Time to make the impact of the Mottainai spirit visible (Part 2)
The Duchy Organic brand was originally conceived in 1990 by Prince Charles, and it is run by Waitrose, a high-end supermarket, since 2010. Since 1983, Waitrose contributes to making organic food accessible to everyday life — the Duchy Organic’ product range is grown over 300. The brand says that buying organic means supporting a way of farming that works in harmony with the environment to grow food in a sustainable way, the highest welfare standards and vibrant farmland wildlife. The package clearly shows its support for the Prince’s charities — to help farmers develop more sustainable farming practices — and design, where the same gold colour is used for the logo and the word ‘organic.’ ‘Good causes’ and ‘Good farming’ are printed with the bigger hand-writing typefaces.
They have an iconic brand leader, a clear vision, a track history of delivering what they promise, and good brand communication. And last but not least, it tastes delicious, especially for biscuits!
Lessons from the British brand
What Japanese companies can learn is the segmentation of sustainable customers. The Duchy Originals targets the premium organic market, which is not luxury but not cheap, and they developed their product offer, channels and brand communication around it.
In the current Japanese market, I see three groups: those who support sustainability proactively, those who appreciate the reassurance and safety which associates with sustainability/organic, and those who think sustainability is cool. These three are led by different motivations. The first is led by the purpose and value of a company/product, the second is function, and the third is stories and design that move their hearts. For example, the last group is likely to feel that the mainstream of organic packages in Japan could be too minimal. ‘Organic equals less’ is the right idea, but it does not necessarily mean it should be boring.
In addition, they can launch more product lines that put sustainability to the front. For Calbee, for instance, it is a product while putting the product sustainability for environment, society and people first, from the point of product life cycle, e.g. an organic range of crisps with responsibly sourced potato. Given 70% of Japanese consumers say that they don’t understand the meaning of certificates, e.g., JAS organic mark, they are waiting for products that are straightforward — how buying this product can contribute to creating a better world, and the brand name, architecture and verbal identity enable the clear positioning.
Lastly, the Japanese way of communication known for ‘who knows most, speaks least’ needs to be put aside. When brands talk with consumers, it will create even more empathy and trust if brands can address challenges in the world that consumers live in. Similar to the Duchy Organic supporting sustainable farming, customers are waiting for bold and ethical brands that make the impact rather than putting ‘eco-friendly’ in small letters just as an appendix.