Why Expensive Goods Look Expensive

Why do expensive goods look expensive, and vice versa in most cases? Or are we just hypnotized into believing so by high price tags or brand names? As writing here sometimes, I’m not interested in buying and owning material things, but in investing, strangely enough. My main battlefield is the stock market, but once I researched “watch investment” to learn and be surprised at the price of super expensive watches, such as Patek Philippe, Richard Mille, etc. Some of them are priced more than several million dollars. Of course, I immediately understood I was out of place, though. Today, I didn’t mean to raise the question whether the price of such super luxury things is appropriate or not. My interest developed at that time was discovering the factors that make things look the part.

Even before making the research on watch investment, I had a decent knowledge about some famous watch brands, such as Rolex, Omega, etc., but, to be honest, I can’t tell the difference from their appearance between luxury and ordinary watches. If their brand names are not printed on the watch face, I’m sure they all will look the same to me. This may not be only due to my ignorance or lack of interest. For example, I’ve been playing the guitar for about 25 years, but can’t tell the price difference of guitars above a certain level. Even to me, however, the super expensive watches looked different, really expensive. I suppose it’s because I was able to see the watches obviously require a lot of time and effort to produce. As you can see in the above image, it’s like a very example of high-precision processed products.

Although writing ignorance or indifference should not be blamed, I have to admit a certain level of knowledge may be sometimes required. In summary, the reason why expensive goods look expensive is they have an appearance to obviously make people guess a lot of time and effort are required for production. According to this theory, the pricing of low-tech products like luxury wooden furniture is less likely to be understood, and so, I guess I have to continuously explain the factors affecting the price-quality relationship of products, such as joints without screws and gaps, the frame structure consisting only of curved lines (which makes it impossible to have a reference point for positioning workpieces), etc.

Shungo Ijima

He is travelling around the world. His passion is to explain Japan to the world, from the unique viewpoint accumulated through his career: overseas posting, MBA holder, former official of the Ministry of Finance.

Photo Credit: https://www.watchtime.com/blog/million-dollar-watches/3/

Manifesto of Eco-friendliness

Did you know that many brands changed their logos lately? Such as BMW, VW, and Nissan in the automotive industry, for example. It is the mainstream to make it simpler. Speaking of simplification, the most famous example would be Starbucks. When the brand was launched, the scales of the mermaid were depicted one by one. Now, the scales were abstracted into wavy lines, and even the brand name was removed. One of the reasons for the simplification trend is said to be a reaction against the old days when companies tried to dress them up with ornate and decorative logos. Now, the simpler the better?

Another reason for the simplification trend, which is considered as the biggest one, is good visibility in digital devices. This sounds also reasonable because most people access information mainly from their digital devices, but doesn’t always work. The famous failure case is the logo change of Tropicana. By simplifying the original logotype in a tropical style and also the original symbol mark (the orange with the straw), their advantage (the brand image of freshness, 100%, etc.) was lost. The sales dropped by 20%, and Tropicana decided to return to its original logo only in one month. The point seems to be if a logo change has a focused intention or not.

Now, some of you who know our logo change made recently may be a bit worried about us, assuming we’ve just followed the trend. Of course, it’s the market that will finally judge if it is accepted or not, but there is a focused intention in our logo change, at least. The old one (each serif-font letter in a red box) was developed when we decided to expand our business into the US market. The red color comes from the Japanese national flag. It was a kind of manifesto: “From Japan into the world market” Even now, it’s still one of our important goals to become an international brand, but nowadays, another one emerges as more important: eco-friendliness. It is a natural consequence for us, a wooden furniture manufacturer, using a gift from the forest. The new company color (deep green) expresses the forest around the company in Hokkaido, and the symbol mark is an oak tree composed of C and H, the initial letters of Conde House, we hoping you will like it!

Shungo Ijima

He is travelling around the world. His passion is to explain Japan to the world, from the unique viewpoint accumulated through his career: overseas posting, MBA holder, former official of the Ministry of Finance.

Photo Credit: https://www.condehouse.co.jp/?lng=ja_en

No Reason to like It

Do you think you always have a rational reason or clear preference when choosing your actions? I’m in charge of sales, and so, always expected to explain the reasons why we recommend our furniture, and to convince people with the benefits our furniture can bring to them, such as comfortability, design, etc. This blog is a prime example. I struggle night and day (a little exaggerating though) with creating new content, and with how to lead all the stories to the conclusion of our brand promotion. Asking to myself again and again “Why our brand?” in order to squeeze out subjects, I’ve finally arrived at this ultimate question: Do we need reasons or preferences to decide our actions in the first place?

