-- The β version of the completely new skincare system, "Optune," will be hitting the stores soon this spring. Could you tell us more about this brand?
Yamamoto: This is Shiseido's first personalized skincare brand incorporating the Internet of Things (IoT). Users are asked to take pictures of their skin and measure their skin conditions through the dedicated smartphone app "Optune App." They are then asked to input their current mood using the dedicated machine "Optune zero," which then carries out a comprehensive analysis based on the skin data from the app, the mood input by the user, and environmental data that varies from day to day such as weather, humidity, and ultraviolet rays. Finally, it dispenses skincare products (serum and moisturizer) that are ideal for the user at the moment. That is how the Optune system works.
-- What was the Creative Division's role in the development of Optune?
Yamamoto: The Creative Division was involved from the brand story creation stage. It put together the purpose of the brand and its manifesto, and defined its persona as well as the tone of the brand. At the same time, we went through trial and error together with the marketing department on elements from the naming of the brand and production of the logo, to the direction for the app and brand site as well as the creative sides of brand communication. We produced the various elements that make up the brand as if fitting a puzzle together.
-- What impressions did you have of Optune when you first heard about it?
Yamamoto: I felt that it is a challenging as well as interesting brand. It has the potential to change our notions of cosmetics that we have taken for granted, and to change the skincare behavior of people, so I felt that it is a brand that will set a new standard, just like electric vehicles and smartphones.
Until now, skincare has involved using prepackaged ready-made products on a day-to-day basis. However, in the Optune system, skincare begins with the setting up of dedicated devices at home, and checking of the skin condition using the smartphone. I think that having people change their everyday behavior in such a way, to something that is completely different, is not an easy job to accomplish.
-- What did you pay attention to in order to inspire behavior totally different from traditional beauty practices, that is, the use of skincare that matches your skin condition for that day?
Yamamoto: It is not easy to make people change their everyday behavior; it is necessary to first have them acknowledge the merits of the new practices proposed by Optune, and to make them believe that "the new way is better." To that end, we felt it was crucial to communicate "why" this new system is a good one, as well as the anticipation and exhilaration connected with the future. However, too much emphasis on the technology and innovation can make the users feel that the product is too distant or unrelated to them. We took care to strike a balance between the two.
-- According to the brand site, you have positioned the concept as "Optimal care that tunes to your skin."
Yamamoto: Skin is something that is unique to each and every individual, and its condition changes from day to day. To convey the appeal of Optune, which provides the optimal care for such skin, we have expressed our concept as "Optimal care that tunes to your skin." Optune offers more than 1,000 formulation patterns in order to provide the serum and moisturizer that best suit the user on a certain day.
-- What is your image of the target user?
Yamamoto: The brand persona is a woman who is not afraid of confronting changes in her body and skin, and who takes care of herself. The keywords are "Intelligent," "Advanced," and "Comfort." The image is of a woman who manages and takes good care of herself, is highly sensitive, and who places a strong emphasis on being emotionally fulfilled.
-- How are these concepts and persona applied to the design?
Yamamoto: Firstly, the concept of "Optimal care that tunes to your skin." is embedded in the brand name. "Optune" is a combination of the words "Optimize" and "Tune." Furthermore, to express the warmth of a personalized system even though it harnesses IoT technology, we have produced a handwritten logo.
-- The concept model "Palm Stone" was displayed at the "Beauty goes Forward" event held at the end of November 2017, where the launch of Optune was announced.
Yamamoto: Palm Stone is produced based on our image of Optune in the future. It senses the user's mood, physical condition, and skin condition through his or her palms as the user wraps both hands around the rounded machine body, and dispenses the optimal skincare from the top. We created it with the hope that Optune will eventually become such a system over time.
-- What gave you the idea of wrapping both hands around the machine?
Yamamoto: Personalized skincare is the ultimate skincare method, and an advanced one. However, the universal wish to deliver the best solution for the skin lies at the root of personalized skincare systems. That is why we wanted to design the skincare routine as a rich moment and experience, instead of simply pursuing a futuristic format. With that in mind, we adopted the idea of sensing (measuring) by wrapping your palms around. The concept of "future" and the image of "coldness" are two sides of the same coin, but we wanted to avoid creating such an impression.
The act of "hugging," such as wrapping your hands around a baby or a bowl of tea, encompasses a positive relaxing gesture. Connecting this beautiful gesture with sensing technology, and realizing true comfort, is something that we can propose not through technology, but precisely because we are a company that has traditionally been engaged in the production of skincare products.
Moving forward, I think that it is possible for either technology or ideas to come first in the creation of new brands and services. The question of whether technology can catch up with a certain idea is an exciting one, isn't it? We hope that the proposal of ideas such as the Palm Stone will lead to new inspiration within the company.
-- At present, what are the reactions to Optune within the beauty industry?
Yamamoto: It has been picked up and reported as a fairly major piece of news. The question is how we deliver it to women in general today, and particularly to those who are very beauty-conscious. We are open to considering various means, without being constrained by any fixed ideas or stereotypes.
-- Could you tell us more about how this brand will develop?
Yamamoto: Starting from February, we will begin recruiting consumers for the purchase of the β version. We hope to create the Optune brand in continuous evolution, based on feedback from consumers who have actually used it. We have established "New Discovery" as our keywords for communication; in addition to helping consumers discover a new form of skincare, this also represents our goal to make this a "new discovery" for Shiseido by creating a product together with consumers.
The role of Optune is to establish a new standard for beauty. I think that it is also a part of our jobs to couple that experience with technology in its design. The launch of Optune is not a report of a product we have made, but rather, an announcement of a new beginning.