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PROFILE: Mark Wilkin - Head of Brand Communications, Hitachi

The origin of brands – whether it's an ironic statement like Virgin or an emotional gesture to family like Amstrad or whether it's just an ego massage like the countless companies that take the founder's surname – says a lot about the company's attitude to its identity. You protect your brand name like your family name, after all the two are one. Or if it's ironic – like Virgin, “let's call the company what we're not” – this may reflect an audacious business attitude.

But what of Hitachi? The origin of this brand says a lot, volumes even, about the company's attitude. The founder, Namihei Odaira, designed the Hitachi brand mark before the company was established in 1910. Such was his belief that a brand was necessary to win the trust and confidence of the people. Odaira used two Chinese characters – 'hi' meaning 'sun' and 'tachi' meaning 'rise' – and this was designed to capture his vision of a person standing before the rising sun, planning for a better future.

That was almost one hundred years ago, before brand became such a hotly debated subject. Today Hitachi is ranked the 23rd largest company in the world (Global Fortune 500 (2004)), with net sales of US$82.4 billion. However the focus and importance placed on brand is as significant today as it was when Odaira created the company in 1910.