Mitsuura Brewing’s Company PROJECT

Refreshing Mitsuura Brewing’s Company Vision Through Design Management

Introduction

It might be easy enough to create a nice new graphic or logo – but design can ultimately bring a lot more to the table when it comes to updating a company’s overarching vision. See how we helped Mitsuura Brewing to engender resonance with both consumers and company employees through our new design management support program.

About Dcraft

Dcraft is Loftwork’s new design management support program for small to medium-sized enterprises. The seven-month program invites experienced creative directors and managers as guest lecturers to support the practice of design management, which advocates for developing effective business environments that enable innovation and success.

Outline

Mitsuura Brewing Industry is a traditional miso-maker with a legacy of over 150 years. Helmed by its new president, the company has since branched out into products other than miso and seasonings, such as lemon tea, amazake (sweet fermented rice alcohol), and more. With the company eager for a much-needed branding update, Mitsuura joined the Dcraft program to undergo its transformation, working with Loftwork designer Kazuma Kitao over a period of two and a half months.

The purpose of the project was not to simply reword the company vision. We sought to create something with which people both inside and outside the company could resonate. Through discussions and hypothesis-testing, we created a new visual concept and a new philosophy for Mitsuura Brewing – especially one that cements the idea of why the company makes miso and tea. As a result, vast changes were initiated, including a new generation of product ideas based on the new vision, as well as an increase in customers who relate to the new corporate stance.

Process

Why do we need to update our vision in the first place?

What is required of a “vision” is changing. In the past, a company’s vision was a first-person account of the role one should play. In the current business climate, however, it is necessary to convey what values corporate activities can provide to society and invoke empathy. Rather than creating a new vision, it can be more effective to rework the previous one, with an eye toward society.

While companies may still be able to generate sales in the short term without an “update”, they risk missing out on the following medium- to long term benefits:

  • No need to compete on price
  • Customer loyalty
  • Free advertising from word-of-mouth marketing
  • More favorable negotiations with suppliers
  • More favorable company recruitment

The six ingredients for Mitsuura Brewery’s vision renewal

1. Managers brainstorm keywords to describe Mitsuura

First, we asked the managers in the company to reflect on the company and thoroughly think about how they could best describe it. This part of the process is not about whether or not the “correct” words are used; rather, it is a way for the design team to understand what is being conveyed. It is a foundational step for realizing the design vision.

2. Set short-term goals that both designer and management are comfortable with

When it comes to utilizing the power of design, many companies opt for a simple update to its corporate graphics or logos. However, this often ends up with no real penetration within the company; those within the company are left feeling confused about the real, practical use of the new corporate image. In this sense, updating the vision can be a pointless exercise.

It is crucial that companies set short-term goals during this process. While updating the company vision should be done with medium- and long-term goals in mind, having short-term goals will allow results to be measured steadily and prevent the vision from becoming a mere skeleton. In this case, the team decided to aim for a state in which every product of Mitsuura Brewery could be tied to the company philosophy at the Dainippon Market – where we debut as an exhibiting booth two and a half months later.

3. Create hypotheses based on provided keywords and other external information

With the keywords that the Mitsuura managers had thought up, added with information that could be accessed from “the outside” (such as its web and social assets, as well as product brochures), the design team created a hypothesis for the direction of the project. It is important to note that a third-party perspective, i.e. the corporate image as seen from the general public, should be thoroughly considered. For this reason, we chose not to visit the Mitsuura site at this point – so as to maintain our “outsider’s” perspective.

With these preliminary mock-ups, we were able to express to the company management how Mitsuura looked from the outside. Afterwards, we asked them to take it back inside the company for further deliberation.
As we proceeded through the process, we were able to verify that the hypothesis that emerged at this stage – “Bringing people together through taste” – was correct, and we decided to proceed based on this philosophy for the final output.

4. Explore the potential of the field: Measuring the company from an external perspective

At this stage of the process, we finally visited the site in order to confirm the feasibility of the new assets. While the designers had a hypothesis for the visual output, they needed to gauge the potential of the company from an outside perspective, asking questions like: “Can we really take photos that fit that image?” and “Can we achieve the creative output as envisioned?”

Through the site visit, we realized that there were actual corporate activities that could be adequately photographed. With content that could be conveyed through graphic communication, the designers began to see the possibility of updating the vision in accordance with the proposed direction.

5. Realize the vision through visual communication

With the upcoming Dainippon exhibition as our basis, which had previously been set as one of our short-term goals, the design team tried to combine graphics and text for framing, and devised the structure of the website and pamphlet.

6. Reflect and test against goals

Finally, we conducted user tests to see if the brand new vision would be accepted by consumers, through their interactions with the physical output in the exhibiting booth.

At the actual exhibition, the Mitsuura booth was rated as the most popular booth for visitors. Company employees present at the exhibition remarked that people who picked up the products after reading the new framed messages had responses totally different from the past. Not only did it create the feeling of products increasing in value, but new ideas sprung up from within the company.

“We might be able to create this kind of product with this new approach!” Many employees within the company gushed. Moreover, with new ideas of unity underpinning the exhibition, it allowed Mitsuura to create consistency in their new product development – even if it has nothing to do with the core business of miso.

Loftwork provides support as a design strategy partner in management. We can accompany you on a project basis with regard to various needs, approaches and scale. To find out more, contact [email]

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