-- Shiseido will launch new gift bags from early November for consumers who purchase Shiseido products at drugstores and other retail outlets throughout Japan. Could you please tell us about the process leading up to creating these gift bags, which will be available all year round?
Takeda: The market for gifts in Japan is changing considerably, and there are now more people who like to give casual gifts to their close friends and acquaintances as birthday presents or tokens of appreciation, instead of just the traditional end-of-year oseibo or midsummer ochugen gifts. This has also led to store staff requesting wrapping paper, stickers and other decorative items that will excite young women in their teens and 20s to buy such casual gifts.
-- So until now, there haven't been any such wrapping items to meet these types of requests?
Takeda: We currently use bags and other wrapping items in red featuring the Shiseido logo, but we've been receiving a lot of feedback about them from stores, such as "the logo stands out too much" and "the classical design isn't really what young women want."
So we decided to take immediate action, and set to work creating these casual bags as a matter of urgency. Normally it takes several months to design wrapping items, but this time we were asked to release the design data within a week of receiving these requests; so it was quite a tight schedule.
-- Which department spearheaded this project?
Takeda: The Marketing Department, and particularly its marketing support group which receives the most feedback from stores. They told us we need to come up with wrapping that is "sweet yet sophisticated" with a "design that emphasizes its function as a gift more than the Shiseido style"; they also gave us specific instructions to use pastel colors accented by decorative ribbons. So with these clear requests, we started creating a set of more casual gift bags.
-- So what were you able to come up with in such a short time frame?
Takeda: We didn't have time to follow the usual steps of elaborating our ideas and then doing a survey and reflecting our findings in the designs. Instead, we focused on how we could meet these requests and started creating the bags while also considering their design as we went along. As for the request for pastel colors, a simple check on Instagram confirmed that a pale pink shade called "millennial pink" and other similar pastel tones really were quite popular among young women.
We collected a few samples of pastel-colored packaging used by other companies, and showed them to the marketing department to see if it's what they were aiming for. It seems the pink was too cutesy, and slightly more sophisticated shades such as pastel green and macaroon hues were closer to the image they had in mind. So when we showed them a combination of mint green and lilac (A), they enthusiastically responded with "That's it!"
-- In addition to the mint green and lilac (A) combination, you also came up with a pink and blue design (B).
Takeda: Initially we were only going to use one design, but we realized that A might appeal to consumers with more refined tastes, and it was better suited to so-called connoisseurs of color and aesthetics. We also needed a design that incorporated the universally appealing shade of pink, which would prove popular with young women buying gifts at a drugstore. On top of that, the marketing department liked both proposed designs equally, and so we weren't able to narrow it down to just one.
This year Shiseido executives and marketing members have been touring across Japan and receiving direct feedback from the store staff that handle our products at our retail outlets. It just so happened that the development of the new casual gift bags coincided with these visits, so we were able to ask the store staff which was their preferred color combination. Surprisingly, the preferences were split down the middle; so based on that as well, we decided to go ahead with both designs.
-- Were there any particularly challenging aspects of fine-tuning the designs?
Takeda: The marketing department wanted to use a ribbon in the design, but ribbons are so obviously cute to begin with, and we didn't want to use it in a way that would look unsophisticated. So after much trial and error, we settled on a design featuring a ribbon that also looked like a lattice at first glance.
In the center of the bag we also added a design that looks like a gift card with the message "To My Dearest"; so simply placing the purchased Shiseido products in this bag is enough to make it a gift looking as if wrapped with a ribbon.
-- What were the trials and errors that you encountered while coming up with the completed design?
Takeda: At first, we also toyed with the idea of scattering the lettering of "To My Dearest" across the bag, but then we reconsidered once we realized it wouldn't immediately look pretty to our target consumers of young women.
My usual work at Shiseido is handling the design for INTEGRATE products mainly for women in their 20s, which is also close to the target age group for these casual gift bags. I'm in charge of Instagram-based PR as well, and by looking at the responses to posts I've learnt that pictures which are a little too high-fashion and overstyled instantly receive less likes. It's important to be stylish, but taking it too far will make some women draw the line and say "that's just not me." So we tried to come up with ways to clearly convey a loveliness that would appeal to such women.
-- I notice the Shiseido logo is quite small on these new gift bags.
Takeda: That was also a request from the marketing department. Many young women tend to associate Shiseido with being somewhat out of their reach and more of a brand for older women. So we made the logo smaller this time to make the bags more accessible for such consumers.
-- How has the consumer and retail store feedback been since this June, when you started trialing the new casual gift bags?
Takeda: We've been conducting store surveys in preparation for the full-year rollout from November, and remarkably once again consumers were spilt down the middle regarding the preferred color combination. So based on these consumer surveys as well, we will launch both color combinations in November.
We've also learnt that surprisingly many consumers also purchase large-sized bottles of face lotion and other items in addition to makeup. So we've added to our line up a one-size bigger gift pouch than the one trialed in June, and also made the bags slightly larger to accommodate bigger items.
Additionally, the retail staff have set up a gift bag display that fills the display window at the Matsumoto Kiyoshi drugstore in the CANAL CITY HAKATA shopping mall, for the gift bag design was favorably received. This large-scale collaboration is one of their initiatives to get consumers interested in the new casual gift bags.
-- Have you noticed any correlation between preferences for the color combinations A and B, and the consumer's age, personality type and other features?
Takeda: Actually from the start of the design process, we had an image of which consumer would prefer each color combination. For A, we envisioned a mature woman with distinctive tastes who is in her late 20s and older, while B would appeal more to a young and trend-conscious woman with a sweet demeanor. And going by the reactions we received when testing the finished designs on our female staff, we were right in our assumptions.
What we didn't expect though was these new casual gift bags to also be popular with older women aged 50 and over, even though they were designed to appeal to young women in their teens and 20s. Indeed, compared to women in their 30s and 40s, this older age group tends to prefer classically cute designs. I feel the trials and errors we went through have led us to a design that is universally appealing to women.
-- Was there anything particularly interesting or new about designing a 3D item such as a gift bag, as opposed to flat 2D items like print advertisements and catalogs?
Takeda: Although we cannot directly deliver print advertisements to our consumers, these casual gift bags will likely become an item they can use in their daily life. So although the creative approach is similar, there's a greater sense of excitement when we imagine how the gift bags will be received and used by our consumers. For instance, it would be great if the bags become a decorative item in their already stylish rooms, or a similar use.
Also, print advertisements are used to raise brand awareness, and therefore it's not easy to see the specific results and benefits they generate. Comparatively, creating gift bags can directly impact sales depending on the popularity of the designs. So in that sense, there's a certain tension to get it right, which is not as obviously felt when creating print advertisements.
-- The gift bags seem to be quite popular with Shiseido staff; are you planning to further develop the designs?
Takeda: Shiseido is currently running the "Shiseido Facial Expression Project " campaign to promote products for improving wrinkles, so we will use the existing design of these casual gift bags, and only change the color to match the campaign's image. We are also planning to keep using these bags and tweaking their design as required suiting various gifts, such as changing the ribbon style and other ideas.
We also want to use SNS to promote the bags, for instance by asking consumers to post pictures on Instagram of their Shiseido gift bags and hash-tagging the post. This is one way of getting maximum leverage from the Instagrammable pastel colors we've used for the bags.