The Yamaha Brand
Part 2: Two Yamahas, One Passion
Founded by visionary leader, Torakusu Yamaha, Nippon Gakki Co., Ltd. grew into today's Yamaha Corporation, and the globally recognized musical instrument manufacturer defines its corporate philosophy as follows: "With our unique expertise and sensibilities, gained from our devotion to sound and music, we are committed to creating excitement and cultural inspiration together with people around the world." Yamaha Motor Co., Ltd. spun off from the same Nippon Gakki Co., Ltd. as a manufacturer of motorcycles and other vehicles, and is dedicated to the mission of "Offering new excitement and a more fulfilling life for people all over the world." Although their fields of business are different, the two companies share the same Yamaha brand name, tuning fork logomark and strong desire to create and share Kando.* In this issue, we look at initiatives the two companies have taken together to strengthen the brand they share and their respective value as corporations.
*Kando is a Japanese word for the simultaneous feelings of deep satisfaction and intense excitement that we experience when we encounter something of exceptional value.
Joint Brand Committee: Strengthening the Yamaha Brand Together
Yamaha Motor was originally founded as an independent company that split off the motorcycle division of Yamaha Corporation (Nippon Gakki Co., Ltd. at the time). Both companies naturally had the desire to cooperate and help each other whenever opportunities arose. Today, the Joint Brand Committee functions to create and promote programs for the two companies to collaborate on in that way. In 2007, as the result of a reassessment of the capital relationship between the two companies, Yamaha Motor was separated from Yamaha Corporation's affiliated companies (accounted for by the equity method). In doing this, the two companies agreed that efforts to further strengthen the ties between them and to heighten the value of the Yamaha brand they share should continue. The Joint Brand Committee was then established to bring the two companies?including top management?together to meet on a regular basis and talk directly about such efforts and discuss their progress.
The first result of these efforts to increase collaboration between the two Yamahas was the joint sponsoring and organization of the Yamaha Ladies Open Katsuragi, a Ladies Professional Golfers' Association of Japan (LPGA) tournament. From 1985 until 1992, this tournament was held at a famous golf course in Shizuoka Prefecture run by a Yamaha group company, and it was restarted in 2008. Since then, it has continued to be held each year (as of 2015) and remains the focus of much attention from golf fans in Japan and greater Asia. At the same time, it has contributed to the promotion of the two companies' products and businesses, like the golf cars from Yamaha Motor and the golf clubs from Yamaha Corporation.
Project AH A MAY: Swapping Product Design Projects to Stimulate Creative Innovation!
Recently, one particularly active area of cooperation between the two Yamahas is design. This is because design is an area where the two Yamahas have both held a special concern and have sought their own styles of expression that fit their respective industries and corporate images ever since the days when Genichi Kawakami was president of both companies. A prime example of a recent collaboration in the field of design is the "Graphic Grand Prix by Yamaha" contest that has been held since 2012. In 2014, it developed into the "Graphic Design Award by Yamaha" and took entries not only from Japan but globally. The most recent contest had 1,100 designs submitted from 69 countries and regions.
"The two Yamahas both value Kando very much, and this word was chosen as the theme for the inaugural contest, but we never expected that the contest would draw such a large response. Our wish is that this program will foster deeper understanding of our Yamaha brands among people of all countries, fields and industries. At the same time, we want to provide support and encouragement to a wide range of people who wish to become designers, so we are very happy that both the Grand Prize winner and the Audience Award winner announced in January 2015 were design school students," commented a Yamaha Motor brand representative.
Another example of these collaborative programs was the "project AH A MAY" joint exhibit at the "9th Biennale Internationale Design Saint-Etienne 2015," a French design expo held in March 2015. The theme of the exhibit was a swapping of roles, hence the reverse reading of the "YAMAHA" letters. The designers from both companies swapped product design projects?Yamaha Corporation working with vehicles and Yamaha Motor designing musical instruments?and went about the design work with the intention of discovering new visions with the help of this "mirrored" approach. Of the four exhibits, one was a sphere-shaped drum set while another was a motorcycle with a form running from the seat up over the fuel tank that was shaped in the image of a horse. Over several days, this design expo in France offered an opportunity for the two Yamahas to show how simply changing your point of view can give birth to completely different products. This stimulating exhibit led to the new discoveries of the unique styles of the Yamaha brand, while also providing fresh and surprising experiences for many visitors.
Joining Forces to Build Toyota Sports Cars
Because the two Yamahas specialize in different product industries and businesses, there are few cases where they can cooperate in their own existing fields. But at times, they have brought together their individual strengths for new challenges with outstanding results.
An excellent example was Yamaha Motor's involvement in the development and manufacture of the Toyota 2000GT sports car in the late-1960s. Nippon Gakki took charge of crafting of the car's cockpit. Using their knowhow and craftsmanship in the use of the highest quality wood, they were able to design and craft a luxurious interior by no means inferior to those of the finest European cars.
With Toyota Motor Co., Ltd. as an established client for both Yamahas, the two companies collaborated again on the design and development of the Lexus LFA supercar. Yamaha Motor assisted in the development and manufacture of the LFA's engine, while the acoustics professionals of Yamaha Corporation were involved in tuning the exciting sound of its engine. The results of these efforts have continued to draw the attention from many quarters since the car's unveiling at the Tokyo Motor Show in 2009.
Collaborations of "Mobility" and "Sound and Music"
One thing that makes Yamaha Motor's motorcycles stand out from the rest is the company's long-time focus on added value beyond the machine's functions and performance, i.e. excellence in design, a high quality look and feel, the sound of the engine and the sense of pulse. Since the late-1990s, Yamaha Motor has referred to this realm of added value as Kanno Seino. This is an expression that represents Yamaha Motor's pursuit of "motorcycle performance that focuses on rider perceptions" and it has been used often to explain and describe this unique Yamaha value at events like the Tokyo Motor Show. These motor shows have also been the venue to display other results of collaboration with Yamaha Corporation as reference models. One example is the "dolsa wind" 2-wheeled electric vehicle exhibited in 2003.
It proposed a new form of entertainment by offering "a feeling of riding on the wind" and creating a sphere of sound around the rider by having the wind itself "play" the vehicle like an instrument. Another example was the "Gen-Ryu" displayed in 2005. It was a high-tech model equipped with a rider-machine interface system that functioned through visual and audio devices (including voice-messaging capability) built into the helmet. Then the "LUXAIR" reference model was exhibited in 2007. It was equipped with an audio system that emitted high-quality sound in beam form to the sound system in the rider's helmet and proposed a new dimension of the motorcycling lifestyle for the near-future based on a "mobility and sound/music" concept.
Besides products and technology, the two Yamahas also work together on cultural and social contribution programs. In 1987, Yamaha Corporation launched a television program in Japan introducing original music composed by children attending Yamaha Music Schools, with Yamaha Motor as a co-sponsor for about 10 years. Also, as an initiative to help restore forested areas that have been cut down as a result of urbanization in Indonesia, the two Yamahas conducted a tree-planting project. In the five years from 2005, the "Yamaha Forest" project resulted in the planting of some 115,110 seedlings, including mahogany, teak, sengon and eucalyptus, in an area covering 127 hectares.
There are numerous other examples that could be cited. But what is important is that customers all over the world come into contact with the many products and initiatives that carry the Yamaha brand name, and that there are always positive voices heard about those products and corporate activities. To carry that on into the future, Yamaha Motor and Yamaha Corporation will continue to work closely together going forward.