Since the beginning of 2018, Storymaker has been working for the soldering robot specialist JAPAN UNIX, headquartered in Tokyo. Founded in 1974, the family business produced the world’s first soldering robot in the late 1970s and later brought laser soldering to market maturity.
Already the market leader in Asia and the Americas, JAPAN UNIX is now focusing on the German market – and on communication. Storymaker provides both strategic and operative support, from developing the core story for the European market to advertising motifs, text and video content, and PR. Storymaker Managing Partner Björn Eichstädt spoke to Yusaku Kono, a member of the company leadership team and responsible for global marketing at JAPAN UNIX.
Björn Eichstädt: Can you tell us a bit about JAPAN UNIX?
Yusaku Kono: JAPAN UNIX is the pioneer for soldering robots. The company was founded 45 years ago and is now a small medium-sized company. In addition to our locations in Japan, we have branch offices in Asia and North America. We don’t have offices in Europe yet, but we have over 20 years of history in France, Spain, Great Britain and other European markets through our distribution partners. Only Germany is a white spot on our map, but we want to change that. If we can be successful in Germany, then we can really be successful everywhere. The market is challenging and at the same time very suitable for our products and solutions.
BE: Why do the German and European markets need JAPAN UNIX soldering robots?
YK: Soldering is actually omnipresent in our lives, but nobody thinks a lot about this. People routinely use smartphones and PCs, and they drive cars or trains. Soldering plays an important role in all of these products. There is a huge number of components that need to be connected. And wherever metal and metal are jointed, soldering is usually a key technology. Especially with smaller components, such as printed circuit boards, the whole process is complicated. The components are sometimes tiny and sit in a very confined space. In such cases, soldering quality is a great challenge. Many parts are jointed in a soldering oven using solder paste, but there are some components where this does not work. These are soldered by hand – or with a robot. This method plays a central role in processes that require precise repetition without any variance, for example in automotive components. There are many of these processes in German production. And we already have experience in dealing with such requirements in projects all over the world, including for German companies – just not many in Germany itself yet, but in the Mexican or Chinese plants of German companies.
BE: What is the challenge to convince the German headquarters, as well?
YK: First of all, it’s about imparting know-how. Robot soldering or laser soldering, an area in which we are also very active, are simply not yet the standard in Germany. However, we hope that this will change in the future. That is our goal. In Japan, soldering with robots and lasers is already the gold standard.
BE: So communication should now help to also establish this standard in Germany? Usually, Japanese companies rely solely on quality – and on the belief that word about it will spread by itself.
YK: Yes, that is true, especially in the B2B environment. I actually believe that most companies do understand that communication is important. However, they often don’t know how to do it. I myself have set a focus on communication because we have a responsibility to further develop the brand. We have many partners in different countries – especially our distribution partners – but they are mainly a sales channel. It’s not their job to bring the company’s story to the market. That’s why we started to take care of communication in Germany and Europe. And if the local strategy works for us, we also want to roll it out globally. In the end, the goal is a consistent appearance with a tailor-made story.
BE: JAPAN UNIX has been working with Storymaker for almost a year now. We have jointly developed the company’s core story and are now moving into operational implementation. What has been your experience of working with us so far?
YK: I am very satisfied with the cooperation. Storymaker is highly professional and understands our requirements very well. As a Japanese company, this is very important to us. However, I think that we also have our part to play. We have to work out for ourselves what we want to achieve, and we need to have a good idea into what direction we want to take the business. Without these basic requirements, an agency cannot really achieve much. Companies in Japan often simply outsource everything to an agency – and think that the agency will work wonders. However, this strategy usually doesn’t bring outstanding results. Without direction, no ideas can emerge. We are currently working with this division of tasks, and it works very well.
BE: I am happy to hear that.
YK: I think an important factor is that Storymaker has developed its own method for identifying and working out the core story. I myself used to work for Ogilvy for many years – and there too, we worked with a method of our own. Many communication methods have similarities, so there are of course overlaps. However, having developed your own method always means that you have understood the way to success and have gained a lot of experience. Anyone who works only with the methods of oothers is still a student, not a master. Using other people’s methods will never let you become better than those who developed them in the first place.
BE: Why is the brand story becoming more and more important – also for Japanese companies?
YK: Many Japanese still believe that quality will prevail in the end, no matter what the story is. This has something to do with Japan’s success in the 70s and 80s, an era of mass production comprising relatively few mechanical products. Japan was at its peak during that time, and quality did indeed prevail. Many people want to return to this past. But today we have a global economy. Good products come from many countries. Even imitators get very good very quickly. Functionality and technical excellence are no longer enough, products are too interchangeable for that. Only with a strong brand that adds emotion to the company and the product can you reach your customers in the long term. This has simply become the global standard. More and more companies in Japan understand this, although they have been reveling in the good old days for a long time. But this change takes time.
BE: Thank you for this interview!