suggest a different amount. Either way, I'm keeping the money for myself!

When we think of views and fortunes in business, I think that you will often find real effects in places that you had never expected. I was impressed with their passion when I first met them, so I gathered our executives together to show them TIME's PR video. This led the staff to think of me as a passionate person too. Later on, when they started working on a feature in which they had to introduce Japan, this all led them to choose me for the cover. All this led to something worth a million dollars. Sometimes, things just work out brilliantly.

Excerpted from the speech "My Views on Management and Sales" delivered in a sales seminar held at then Kubota Tekko K.K. on May 10, 1962

Konosuke went on to speak about the meaning of corporate advertising:

When you are working in PR, I think that one of the most important things is to focus on whether what you are doing is really necessary for your objective; on what is happening in the world right now and what you need to be doing as a result.

Our corporate PR at Matsushita tells of what we are working to achieve right now. You can never succeed in business without advertising the products that you want your customers to buy, and so you have to do this as well, but I think that about 20% of our PR work should be about something different to simply selling products.

If a company can bring contemporary relevance and promotion skills into the ways that it sells its products, then it should be able to serve not only to sell the products that it has made, but also to bring deliver greater effects to all those concerned. Ultimately, I believe that a company produces a number of knock-on effects that can gradually develop into an ever greater impact in wider terms.

Excerpted from the speech "My Views on Management and Sales" delivered in a sales seminar held at then Kubota Tekko K.K. on May 10, 1962

An abridged version of the TIME article was later translated into 13 different languages, and was also republished in the Reader's Digest which, at the time, boasted a circulation of some 14 million copies. As a result, details on Konosuke and on Matsushita Electric were communicated all around the world.

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(Left) A party commemorating the 40th birthday of TIME magazine was held at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York on May 6, 1963. Pictured is an American newspaper article covering the event. (Right) Konosuke and his wife Mumeno were among those to attend the party. Including a formal banquet, special guest speeches, and a ball, the event continued long into the night.

In September 1964, ahead of the Tokyo Olympic Games, another feature on Japan was published in the photographic magazine LIFE, which had a circulation in excess of eight million copies. The eight-page feature introduced Konosuke and Matsushita Electric.

Under the headline of "Meet Mr. Matsushita," the article introduced the five faces of Konosuke: as a Top Industrialist, Biggest Money-maker, Philosopher, Magazine Publisher, and Best-selling Author. It also described Konosuke as a pioneer who combined the talents of Henry Ford and Horatio Alger Jr. (American cleric and author).

Such favorable and widespread coverage from highly influential overseas media outlets gave a dramatic boost both to the company's name recognition and to Konosuke's own global reputation. These PR activities were hugely effective in helping the company to expand its businesses around the world.

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Konosuke was interviewed by a journalist from LIFE magazine at Matsushita Electric's Head Office in Osaka in June 1964.

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