Rebranding nostalgic branded characters to fit an updated brand identity

Yanmar, known for its iconic characters Yanboh and Marboh among the Showa generation, embarked on a redesign to align with its modern, high-tech global presence. In collaboration with btrax, Yanmar’s design team and Director and Brand Manager, Akihiro Nagaya, along with external creative minds, reimagined these characters to reflect contemporary values. Embracing “inclusive branding,” the process involved employees, partners, and the public, culminating in a vote for the new design. This approach fostered a collective ownership, resonating across generations. The revitalized characters, celebrated in media like Japanese TV and Yahoo News, significantly boosted Yanmar’s brand visibility, demonstrating the power of community-engaged branding.


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Project Planning, Proposal, & Execution Creative direction and production Promotional Strategy Planning & Execution



Creative Planning

Overall concept design
The new designs needed to express the new corporate image that Yanmar is aiming for, while taking into account the existing profile and personality of the Yanboh and Marboh characters. So, the concept of the new character designs were refined with the help of Creative Director Kota Hikichi, and the ideas that would form the basis of the designs were clarified.


Conceptual Design and Rough Design Direction for Yanboh and Marboh

We actively generated ideas with members of Yanmar's design department, an outside creative director, and artist YKBX, who was in charge of the character design. We had a full workshop-style discussion in a co-creative manner on how Yanboh and Marboh would be renewed, how they would play an active role in the animation story, and more detailed concept design, etc


Development of Rough Sketches, Design Refinement and Creation

Rough designs were created based on the ideas that came out of the workshop, and numerous designs were considered through repeated discussions and updates from the group. In the end, we narrowed down the design direction to three ideas (A, B, and C) and finalized the designs.


Yanmar decided to hold a public vote from November 16 to December 7, 2023, to let not only employees, but also fans who have been supporting the Yanboh Marboh characters over the years to be a part of deciding on the new designs. After the voting period, 76,568 votes were collected. As a result, Design B, which received 49,628 votes, was selected.


Unveiling of the new character / Video promotion

The new characters that were selected were only in a basic frontal pose at this point. In order to showcase the new characters with movement, we created a video directed by artist YKBX, and produced music to go along with the video. The music was produced by artist cubesato under the direction of Mr. Nagaya, CBO of Yanmar, and the result was an exciting atmosphere that evokes the arrival of a new era. We promoted the finished video on various social networking sites, including YouTube, and the video trended at No. 1 on X immediately after its release. Additionally, the video received nearly 2,000 comments on Yahoo! News, and was featured in the Nikkei, Yomiuri, Mainichi, and Sankei newspapers, as well as on TV Asahi's "Good! Morning" show, and Nippon Television's "Monday Night News" show. In the future, the Yanboh and Marboh characters will be used as merchandise and at the Yanmar Museum.

Photos from Yanmar Tokyo


Brand Character Renewal Project

Brand Direction; Design Office, Branding Division, Yanmar Holdings Co., Ltd.

Project Producer: Brandon K Hill (btrax)

Project Lead: Mitchy Kaneko (btrax)

Creative Direction / Art Direction (Release KV) : Kouta Hikichi

Visual Direction / Character Design / Art Direction / Director (Release PV): YKBX

Sound Design (Release PV) : cubesato

Planner / Designer: Mari Kimata (btrax)

Manager: Yuji Ozawa (btrax)

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