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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.

2008_3dvi-rgb-red-cs3_worldwide_1.jpgYamaha 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 😉

cheers cr

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Posted @ 11:05 am in Opinions and Insights   

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8 Responses to “Yamaha Branding Background”

  1. Northener says:

    Thanks for clearing this up for us!

    That’s what I love the most about this blog. You have “been around” the corporation for so long, so you definately know it inside and out. It makes for some great reading! Please keep it up! I know you are busy with other stuff, but I wouldn’t want to loose this blog…

    Thanks Northener, its words like yours that keeps me typin’! cheers cr

  2. Dustin says:

    I always was curious about the history of the tuning fork logo. Nice work Chris. I hear the snow coming already.

  3. Yellowknife says:

    Hey Chris…

    Dustin off the sleds here to get them ready…but before I do the oil change, last season we briefly hit on the discussion of synthetic vs. semi vs. non – and my riding in -40

    You left it at “there are advantages to full sythetic but I’ll need to write a topic on that”

    If you can give us a speal on why Yamalube is semi-synth, and the differences, etc…that would be awesome.


    Hey YK, lots to talk about on the oil platform. We have been working on several new products one of which is a very high quality full synth 0-40 snowmobile oil which would be the way to go at your temps… will post a write up for you asap..

  4. Stephen Burdick says:


    I was very interested to read the info on the re-introduction of the tuning fork logo. Being a guy with some vintage roots, I truely enjoyed the rebirth of this logo on the sleds back in 2002 (I think-maybe on the SXVipers????). I could be wrong on that one, might have to go uncover the Viper to remind myself if it is on the hood or not……

    Thanks for the cool history lesson. I used to bleed blue….. until the 2008 Anniversary colors, now I bleed red, white, and blue…….. and my wife bleedsmaple syrup (she’s canadian).


  5. Terry Churchill says:

    Chris thanks for the trip down memory lane! As mostly a “bike guy” when younger I road many “tuning fork colors” yellow/black (YZ125), blue (YZ400), even Purple (RD350)just try and keep the front wheel on the ground!. Any way as a sled guy in my later years now (46),I’ve enjoyed my 03 Blue Yamaha RX-1, and now getting ready to board (your last years parts& accesories managers) 08 Blue Yamaha LTX-GT sled for this winter. Keep up the great work Chris just love the blog! Let me know if the P&A manager treated this buggy right for the 995kms he put on it 🙂 , as well can you point me to any article on the 08 Apex and any things to aware about with the temp/ new rad addition. thx Terry

    The sled in question was run by a little old lady on Sundays, it’s barely broken in. The Apex LTX is pretty much dialed, just make sure you have fresh oil and filter, check the coolant level and enjoy. The addition of some Qualipieces or Duallie carbides after you bake the stockers is the single best improvement (IMHO) you can make… cheers cr

  6. Bakemono says:

    Thanks for the little history lesson. I always kind of wondered why Yamaha used blue in the states and red elsewhere, now I know.
    Id personally like to see Yamaha ditch the blue and go to red and white being their race colors, but you know the folks over at Honda and Polaris would get their undies all in a bundle if that happened.

  7. Phil Molto says:

    Thanks for clarifying the colour issue/debate. Being a vintage fan, I appreciate the simplicity of the colours and logos of the 70’s. Yamaha was red/black/white, Ski-Doo was Yellow, Cat was green/black/purple and Polaris was red/white/blue. Life and brand loyalty were straight forward. Heck, even Boa-Ski had a colour scheme.

    I had two of the old GPX/SRX jackets with the arm and shoulder patches but passed them on to a couple Yamaha buddies.

    So, my question is, “Where did the gold and black colour scheme come from for the 1979/80 SRX?”

    Phil Molto

    The black gold was simply a cool color combo at the time. Our design agency generally produces a color trend summary along with sketch suggestions for input. The powers that be decided it was time to go black. And thinking about it, aside from a couple of Phazers, we never went back to white / red until last years 4oth specials

  8. Larry D Lagergren says:

    When we talk about “What Type Of Yamaha Are You” and color changes yamaha has made over the years. I remember All White in 1968 and Red, White & Black in 1969 through to 1977. Yamaha had Maroon in 1979 and Blue & Silver in 1980. The Black, Red & White ran trough most of the 80’s with the Gold in 1986. That beautiful Blue started in 1996 and with the addition of the Red & White has run all the way till today. The Tunning Fork will Allways be there even though the colors of the sleds may change. Those that proudly display their Tunning Fork carry or wear it with Pride. Like the Marlboro Man says “I’D RATHER FIGHT THAN SWITCH”…..Just promise me No Yellow or Green on my YAMAHA’s please!

    Thata’a boy Bounty!! 😉 cr

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