This time, a genius who helped me is Petter Johansson, an experimental psychologist. In his TED speech, he said none of us understand the real reasons for our actions, giving an interesting experiment result. First, he shows two face photos to test-subjects, and secondly asks each of them to choose one of the photos and to explain why the chosen one looks more attractive. When making an explanation, the subjects in their hands had the other photo they didn’t choose, by Petter’s good card handling directed by a magician. Surprisingly enough, more than 80% of the subjects didn’t notice the photo switch, and spouted how attractive the face photo they didn’t choose was.

Another experiment he had done also confirmed the same reactions even in more complex questions such as ethics, politics, etc. Petter concludes all the reasons for our actions are made in hindsight, going further that reasons for actions are just created when asked. The closing words of his speech are: Know that you don’t know yourself, but the genius is not negative at all about the human characteristics shown in the experiment result, saying it can be positively interpreted we are flexible. In my stretched interpretation, we don’t have to care so much about the reasons for our actions, and so, you might as well add our brand to your favorite by the only reason that you’ve read this to the end.

Shungo Ijima

He is travelling around the world. His passion is to explain Japan to the world, from the unique viewpoint accumulated through his career: overseas posting, MBA holder, former official of the Ministry of Finance.

Photo Credit: https://www.goalcast.com/2017/05/05/know-thyself-why-self-awareness-is-the-starting-point-for-your-goals/

Because We Are Emotional Creatures

What do you think is the difference between success and failure of business? What do you say if asked to analyze a case of a restaurant doing great in the place where many other restaurants closed down successively in the past? I would imagine some improvements in pricing, targeting, etc., and check the hard data of the area, such as the number and type of household population, traffic volume by time of day, etc., but Rory Sutherland disagrees, in his book: Alchemy, with such a judgment made through logical thinking and observations. In the example described in the book, he proclaims it is nice tables and chairs in front of the restaurant that lead the restaurant to success.

Such nice tables and chairs (like our products) are too good to leave outside, and are put back every time after closing, which well works as a sign to indicate the opening of the restaurant. In addition, the author continued people would naturally assume the restaurant must offer good food and service because it pays attention even to furniture outside. That would make the believers of logical thinking like me say “No way! It just sounds like guesswork!” Replying to such criticism, he proclaims it is small psychological factors that make a big difference between success and failure because we are more likely to make moderate decisions instinctively and subconsciously.

According to the author, logical solutions through data-analyzing, streamlining, optimizing, etc. are not always invincible, and we should focus more on psychological factors for problem solving. As writing above, I’m a kind of believer of logical thinking, but I like his idea, because I know we very often behave irrationally and illogically, which, I believe, makes us human. Just to be clear, it’s not only because I can bring this article to a close with the recommendation of our furniture 😊

Shungo Ijima

He is travelling around the world. His passion is to explain Japan to the world, from the unique viewpoint accumulated through his career: overseas posting, MBA holder, former official of the Ministry of Finance.

Photo Credit: https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesagencycouncil/2019/11/04/emotion-the-super-weapon-of-marketing-and-advertising/?sh=4ff76b964df0

Why Mirrors Reverse Left and Right

This question is too difficult to solve in this article. It still remains a mystery unsolved for more than 2000 years. Maybe, some secrets like this one should stay secret to keep the world fun.

If I remember correctly, in the film “Dead Poets Society,” the students of the boarding school tried to eat with their non-dominant hands, saying like “It’s for being out of the box.” I, at an easily influenced age, soon imitated it. Using chop sticks with a left hand (I’m right-handed) was difficult, but there was another thing that I found much more difficult. It’s brushing teeth. Of course, the same as other acts such as eating, writing, etc., we can’t do fine and delicate movement with a non-dominant hand. Making matters worse is a mirror. Why don’t you give it a try? I’m sure you’ll be also confused in the direction, angle, and everything of brushing. When struggling with a toothbrush in my left hand, I noticed a man in the mirror held the toothbrush in his right hand.

It is a distinct memory of the moment when I noticed my image was flipped in the mirror. Although you may think I’m just dull, a psychological article said more than 30% of people didn’t perceive that their own images were also reversed like mirror letters. What makes the difference between people who are sensitive and insensitive like me is whether or not they can have a viewpoint from inside the mirror. By the way, the perception of mirror letters is a kind of human function automatically activated without viewpoint movement, according to the psychological article.

Before the COVID, we participated in many furniture exhibitions. Especially in big ones, production people from participating makers inspect new products of other makers. I like to see their reactions to our products because I can learn about our products with a different viewpoint. Their remarks are always more about structure, technique, etc., and are a big help to see our products from the viewpoint of production, even to me who is insensitive and took time to have a viewpoint from inside the mirror. For your information, a comment frequently heard on our products is “How is it possible to sell this only for XXX?” Our products seem a good bargain from a production professional’s eye as well.

Shungo Ijima

He is travelling around the world. His passion is to explain Japan to the world, from the unique viewpoint accumulated through his career: overseas posting, MBA holder, former official of the Ministry of Finance.

