This is the second part of jamaicaninjapan blogger, Marcus Bird's Tokyo Story. He spoke with me recently about his fascination with the Tokyo creative scene and the various opportunities he has had. Through his experience of living and working in Japan he has evolved as designer. One of the stories he shared was about his interest in how designers use characters and branding to shape lifestyle in Japan.
You spoke about lifestyle brand and wanting to get involved in that direction as well as to take some of your influences in Japan and adapt it for Jamaica. Can you explain what lifestyle branding is and the ways you have been creating lifestyle brands?
For me a lifestyle brand encapsulates the dominant aspects of a culture or a movement and allows people to a new way to participate with this brand through ownership of what that brand provides as a product. I lived in D.C for a while, and there I really saw for the first time kids and people who had investments in different brands that allowed them to make a statement about their kind of day to day life. Like skaters, the “indie” crowd, gamers, and so on. These folk wore more edgy shirts, or stuff that represented what they loved, like T-shirts with Nintendos on them. I found myself at that time embracing my gamer and geek side more, because when I was in Jamaica, there wasn’t so much of a serious geek culture, or people who represented lifestyles they liked with their style of dress. My current set of characters are a fusion with aspects of Jamaican and Japanese culture that highlight what I like about both. Jamaica is vibrant and colourful; Japan to me sounds clean and smooth. After I got the idea a couple years back, I took steps towards learning design to see if I could make it real and came up with my current set of characters.
Living in Japan revealed to me more about marketing and consumer behaviour than giving me tons of new influences. I say that to mean when I was in Japan, there weren’t a ton of shops I’d always frequent or clothes that I’d search for. Since I had my own concept, it was more a matter of feeding on the energy around me to keep feeling like my stuff would make it. I saw that in Japan, people aren’t afraid to pay for product they like, expensive or otherwise. So I saw the proof that lifestyle brands survive because people ravenously support them. Whatever you make has to fit where you are coming from, or fit into what people already like. Hello Kitty is the best brand that represents tenets of Japanese simplicity and cuteness; it “fits. This seems to be universal across the boards for all brands that I’ve seen of this variety. You might have to adapt slightly different business models depending on where you live, but at the end of the day its those ravenous fans or people that love how your stuff “fits” with them that count. If you can model that, you are gold.