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Dissolving when in use: MUJI, brand and nothingness

Dissolving when in use: MUJI, brand and nothingness

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Published by Haydn Sweterlitsch
Dissolving When In Use: MUJI, Brand and Nothingness
An exegesis on the anomalous MUJI brand of Japan and what branding agents can take away from it. Offering over 7,500 products, MUJI is the "No Brand" brand. Far from minimalist, MUJI has reversed all popular wisdom for branding and achieved a brand synchronicity, ethics and transcultural positioning that is outstanding. Function defines design--and becomes essence with MUJI products. And MUJI's emphasis on aligning materials, production, design and distribution allows MUJI products to be the sole representatives of the MUJI brand (with enviable success).
Dissolving When In Use: MUJI, Brand and Nothingness
An exegesis on the anomalous MUJI brand of Japan and what branding agents can take away from it. Offering over 7,500 products, MUJI is the "No Brand" brand. Far from minimalist, MUJI has reversed all popular wisdom for branding and achieved a brand synchronicity, ethics and transcultural positioning that is outstanding. Function defines design--and becomes essence with MUJI products. And MUJI's emphasis on aligning materials, production, design and distribution allows MUJI products to be the sole representatives of the MUJI brand (with enviable success).

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Published by: Haydn Sweterlitsch on Jul 08, 2009
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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03/30/2013

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Dissolving when in use
MUJI, brand and nothingness
author:Haydn SweterlitschVP, Creative Director RTCRM, a Wunderman Network AgencyWashington, DCJuly 2009contact:hsweterlitsch@gmail.comTwitter: Haydn_S202.299.7496
 
Dissolving when in use ©2009, Haydn Sweterlitsch2
OK. Begin with the kind of vague, academic andnon-threatening proclamation about branding thatwon’t alienate anyone or force them to choose sidestoo early on. Something like: The development anddeployment of a brand can take many forms.Sweet.Now follow up with some “brands need depth” and“dimensionalizing a brand” stuff. How about: Creatingan identity system and characteristics for brand
management means dening the persona a brand
embodies and portrays. And furthermore, to makegood on the promise of the brand requires it to have acertain amount of vitality, because healthy brands existas entities with the ability to transcend the functional
features/benets of a product. And the more relevantand uniquely dened the characteristics and persona
of a brand, the more effective, valued, preferred andsought after it will be.Nice. That ought to be enough to keep the corpse of David Ogilvy from reanimating, chasing me down andeating my brain. And thus, we may continue to our point of departure. MUJI: A brand that is not a brand.
What denes a brand that refuses to have characteristics? A brand that embraces
a state of aesthetic nonpermanence and pure functionality with all identity stripped
away? What if a brand not only existed—but thrived—without even so much asa logo? And what if this brand expanded to offer over 7,500 distinct products thatembodied its brand characteristics—when the lack of discernable characteristics wasits only identifying mark? What if this brand (without branding) became so enmeshed
in the daily lives of its most loyal customers that it was wholly indicative of their 
lifestyle and a symbol of their ethical stance?To dene without denition. To have character without unique characteristics. To play
a role without having a name. To reverse all popular wisdom, instinct, strategy andpractice to attain a goal others have successfully reached before you. To reach your destination by directing yourself in the polar opposite direction of that destination.This is the story of MUJI. The anti-brand that has achieved a level of brandingunachievable by established branding methods and systems. A brand that hassuccessfully collapsed the very idea of branding and left nothing in its place. Nothing.
MUJI is the brand that has made nothing into something by embracing nothingness—and making that nothingness its unique identier/characteristic.
Dissolving when in use
MUJI, brand and nothingness
by Haydn Sweterlitsch
next>a brief history of nothing 
 
Dissolving when in use ©2009, Haydn Sweterlitsch3
A brief history of nothing
Before diving into this exegesis of MUJI and what we as
branding agents can learn from its successes (and shortfalls),
a primer is in order for those not familiar with MUJI. Long storyshort, here are the two basic insights from which the concept of MUJI springs:
• MUJI is shorthand for Mujirushi Ryohin, which translates to
“no brand, good product”
• MUJI began in the early 1980s as a private/generic brand of 
the Seiyu discount department storeTo further sketch out and color in the idea of MUJI, here’s howthe brand describes itself at MUJI.us:
• MUJI is not a brand whose value rests in the frills and
“extras” it adds to its products.
• MUJI is simplicity—but a simplicity achieved through a
complexity of thought and design.
• MUJI’s streamlining is the result of the careful elimination
and subtraction of gratuitous features and design unrelatedto function.
• MUJI, the brand, is rational, and free of agenda,
doctrine, and “isms.” The MUJI concept derives from uscontinuously asking, “What is best from an individual’s
point of view?”• MUJI aspires to modesty and plainness, the better to
adapt and shape itself to the styles, preferences, andpractices of as wide a group of people as possible. This isthe single most important reason people embrace MUJI.
• MUJI—in its deliberate pursuit of the pure and theordinary—achieves the extraordinary.
next>what nothing is now 

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