Maruhon Sesame Oil: Creating a Japanese Brand for American Customers

How a Japanese Sesame Oil brand entered the U.S. market with market research, packaging design, promotions and strategic website design and development.

One of the most significant steps a company can take is entering into a foreign market. If it’s going to be successful, it requires research and a clear strategy. It also requires a partner in the target country to help make it happen. When Maruhon Sesame Oil decided to begin exporting to the U.S. in 2018, they found such a partner in Knowledge Corporation Index, a marketing company who assists Japanese clients in entering the U.S. market, and Bauerhaus Design.

Maruhon Sesame Oil is owned by Takemoto Oil & Fat Co., Ltd., headquartered in Aichi, Japan. The company was established nearly 300 years ago in 1725. Their sesame oil products have enjoyed popularity in Japan for use in Michelin Star restaurants as well as home kitchens. In preparing to launch their products in the United States they needed to consider new labels, a website, and a marketing strategy for English speaking customers. It was essential to find an experienced design and marketing firm to ease them into the marketplace.

An International Search for a Branding and Marketing Team

Maruhon Sesame Oil enlisted the service of Knowledge Corporation Index, a marketing company who assists Japanese clients in entering the U.S. market. Bauerhaus Design first worked with Knowledge Corporation for another one of their clients, Shirataki Sake. Based on their established rapport with the sake brand, Bauerhaus was the obvious choice when choosing someone to work with Maruhon Sesame Oil.

Research and Planning for Entering a New Market

Bauerhaus Design begins all client engagements with an in-depth questionnaire. Armed with a thorough understanding of Maruhon’s goals, Bauerhaus then crafted a market research survey. It was distributed to food bloggers as well as a random audience of consumers. The results produced valuable information on how to proceed with a marketing strategy for the brand.

Bauerhaus owner Rebecca Ritz can’t stress enough the importance of market research for brands entering the U.S. Entering a new market can present challenges of language and cultural differences. It is essential for all brands to identify their demographics, choose how to communicate with their customers, identify opportunities, and minimize risks. Bauerhaus invests ample time to ensure their clients start their marketing journey on the right path.

Packaging for the U.S. Market

Since this was the first time that Maruhon Sesame Oil was entering an English-speaking market, all of their packaging was in Japanese. They needed all new packaging for their four varieties of oil in two different sizes. Rebecca’s experience in creating labels for the wine, spirits, and food industry were instrumental in the project. The only thing that carried over to the new design was the shape of the bottles. Bauerhaus also worked with Maruhon on translating the descriptions into English.

Creating a New Website

Next on the agenda was a new responsive website. As with any website Bauerhaus builds, the primary goal was to create a website with a clear customer path and a compelling call to action. On this site, Bauerhaus proposed a free recipe giveaway that is automatically sent with an email autoresponder. This responsive website was developed and designed to introduce this well-established sesame oil brand to the American home cook. It features “Sesame 101,” and describes each of the four sesame oils in detail. Each month Bauerhaus also adds new content, like news articles and recipes to the website. Click here to view the Maruhon website.

Promotional Designs

Maruhon Sesame Oil participated in various promotions to launch their brand in New York. They partnered with the influencer marketing platform Ripple Street, which introduces new brands to consumers. Bauerhaus designed materials to introduce and promote the four types of oil.

The company also forged a relationship with the Culinary Institute of America in New York. Bauerhaus provided the poster design as well as flyers for a “Win a Trip to Japan” contest for the Institute’s aspiring chefs.

Ads were also created for the New York gourmet grocery chain, DeCicco & Sons, where Maruhon’s products are sold. Plus, Bauerhaus designed the “Maruhon Times,” a free, printed sesame oil recipe guide that was distributed at DeCicco & Sons.

Crafting a Marketing Strategy and Social Media

Bauerhaus Design formulated a social media campaign plan that would resonate with their new American client base. Using Pinterest and Facebook, they initiated a dialogue with current and potential customers. Monthly content creation, report of the results, plus consultations to review and tweak the marketing strategy are part of the services provided in this engagement.

Off to a Successful Start

It is important for any overseas company to find a seasoned marketing professional located within the market they are trying to enter. When Maruhon Sesame Oil hired Bauerhaus Design for their product’s United States debut, they got more than just someone who speaks English. They were also able to tap into the awareness of American culture, design styles, and the latest food trends that only a native can possess.

The main objective for a foreign brand is to work with someone they can trust to create a brand identity that will appeal to the U.S./English-speaking market. When a designer has done the necessary research and planning – as Bauerhaus has – a client like Maruhon can be confident that they are moving in the right direction.

The brand has launched and debuted its new packaging in New York stores, plus at a Japan Export trades show. It has received many compliments from English speaking fans that want to import their product into Europe. Maruhon is confident that their well-thought-out marketing plan will bring the desired results.