Personalizing To Our Client’s Work and Fulfilling Each Other’s Goals: Rebranding the Complete Balanced Food COMP
In 2018, monopo completed the total rebranding of the Japanese food-tech startup, COMP. The company’s product, complete balanced food “COMP”, is designed to help people who are passionate about their work or hobbies get the proper balance of vitamins and nutrients they need. It’s an easy all-around product created for a variety of situations and different needs.
While staying true to the current loyal customers and fans of COMP, in spring of 2017, we launched a rebranding mission to further develop and expand our client’s market. Our rebranding strategy consisted of developing a new product logo, package, image, website, and even a redesign of the EC (mail order) packaging material — anything and everything that represented the company’s brand. Mr. Suzuki partnered with monopo’s creative team, and through extensive discussions with monopo’s CEO Sasaki, who is also a producer, they came to the conclusion that their mission required more than just a product rebranding, but a comprehensive strategy that resulted in a redesigned, brand new product. I decided to look into the project’s background and development.
When rebranding, most companies will simply propose a superficial design change. COMP needed a partner who would dig deeper and truly capture the essence of their product.
Sasaki, who has also served as a producer, usually focuses on company management and business as part of his daily responsibilities as CEO. However, for this particular request, Sasaki decided that on top of his meetings with Mr. Suzuki, he wanted to commit on a much deeper level to this project. This is because Sasaki resonated with Mr. Suzuki and their shared understanding from a managerial point of view, that to expand COMP, a rebranding of their product was necessary.
ーMr. Suzuki, were you not concerned about entrusting your brand’s (COMP) fundamental identity to a different company?
Suzuki: No, not at all. In fact, I felt that consulting with external companies would be better because people within the company don’t have the same ability to view and think about the brand from an outsider’s point of view. To find a partner to help with rebranding, I visited and discussed with about 10 different companies, but it was very difficult to find a partner who would take the time to work specialized to our company needs… To exaggerate, most of the companies would simply propose that, “if you change your logo design, that’s enough”. But then I found monopo and Sasaki-san, who from the start showed that they would commit to providing a personal and unique rebranding strategy for my company, and I immediately felt that they were different from the others. Following that intuition, I decided to partner and collaborate with them on this project.
Sasaki: Because it’s now I can say this, but when I first met Mr. Suzuki I was incredibly nervous, haha. All of the sudden he would ask me with a serious tone, “Mr. Sasaki, what is rebranding to you?”
Suzuki: Haha, sorry about that. At that point, I had met with so many companies whose rebranding proposals were all superficial and surface-level, and I had become fed up. So I concluded that at least at the start, I would have to be firm with what I wanted.
Sasaki: But that firmness was actually strangely comforting. Because I knew from the get-go that Suzuki-san understood COMP’s rebranding as a managerial task. Recently I haven’t been really involved in client work, and I’ve been focusing on my own business and management, but COMP was the one project in 2017 that I decided I wanted to participate in as a producer. To put that much effort from a managerial level, and to reword what I mean, I felt that I could work on this project with the same amount of passion as I would my own company.
ーAfter you decided to rebrand, it ended up taking half a year to form a team with an art director, copywriter, an engineer, as well as others, before even moving towards working on the design, copy, and website renewal. Why were you so particular about the team you formed?
Suzuki: Before starting the project, I needed to understand the concept we were developing and the matter we were addressing thoroughly, and with that understanding, collectively reach those goals with the people who would help me. It used to be unclear what goals of COMP we were trying to communicate, and to solve that, we needed a team that would fully understand everything about COMP, or else we couldn’t move forward. To successfully brand, there must be a “change in logo”, “design renewal”, “catchphrase” etc, but I believed that having a team that has a shared understanding of the project in terms not limited to transient rebranding was also important, and that leverage would serve really effective long term.
ーTo cultivate that shared understanding, what kind of communication exchange was necessary?
Sasaki: Starting with his forthright question, “What is rebranding?”, I discussed their core concept, how to identify main customers, how to verbalize unidentified problems and challenges, how COMP wants to develop for the future, and then thoroughly went through components related to their goals as a company. After that, I was shown their P/L (income statement) and the balance sheet as well.
Suzuki: Normally that’s not something that I would show to someone outside the company though, haha. There are obvious risks to working with others, but it was clear to me that the CEO, Mr. Sasaki, was very serious about contributing to this project in a meaningful way, and in addition, I was convinced that if we collaborate, we could come up with a much greater proposal together.
