Mr. Onishi

Around 1980 the audio industry, which had been centered on component systems, found itself in a very severe situation, with demand having gone full circle, and a sense of depression suddenly prevailed. As I proclaimed the “constructive development of the business” to be my policy, I was deeply troubled indeed. Like the top executives of manufacturers, I began to look for the creation of a new market.

In this search, I came to notice one thing: The baby-boom generation, which had powerfully pushed forward the component system market, had graduated from the 16 - 24 age group, which was the buyer zone. This was the main reason for the slump in the market. If the situation continued as it was, the population of the buyer zone, which had reached 20 million persons at the peak, would decline to 16 million at the lowest point in a few years time. We were facing a really serious crisis.

The only way to break out of this state of affairs was to create a completely new market. The biggest point was how to draw in the young generation, the so-called new breed, that was following the baby boomers. In this respect, the Four Proposals that I suggested to the industry were sensational. That is to say, the core thinking for the creation of a new market was flowing at the roots of these proposals. They were (1) a declaration of new fans, (2) a theory of audio fashion, (3) a design revolution, and (4) three visual principles (create, repeat, library).

By bundling the members of the new breed together as the new fans, I was able to clarify our target users and to search for what they wanted. At that time, I used a Pioneer computer to carry out a questionnaire survey of 7,000 persons aged from 16 to 24, and the results brought the desires of this generation into relief.

More than 90% of the respondents lived in six-mat rooms. One of the questions concerned material possessions, and over 50% of them answered that they had a bed, desk, small cupboard, bookshelf, and television. When I sketched these items on a six-mat plan, I found that the room was completely filled; there was no space for any audio equipment at all. For them, the enjoyment of music was just as important as eating three meals a day, but they refrained from purchasing a bulky component stereo system.

In other words, what they wanted was a well-designed, attractive audio system that would provide them with good music but not take up too much space. On the pages of this magazine, I unveiled the Four Proposals and continued to proclaim the importance of a new stereo system and vitalization of audio tape and to forecast the coming audiovisual age. And in order to realize these proclamations, I became aware of the importance of gathering together the big makers and transmitting the message from there. So I invited Managing Director Yoshida of Pioneer, Director Shirakura of Sony, and General Manager Onishi of Matsushita for a talk, and our roundtable discussion, which was recorded in the pages of this magazine, became quite an issue.

What emerged was the minicomponent stereo system, the Walkman, and the golden age of audio tape. Naturally, the market creation of the core makers was ferocious, and the second and other makers also threw their utmost efforts into the new market. Coupled with the CD age, minicomponent stereo systems grew into a huge market.

Recently Hiroshi Onishi, who is still an avid reader of this magazine, sent me a copy of his book titled Matsushita to Honda shori no DNA (Matsushita and Honda, the DNA of Victory; Jitsugyo no Nihon Sha, Ltd.) It is Mr. Onishi as he was at the time of that discussion among the three companies. I was delighted to receive the book, which apparently is doing well and has gone into additional printing. I can thoroughly recommend it.