The Economist opined in April that the earthquake and tsunami had battered Japan's image, quoting a Western diplomat complaining, "People buy 'brand Japan' because it implies a premium—that the quality will be better, or the product is more reliable—and now they don't have that." Interbrand Japan noted in a post-crisis report that the impact on "Brand Japan" and "the effects of the disaster on perceptions differ greatly by country and by category."
Without a doubt, having been battered physically, economically and emotionally country, the nation is still rebuilding from the brutal earthquake on March 11 — which makes it high time to evolve the Cool Japan nation-branding campaign, which the Japanese government is ready to do following a logo search. “To say we’re going to rebuild doesn’t simply mean we should go back to the way things were,” said 46-year-old winning designer Kashiwa Sato to the Wall Street Journal.
Sata, the award-winning designer who created the distinctive logo for Uniqlo and designs for other Japanese brands including Honda, saw his design selected out of 99 submissions to represent “Cool Japan,” a government effort that pre-dated this year's natural disaster to help the rest of the world understand modern Japan.
“Rather than revert to the past, I wanted to convey the view of advancing towards the next dream,” Sato stated, according to the Journal. “Let’s combine our strengths and work together towards a new future.”
Sato’s logo is reminiscent of the country’s flag, with a red sun with a white background — but also suggests forward movement, embodied by a new "Japan Next" tagline. One challenge for Sato was making sure that people worldwide would be able to understand the motto.
“Another element I thought very seriously about while developing the slogan and felt was necessary in the final product was to think of something that will be easily understood by people around the world and will be immediately remembered,” Sato says about the tagline. “I thought it was better to think of something that was ‘Japan’ plus just one more word. Anything longer than three words would probably be difficult to remember. I also wanted to choose a word that is easy enough that you don’t have to be fluent in English to understand the meaning. Keeping these elements in mind made the project very difficult.”
Now that Sato has come up with the logo and motto, it is unclear what exactly will happen to it, the Journal notes, including whether it will replace "Cool Japan" entirely or be a sub-brand of that initiative. “Whether it becomes a ‘masterpiece’ depends on how it will be applied,” Sato said, according to the Journal. “Symbols are only as effective as how well they are used.”
The Cool Japan (クールジャパン) concept originated in 2002, coined by American journalist Douglas McGray in an article titled "Gross National Cool" in Foreign Policy, which deal with Japan "reinventing superpower" as its cultural influence expanded internationally despite the economic and political problems of the "lost decade."
In the past, the government funded the Japan Brand Assistance Development Program, which rolled out a "Japan Brand" logo, to promote the nation's artisans. In 2009, the Japanese government promoted the global launch of "Cool Japan," putting a modern (and pop culture) twist on Japan, with a tagline to be used by trade bodies seeking to exploit the commercial capital of the country's culture industry.
It's administered by the Creative Industries Promotion Office, which was established in June 2010 by the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) with a mandate that includes: "Under the single, long-term concept of 'Cool Japan,' the Creative Industries Promotion Office will promote these cultural industries in cooperation with the private sector by facilitating their overseas expansion and human resource development."
METI hosted a Cool Japan conference in Tokyo last October, bloggers were engaged, and the campaign was highlighted at a couple of conferences in France this past summer. Even so, last year the Yomiurui Shimbun newspaper wrote in an editorial that it was time for the "Cool Japan" campaign to step it up and for Japan to 'capitalise' on the effort. Other critics such as Roland Kelts, author of Japanamerica: How Japanese Pop Culture has Invaded the U.S., argue that Cool Japan is anything but cool, using the same logic that was leveled against "Cool Brittania" in the UK: calling yourself cool is, by definition, the opposite of cool.
All of which may explain why — in these more sober times — the government went with Sato's forward-looking design and "Japan Next" language. Your thoughts?