Towel Sommeliers Serve Customers’ Taste : : Branding of Imabari Towel Japan (Part 6)

Apart from launching a sole outlet in Minami Aoyama, the Shikoku Towel Industrial Cooperative Association (STICA) still actively participated oversea trade shows. In 2014, they first joint the London 100%-design trade show.

Also, the booth designer was Mr. Kashiwa Sato again this time. His idea was referenced to must-have procedure of washing hands in front of temples in Japan. There were basins in the temple-inspired booth, so that experiencing softness and comfort of Imabari towel is naturally combined. He also insisted customers should feel their towels to acknowledge their quality.

Concept of washing hand basin of temples in Japan, Imabari Towel Japan in London 100% Design | from drezier’s blog [Towel Sommeliers Serve Customers’ Taste : : Branding of Imabari Towel, Japan (Part 6)] dated 2017/6/3

Imabari Towel Japan in London 100% Design ^ Copyright ©

Everybody uses towels, but not everybody actually selects the suitable towel. Use of a towel is a personal experience and cannot be quantified. To build an image of towel experts, manufacturers concentrate in technical research and development while “Towel Sommelier” is set up systematically trained as their ambassadors out there in retailing environment or building public relation. A Towel Sommelier is a qualified advisor who can supervise customers to select towel products that satisfy specific needs. Of course, know-how is a must for them but the skill of consulting needs is also essential.

Kashiwa Sato’s Strategy of Branding ::
Strategic Image Control #2 = ( Imabari Towel + Brand Values ) X Towel Sommelier

To qualify as a Towel Sommelier, you have to qualify in examination which will be taken place once in a while. Up to now, 11 examinations have been held and more 2500 Towel Sommeliers are qualified.

The Purpose of the Towel Sommelier Examination : :
The qualifying exam to become a towel sommelier tests the applicants’ familiarity with and knowledge of everything related to towels, including history, culture, production process, products, brands, and advice to customers. By studying for the exam, specialists can be groomed to nurture a greater appreciation of towel products and educate the public so they can demand higher standards of quality.

Besides, STICA wants to acknowledge technicians with recognised skill and know-how internally. They start a “Towel My Star” recognition scheme lately, and only 5 people have ever been rated with this scheme.

[Data 6] Number of authorised “Imabari Towel Japan” brand label used by years (source: Shikoku Towel Industrial Cooperative Association)
Year Number of Labels (million) Increment Accumulative Increment
2007 118
2008 247 209% 209%
2009 739 299% 626%
2010 1,547 209% 1,311%
2011 1,913 123% 1,621%
2012 3,599 188% 3,050%
2013 5,439 151% 4,609%
2014 6,350 116% 53,81%
2015 7,647 120% 6,480%

To conclude, in a 2014 study of brand familiarity, 76.9% of interviewees knew Imabari Towel was produced in Imabari-shi of Shikoku, when compared to below 37% before 2004. They issued 7,647 million branded labels in 2015; whilst only 118 million in 2007. As of most considered result, the sale in 2013 was 650 million JPY which has increased by 10-fold from 60 million JPY in 2006. After all, an quite unexpected effect of increasing number of new staff are willing to join this industry; in turn, a positive feedback is gaining for a further development of the dying-earlier Industrial.

(End of Series :: This study of “Branding Story” series ends here, but the story of Imabari towel would never end.)

Index ::


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