The fascinating journey of Shiseido’s transformation

Masahiko Uotani was an unconventional CEO choice to say the least. Since its founding in 1872, Shiseido had never hired someone from outside the organization for the post. Five years later, the revenue results speak for themselves; Mr. Uotani was exactly what the company needed. At Masahiko Uotani: Japan, The Next Epicenter of Innovation, CEW sat down with this inventive and charismatic businessman to speak about how he turned the tides for Shisedo. Here, Moss recaps key learnings of Mr. Uotani’s journey.

A culture clash to be reckoned with

When Mr. Uotani took on the position of CEO for Shiseido, and set out to uncover the challenges the business was facing, he started with the first logical step: Speaking with the foundation of the company, the individuals selling the products in-store. Over the course of months, and now years, he’s spoken with thousands of people. Eventually, it became clear that Shiseido was suffering from its deep roots in Japan – though not in the way one might think.

A culture clash was needed; one that repositioned Shiseido as a venerable Japanese household name, but also implemented those Western elements Mr. Uotani had become an expert of during his years at Coca-Cola. This marriage of tradition with innovation was then implemented as a company culture, and it’s had a considerable impact on the revenue. Since 2014, Shiseido has experienced a compound annual growth rate of 9 %.

Constructing a new foundation

The achievement is the result of two key decisions Mr. Uotani made shortly after he came onboard as Shiseido’s CEO. Firstly, he made it his mission to instill confidence in the company’s employees; confidence in the belief that they were all integral components necessary to implement the changes that were needed. He encouraged his employees to voice their apprehensions – but to simultaneously take their own individual responsibility for Shiseido’s future.

Secondly, he invested 1 billion dollars over the course of 3 years, in 8 key brands. With this decision, Mr. Uotani also actively showcased his belief in the project, and dedication to making it work. The course was set, and at least in the foreseeable future, Shiseido was sticking to it. With these efforts, the new CEO showed that while asking for commitment, he was putting at least as much on the line for himself in the way of ardour for the company’s development.

In essence, these decisions haven’t just instigated incredible sales. Mr. Uotani has helped re-identify the core of Shiseido as a brand. When the entire organization operates as a whole – and each component knows its value to that whole – real, inherent change becomes possible.

The core becomes the surface

With the pieces of the story put together, it becomes easier to see exactly how Shiseido uses its identity in its visual campaigns. A piece like the WASO Launch Film is the perfect visual representation of the company’s transformative balancing act towards the brand it is today. The lines are drawn with stellar precision, the colors are painted with utmost care. A symphonic harmony of ancient and new, this is just one example of how the core Mr. Uotani has worked so hard to evolve has become a solid foundation for Shiseido’s face outward.

To read more about how Mr. Uotani became Shiseido’s CEO and the company’s visuals, click here.