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How Sakura of America fuels consumer-led innovation

How Sakura of America fuels consumer-led innovation

For 100 years, Sakura has been guided by the belief that everyone is capable of creativity. To help them tap into it, the company is committed to producing safe, reliable, archival-quality writing instruments and art materials, including Gelly Roll, the original gel pen.

Much of Sakura’s research and development takes place in Japan, where the company was founded. But Japanese consumer preferences can differ significantly from those in other parts of the world—including those served by Sakura’s North American affiliate.

Casey Roberts is working to bridge that gap. The senior marketing manager of innovation and consumer insights at Sakura of America, Roberts is helping the company put consumers at the heart of its North American product development. With aggressive targets for growth, she wants to ensure that Sakura of America is focusing its efforts on things that will have traction with the rapidly evolving market. 

Roberts had used SurveyMonkey in the past, so its market research solutions were a natural choice to move Sakura toward consumer-led innovation. The company had previously seen significant success by focusing on R&D, so Roberts knew she needed some quick wins to convince people throughout the organization that an investment in consumer insights would pay off.  

She began with concept testing—testing ideas with customer segments to uncover valuable insights into product positioning, market size, and more. SurveyMonkey allowed her to gather feedback directly from target customers very quickly.

Roberts then expanded her team’s use of SurveyMonkey to get a deeper understanding of Sakura’s customer base. Sakura built its brand around artists, but as it looked to move into a more mainstream market, including big box retail, it needed to broaden its market knowledge. Many consumers, Sakura discovered, view pens strictly as writing tools and aren't necessarily pursuing artistic endeavors. This insight helped Sakura finetune its consumer-oriented approach and be more strategic about how it expanded its market reach.

SurveyMonkey also enabled Roberts’s team to test price points for new products and not only adjust pricing, but also shape R&D initiatives. In one instance, insights into consumers’ willingness to pay even helped inform product development for UV glowing gel ink. 

“SurveyMonkey allows us to take the emotion out of a decision. Instead of just saying, ‘We don't think it would work in our market,’ we can now say ‘Here's why this would not work in our market, and here's the data behind it.’”

Casey Roberts, senior marketing manager of innovation and consumer insights, Sakura of America

SurveyMonkey gives Roberts the objective data needed to drive decisions within Sakura of America, as well as the larger organization as a whole. In one case, it gave her the unbiased information she needed to back up her gut feeling that a $100 pen would be viewed as too expensive by US consumers. Objective data has also enabled Sakura of America to set and measure performance targets more effectively. 

“No matter what stage your company is in, there is value that this platform can add,” Roberts said. “If you care about the consumer as your North Star, SurveyMonkey will only yield positive things. It has allowed me to get insights and data that we didn't have access to before. It’s allowing me to craft stories and communication and get people in this fragmented company all over the world on board and marching to the same drumbeat. That is invaluable.”