Designing a brand structure for the Japanese market for Material Bank®, the world’s largest marketplace for architectural material samples.
To prepare for the Japanese expansion of Material Bank®, the world's largest marketplace for architectural material samples, Takram rebuilt the brand’s structure and developed a communication strategy which includes visual and verbal guidelines, brochures, and presentation decks tailored to the Japanese market.
Material Bank® launched its architectural material sample service in the United States in 2019, and it has since become the world's largest material sample marketplace, connecting more than 100,000 members to over 450 brands.
The Material Bank® database, combined with its proprietary robotic distribution facility, enables its members to quickly search for and receive material samples from various brands on a single online platform. Leveraging this streamlined model of service delivery, the company announced that its first international expansion will be in Japan.
To support this rollout, Takram designed the brand structure, guidelines, and communication tools for the Japanese market, while remaining true to the brand's core values.
Among the common challenges that an overseas brand faces when expanding into Japan is that it cannot fully convey the brand's true values, such as the philosophy and vision the company wishes to deliver. This is often because it relies purely on the superficial translation of information from its home country.
To address this challenge, Takram rebuilt the brand structure to fit the Japanese market based on the core values of Material Bank® by assembling a team of experts in business, visual, and verbal design, along with members of our New York studio who specialize in U.S. and cross-cultural branding.
Two significant insights have been gained from various research efforts, including an interview with the founder and CEO of Material Bank®, Adam I. Sandow. The first insight is that the mission and functional value that Material Bank® aims to deliver are consistent in both the United States and Japan. The second one is that Material Bank® needs to clarify its brand positioning as a supporter of existing market players — not as a disruptor that undermines the Japanese market — by highlighting its proven convenience and innovation. These two insights were used to develop an effective brand communication strategy called Value-Market Fit to accurately communicate the brand's values to the Japanese market.
Our aim was to align all employees' understanding of the brand structure by clearly defining core elements that remain consistent, while also allowing for adjustable elements that can be fine-tuned according to the market.
To effectively reach the Japanese market, the brand structure was redesigned to incorporate the Japanese brand personality into the essential elements initially deployed in the home market. With this brand structure as the basis for all communication strategies, employees will feel united and convinced about the brand.
To establish structured guidelines for communication, we defined the brand personality and tone of voice for the Japanese market, which had never been done for the home market.
Our primary focus in particular was on the development of verbal guidelines. When it comes to establishing a brand personality, the careful selection of words used by each sales representative who directly interacts with customers is a critical factor. It is, therefore, imperative that all employees understand and convey the brand personality accurately. English-based verbal expressions needed to be optimized for the Japanese market.
As a reference for brand-aligned word selection, Takram's verbal designer developed clear guidelines on how to select appropriate expressions in different contexts along with general dos and don'ts.
For successful and effective brand expansion across borders, we not only translated the words but also meticulously designed the visual components, including selecting and matching Japanese fonts to European fonts, as well as fine-tuning the tone, style, and layout used in the home market.
Our team supports an effective brand rollout by integrating those visual components into all the necessary tools, including ready-to-use brochures, presentation decks, and templates, as well as brand guidelines for the growing number of new associates.
Words were re-selected, and designs were adjusted for the Japanese market while maintaining the layout of the original English brochures.
Naoaki Iwamatsu (Takram)
Atsutaka Ino (Takram)
Maria Shimizu (Takram)
Kotaro Yamaguchi (Takram)
Yoshifumi Yanai (Takram)