Complete Balanced Food COMP’s Copy, “Completely Obsessed: Why We Didn’t Emphasize Functionality, and Instead Chose This
In this way, monopo and COMP formed a tag together. The brand idea of “Completely Obsessed” was proposed by Creative Director, Mr. Tatsuya Ishikawa, shortly after the project team was established, which became the axis to which the central branding concept design formed around.
Suzuki: Even before rebranding, we had core fans for customers, for example entrepreneurs who would not have time to have balanced meals for they were so concentrated on their work, but when we advertise our product from a strictly functional point of view, it comes off as too futuristic, that we are suggesting people do not have to eat because people can live without eating, almost like a dystopia, and that is not the goal of COMP we are trying to achieve. We needed a copy that could appeal to our customers’ emotions and inspire people to use COMP to challenge the possibilities of their life. When I explained this need, I was proposed the copy “Completely, Obsessed”. When I heard it, I instantly knew, “This was a good one!”. A few days passed, and the longer I toyed with the idea, I felt that we’ve developed something that could reach even deeper levels of what we were aiming for with our company. I am typically a cautious person, and the type of person to have many discussions before pursuing an idea, but that is the one moment where I immediately felt, “This is good!”. On top of enhancing the company’s awareness of logo and design, embodying our persistence is something I believe we’ve done with our new logo. If it didn’t capture our expanse, I wouldn’t approve of it; would you not agree that our current logo evokes potential and ambition? I believe our new design captures our ability for continued adaptation and development. I am very fortunate to have monopo, who has specially helped me develop a visualization of my ideas.
Sasaki: To have someone say that about my work, it really motivates me to continue working hard. To have Mr. Suzuki stand as representative director in this project, it reshaped rebranding as a managerial task and showed a deep commitment in the project, which allowed our production team to be involved from the core, and work to our fullest capacity.
Big Brands Have Ideology and Format Established. It Is COMP’s Desire to Manifest One Too
Then, the corporate identity we developed to capture our company’s core message is “To let your passions always move forward, anytime and anywhere”, and a straight line (COMP line) as a logo to visualize that idea. Coupling the renewal with a new product release, we saw an increase in users as well as a trending positive growth in sales.
ーWhat do you believe was the winning cause of your successful rebranding campaign?
Sasaki: This is related to what I was saying earlier but, having project team members that are actively tackling this project with their personal ambition is key. This is something I personally vocalize often but making clear your intention, “This is something I want to accomplish” and putting it into words, that is the most difficult part of any project. In addition, it is even more difficult to make a client project personal to you so that you fulfill that intention, and bring about value. Regardless, the members that formed our team all possessed an incredible vigour towards this case. And that is because everyone could truly understand and support the vision that Mr. Suzuki wanted to embody.
Suzuki: That spirit may also be related to my business’s origin. In the past, when I was working as a researcher, or would just spend lots of time completely engulfed in my work, I tried to save time by eating lots of commercially available balanced nutrition bars, but this caused me to get sick multiple times. As a result, I decided to establish this business and create something that would be better than those nutrition bars, a complete food that could provide for those who are completely enveloped in their passions. Something I developed for myself, I realized that other entrepreneurs like myself needed it as well, which was Phase I. Then I met the monopo team and formed a brand, and thoroughly discussed what form it would take, which became Phase II. I hope to expand much further from now on as well.
ーHow do you hope to expand COMP from now on? Also please tell us what you would hope from monopo, if anything.
Suzuki: This time, I was able to create something that would directly convey what I wanted without any hesitation. I would like to consider what the monopo team has cultivated for me as the beginning of my assets, and expand the brand awareness. In doing so, I believe my next big move will become clear. Although some things are still vague, I don’t want my measures to expand brand acknowledgement and communication to become a one-shot thing, and hope to prevent it from falling into that framework.
Sasaki: I think that’s really good. To use a famous case an example, food manufacturer brands like Pocari Sweat or Kit Kat have well-established ideologies and formats they adhere to. If you can establish that, you will have a campaign that will last 10 years down the line. It’s ideal to come up with a measure that is as concrete and consistent as theirs. Something that accumulates the longer you continue it. I wish to be able to embody that something.
The two who decided to go beyond what responsibilities they usually work within, beyond the title of company president, Mr. Suzuki and Mr. Sasaki both resonated with what redefining a company’s “brand” really requires. Even before establishing a relationship as supplier and contractor, they brought their visions together to satisfy each other’s ideals, and were able to bring back the essence of what it means to be creative.
I hope that in the future they will continue to collaborate and multiply the value they provide each other.
Interview by Midori Sugama(monopo)
Translation by Saki Ohashi（monopo intern）