August 29, 2008
Yamaha Branding Background
What kind of Yamaha are you?
I was surfing some of my fave forums the other night and saw that there was lots of discussion over on Totallyamaha regarding the recent change of branding color in the USA (Their trade-marks and logos have been changed from blue/white to red/white). Needless to say, the opinions and background knowledge on-line were quite diversified. I thought I’d take a minute to add what I know.
Yamaha Japan has always maintained our corporate identity by applying the tuning fork logo and font with Red / White coloration. In fact we have a rather extensive book outlining the brand mark definitions, usage and placement with very little left open to interpretation. There have only been two occasions in my recollection where the brand colors have changed. Both times it was related to racing activities and both times it came out of the USA. Back in the ’70s ‘King’ Kenny led the charge riding yellow and black into the history books which consequently spilled over to motocross as American riders, led by ‘the Hurricane’ toppled the Europeans with a ‘made for show’, bastardized version their own game, Supercross. It became an identity thing between the Euro and Americans on the race track, then trickled into the showrooms as marketing pushed to have the race image adopted in production C and G.
We Canucks can be somewhat impressionable when it comes to US sports sizzle, and we were caught in the middle. We kept our corporate branding red and white but entertained the yellow black bikes for a period of time in our showrooms. In the end we went back to the global red and white. Obviously we never entertained painting up our sleds like a ‘mustard tub’ (someone else already had that honor) but I’m willing to bet someone proposed it…
Fast forward to the late nineties, Yamaha US decided it was time to distinguish its race team from the Euros once again, this time going for a deep blue color with a modern graphic. In keeping with the ‘black checker’ DNA from the Roberts era the white ‘strobe’ was born. Much of this happened based on Suzuki motorcycles being yellow and Honda red. Yamaha of Troy MX racing started the ‘blues’ in 95 then production units started arriving with blue tanks on some models then all blue on all models in 96. The road racing bikes began picking up on the theme and the advent of the R1 drove the image home with a sparkling blue overcoat.
It’s interesting to note, the actual racing color is a dark ‘purplish blue’ in non-metallic and has not been used in production. As a matter of fact there is a group of racing ‘C and G police’ controlling who and how the racing blue with strobes can be utilized. These guys shut us down in 97 when we were in final development of the SRX as we wanted to use the dark blue of the race teams on our performance sleds. The result was a new bright blue which we have all come to accept as ‘Yamaha blue’ with a version of the strobes conveying the race image. The only exception was found in our early snowcross efforts back in 97 / 98 with Chris Vincent and the rest of the supported racers running the official dark purple blue on the SX racers.
Back to the corporate logos. As the racing blue image became more popular, Yamaha US president (retired) Jim Gentz approved a move to change the YMUS corporate identity from red to blue. I have a hunch this was done ‘under the radar’ as the reaction from the mother ship was mixed. We were a little confused ourselves by this move especially considering the marine and generator (OPE) divisions were using a blue and Yamaha Music, an indigo logo. Regardless, the change went forward and at a significant cost considering all the signage and print materials in the US had to be changed. It was also during this period where the tuning fork was resurrected. This is another story in itself but there was a time when we didn’t use the fork for anything (officially) aside from official corporate publications.
Well here we are about ten years later and the powers that be have decided all distributors of Yamaha products will employ a clear visual identity with regards to corporate brand and trademark use. Makes sense to me. The red and white is being tweaked around the world to adhere to an updated identity policy and in the case of YMUS the blue is gone.
But here’s the important part. This has absolutely no bearing or influence on our model color choice or racing image plans. We are still true blue on the track and trail and I have seen no evidence of any change down the road. That snazzy blue paint job on your new trailer still lives. The drawer full of blue T’s and skivvies is all good and in at least one case I know of, the blue ‘tramp-stamp’ tuning fork proudly inked on someones lower back is looking better than ever 😉