Muji Project USA
[Skills used: Research, photography, 3D modeling, model making, animation]
Muji Project USA is a business campaign concept for Muji USA. Muji, philosophically, is a good company to exist in America. But for many reasons, they seem unable to offer their true value to American customers.
Through media, social outreach, and product development, the project tries to show how Muji might better understand their audience, and how the audience might better understand Muji.
A New Perspective
There is an image of the United States, filled with grandeur and wonder and majesty. But sometimes this image can feel uncharacteristic.
A series of posters and videos in Muji’s distinctive, gentle style offers a new perspective of the United States that perhaps feels more appropriate.
A physical representation of Muji’s product development platform, IDEA Park, goes into communities to better understand their needs and familiarize people with the brand.
As the truck travels across the United States, it can build a network of relationships, getting to understand each community it visits.
As Muji meets with communities, new ideas for products will arise. Products like the Two-Way grill. A press grill when closed, a griddle when open, and when you remove one of the plates, a pot can be placed directly on the heater.
New but familiar
The Two-Way Grill combines concepts that are familiar to both the US and Japanese market. Closed, it operates much in the same way as a sandwich press or press grill. Opened, it is able to act as a teppan, and can be used to grill and eat at the same time. When the plate is removed, a pot can be placed directly on the heater, allowing for nabemono, soups and other stews to be made.
Project USA Overview
What is Project USA?
Muji has been in the United States for just over 10 years. In that time, a lot of effort has been put in to bring the full experience to this country. Despite the strides made over the decade, Muji remains relatively unknown.
Muji has expanded to a wide range of international markets, notably with the recent entry into India. The goal is always to bring Muji's ideas and philosophies to as many communities as possible, so that we may all benefit from simple, comfortable living.
The United States is a vast land, with vastly different cultures from coast to coast. But despite these differences, there are many commonalities shared among Americans, as the world undergoes dramatic shifts and growths.
Project USA is a renewed, focused effort to expand Muji into the United States, and develop deep, lasting relationships with the people living there.
The United States only has 19 locations. 9 of which are in New York, and 7 in California.
Compared to Japan, which has over 400 stores in a space 26 times smaller than the USA.
Although Japan benefitted from being the original market, with the United States being relatively new, Muji cannot hope to serve the USA with such a low density.
Addressing awareness and strategic expansion are a key focus of Project USA.
The USA is on the verge of a cataclysmic change in who the people are, and what life is like. The ideas of what it means to work and to live will be redefined. With this change, MUJI can be the key to an improved quality of life.
There are 4 key trends that provide the foundation for this strategy.
Bubble Burst Start
The current conditions of the USA somewhat mirror the conditions in Japan that made Muji popular.
“Even as the Japanese economy moved closer and closer toward an economic bubble, we had positive feedback from so many consumers back then who wanted to focus on the simple things in life.” - Kazuko Koike, copywriter for MUJI
GDP Up, Life Expectancy Down
“Three-fourths of the NABE Policy Survey panelists expect an economic recession by the end of 2021.” - National Association for Business Economic
Living paycheck to paycheck is the new normal - Vulnerability in the Face of Economic Uncertainty study by Prosperity Now.
USA most unequal developed nation - UN Report
After 2008 recession, NPD saw rise in people staying home.
Americans spending 70% more time at home. - UT Study
“...the bottom line [is] Americans want to create meaningful experiences in their homes, and products that help them keep clean, healthy, creative and comfortable at home will come out on top.” - NPD Research
For now, we know that financial, economic, and environmental concerns might entice some Americans, specifically Millennials and women, to live with less. - CivicScience
“Today’s consumers are spending more time in the home and are willing to spend more for products that will help enhance their home lifestyle” - NPD
In order to build a strong foundation for the strategy, there was a comprehensive brand analysis. A combination for trends and market research, brainstorming, and storyboarding identified the key areas to push the project forward.
Two key findings made the Two-Way Grill a perfect example product. One, is that it is similar to press grills, which are one of the best selling cooking products in the US. Second, teppanyaki is a surprisingly common and loved dining style in the souther and midwestern states. This product can appeal to almost all markets, and is well within Muji's existing purview.
The grill was designed to fit Muji's existing kitchen appliance lines in being simply shaped, with an easy to understand interface. It was realized through sketching, 3D modeling, a full sized mockup, and renders.
The United States is changing. Our demographics are changing. We are paying more attention to our mental health and wellness.
We are spending more time at home, and trying to declutter our lives. And what we think of as work in the future might have to change too.
As a company founded on the idea of living a simple life, Muji is the perfect brand to accompany the US into the future. But they have some issues. One, is that they don’t have enough stores to serve people the way they do in Japan.
So, the first step to take is to expand. We do this through the IDEATRUCK, a physical manifestation of the IDEAPARK. In the same way as the latter, it is a platform for customers and staff to exchange ideas, and allow Muji to respond thoughtfully to their customers needs.
As the truck travels across the United States, it can build a network of relationships, getting to understand each community it visits. We can see if they could benefit from a flagship store, or maybe just a smaller one. We also get to see the country through Muji's eyes.
When the truck meets with communities, new ideas for products will arise. Products like the Two-Way grill. A press grill when closed. A griddle when open, and when you remove one of the plates, a pot can be placed directly on the heater.
Products like this benefit people like Jules. She doesn't really have the time to prepare something healthy, or even sit and eat with her daughter. The Two-Way Grill allows them to spend quality time together, while also cooking and eating their food.
A product like this means they don’t have to compromise, and in a small way, their life is made better. Project USA is a way for Muji to expand into the US, and be a partner in peoples changing lifestyles.