Watanabe explains that the Dutch are early adopters when it comes to product innovations. That makes it a useful test market. More importantly, “it is relatively easy to examine. The scale is nice and clear, there is plenty of reference material available on all our relevant target groups. Also, the distance to the customer is smaller,” he says.
So, when Casio unveiled its EX-F1 camera, it chose to first launch it here. The new product was an important step in Casio’s assault on the digital camera market. Therefore, the test phase was crucial.
The new camera was enthusiastically received by the Dutch market. However, some adjustments were needed before the global launch. “The most important thing is to reach a wider audience,” says Watanabe. “First, we focused on hobbyists. But our Dutch experience suggested we could position our EX-F1 as the ideal camera for high-income families with a little more photography experience.”
Closer to markets
Casio set up its Benelux office in the Amsterdam Area. The contract had expired with the importer of Casio’s camera and calculator lines. “We were obviously looking for an improvement in margins,” says Shigeru Watenabe. “If we can cut out a step in the distribution or sales chain, we will seize that opportunity.”
“These days, you have to be much closer to your markets to respond to relevant trends and developments,” he adds. Casio’s base in the Amsterdam Area is well-placed for reaching the Benelux market. “So far, we are focusing solely on the marketing of our cameras and calculators,” he says. “For the other parts of our product range, local importers are active.” Nevertheless, other product lines might eventually be brought in-house, too.
On the personal side, Shigeru Watanabe enjoys living in Amstelveen. Conveniently, it is home to one of the largest Japanese populations in Western Europe. “That makes life here very pleasant,” he says. “Our son can choose the kind of Japanese education that suits him best, my wife has made friends here, and on Saturday we can walk to the Japanese specialist shops. Everything is just around the corner.”
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