The goal of this project was to re-brand an existing business in order to solve problems caused by poor visual communication. For this project, I focused on Audio-technica, a Japanese audio equipment manufacturer that sells products such as headphones, microphones, turntables, and other accessories. What surprised me about this brand was that their online presence is inconsistent and their brand-aesthetic was not reflective of their fairly high level of international notoriety.
To begin the re-branding process, I started by interviewing the Marketing Director of Audio-technica USA. Through speaking with him, I found that Audio-technica’s goals were to market a wide variety of products to a large customer-base, communicate the company’s high-end audio quality, and to represent the company’s Japanese roots. I was also provided with the following brand attributes: Authentic, Organic, Clarity, Immersive, and Heritage. To narrow the scope of the project, I decided to focus on their “Consumer” target audience. With a target demographic of hobbyists, content creators, and musicians ages 18–34, I would need to push messaging towards promoting Audio-technica’s superior clarity and the importance of the products’ natural audio quality.
Audio-technica’s Marketing Director explained that they had conducted focus groups to test how their products were perceived by potential customers. During the focus groups, users stated that the current packaging made them initially skeptical, because it made the products appear as if they were cheap knockoffs. To gain additional insight, the same users were shown a collection of images to determine how “high-end audio quality” could be communicated visually. A large percentage of the users selected imagery of the mesh patterns and cutouts taken from microphone grilles and speaker grilles, respectively. Next, I researched the Japanese culture and found recurring images of circular design elements, pastel color palettes, sunrise gradients, as well as Japanese flowers with distinguishable, geometric patterns that bared a striking resemblance to the patterns of microphone and speaker grilles. I then began tracing these patterns to reproduce a hybrid of the two concepts, and created a set of geometric, radial patterns to be incorporated within the brand’s visual language.
The first issue, Audio-technica’s Marketing Director explained to me, was the brand’s continual struggle with targeting specific audiences through a consistent brand voice. Since their current catalog contains 1,500 products and counting, their messaging has become increasingly disorganized and unfocused. In order to solve Audio-technica’s glaring organizational issues and lack of a focused brand-voice, I developed the 2018 Audio-technica Consumer Catalog, with the goal of sticking to a consistent categorization system based on four primary product-pillars: Headphones, Microphones, Turntables, and Accessories. The catalog features a rhythmic product layout, high-resolution photography that emphasizes details of certain flagship products, as well as radial patterns, sunrise gradients, and circular design elements that carry a subtle Japanese aesthetic while still allowing for expansion into other international markets. The piece was designed at 12” x 12” with a branded, die-cut slipcover to mimic a vinyl record and to give a subtle nod to the company’s early days as a turntable manufacturer. A strategic brand-voice was also developed, focused on converting new customers to the authentic listening-experience of Audio-technica’s products. I developed strategic copywriting such as “Sometimes the smallest details can make all the difference” and “You’ve never experienced anything quite like it”, placing emphasis on specific keywords aimed at convincing new customers that they are missing out on a truly unique experience.
The second issue I found, was that the photography used in Audio-technica’s current marketing materials were not expressive of the Authentic, Organic, or Immersive brand attributes they were trying to communicate. In order to solve this, I developed a new aesthetic for the brand’s lifestyle photography, to express the authentic listening-experience one would have when interacting with these products. The updated photography incorporates over-saturated background-environments. The users, immersed in the product experience, appear in stark contrast; presented in natural and organic tones.
The last issue I found, was that with over 10 variants of their website design for different regions around the world, Audio-technica’s current online presence is extremely incohesive. For the customers, this causes a disruption in brand recognition. In addition, the USA Website is dated, contains a series of redundant links, and lacks intuitive e-commerce functionality. To solve this, I redeveloped the Audio-technica website around the goals of a consumer target-audience by implementing simplified e-commerce functionality, maintaining organizational cohesiveness, showcasing certain flagship items, and incorporating an upsell feature at checkout. For Audio-technica’s social media accounts, I also developed a collection of content to match the aesthetic of the brand as well as incorporate it’s targeted messaging and photography.
Product and Lifestyle Photography provided by Audio-Technica, Inc.