Photo Credit: https://www.sciencefocus.com/science/why-do-mirrors-reverse-left-and-right-not-up-and-down/

Time for Real Work

The bill of public spending of more than 1,900 billion dollars was passed in the US Lower House. Accordingly, the US economy (the Dow-Jones average, at least) is coming back like crazy, even though many people have not yet been back to business as usual. In Japan, it has been reported that many people at remote work are complaining “So bored to death,” even though they were complaining about non-decreasing overtime before the COVID. Most of us simply believe our work contributes to society or someone else, and that that’s the reason why money is paid, but I come to doubt it after seeing the above facts. We may have just wasted time for things no one wants, and actually may no longer even work for money.

Some of you may say “You talk nonsense! Who will provide for me and my family then?” I know things have not yet been perfect, but do you remember why we, human beings, have continued to make strenuous efforts for technological advancement so far? It must have been originally and mainly for skipping hard work. Now, as the above news indicates, the world seems to keep moving around without our work thanks to the surplus value made by high-performance machines, robots, etc. We may be going to be free from work only for money in the near future.

Conde House table factory

Even in such an ideal future, I believe we will keep on working, though we may not call it work if the definition of work is doing something for money. According to Donald Super, a psychologist famous for his Career Development Theory, work values can be evaluated in 15 scales, and Economic Return is only one of them. The scales where the work of our company would score high are Creativity (work which permits one to invent new things, design new products, or develop new ideas) and Aesthetic (work which permits one to make beautiful things and to contribute beauty to the world). In the future, many applicants might be rushing to us hopefully, though most of the small-and-medium sized companies like us are now suffering from a shortage of manpower.

Shungo Ijima

He is travelling around the world. His passion is to explain Japan to the world, from the unique viewpoint accumulated through his career: overseas posting, MBA holder, former official of the Ministry of Finance.

Photo Credit: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/jan/11/robots-jobs-employees-artificial-intelligence

The Shoulders of Giants

Hokkaido, this northernmost island of Japan, is getting deserted. In rural areas (Hokkaido itself can be said a rural area in Japan, though), you can see abandoned and collapsing houses everywhere. Houses with a roof and walls deformed by the weight of snow, like ones in Tim Burton’s movies; rusty bicycles, snow shovels, etc. a part of which are seen in the grass around the house. They are returning to the earth. Generally, such sceneries may just look sad, but (as writing before) I personally like to see them because they remind me of the fact that we are also a part of nature. At the same time, I’ve been interested in the differences that separate things passed down to the next generation from the others.

I once attributed the differences to the features or characteristics of things, but the words of a museum curator that I found in an article gave me a good awareness. He said “There’s no high and low in things. In order to study a specific period of history, important are things made and used at that time. Once we lose things, we can never take them back, and will even forget the fact that they existed. It’s too big a responsibility for one generation to decide which thing should stand the test of time. I want to keep as many things as possible to the next generation.”

Splinter series by nendo and Conde House

I think many people believe whether things are saved or not is the result of the test of time, and that things worth saving are saved anyway, but it seems most of them are just arbitrarily selected and happen to be preserved by some enthusiasts. As the curator said, things brought in the museum are only a part of many things equally valuable. Once, there were many wooden furniture manufacturers everywhere in Hokkaido, the area of rich forests, but more than half of them are gone now. I come to think our struggles to survive in the market have more meaning than business continuity, remembering we are just dwarfs standing on the shoulders of giants.

Shungo Ijima

He is travelling around the world. His passion is to explain Japan to the world, from the unique viewpoint accumulated through his career: overseas posting, MBA holder, former official of the Ministry of Finance.

Photo Credit: https://places.branipick.com/abandoned-house-in-hokkaido/

Better than Chanel No.5

One day at a restaurant with my wife, I was finishing off lunch with crème brulee, a kind of custard pudding. Soon after taking a bite, sweet and sour taste spread in my mouth. Nodding knowingly, I said “Lemon is doing its magic.” My wife, saying “What! There’s no way that lemon is used in crème brulee,” twitched and smelled it, and her judge was “Are you OK? It’s just gone bad.” I don’t mean to make an excuse, but our smelling sense has been most degrading among human five senses. Once human beings had more than 800 olfactory receptors, but now, the number is only less than 400. In exchange for that, we’ve got eyesight much better than other animals, though.

About 200 million years ago, in order to avoid dinosaurs, mammals are thought to be active at night, and accordingly, a sense of smell was most important for them to move in the dark. After the extinction of dinosaurs, mammals advanced into the world in the sunlight, and especially human beings had evolved its visual sense. It is said that we obtain 80% of information input from vision. Inversely with the improvement of visual sense, our smelling sense has been degrading but is still necessary and special. It acts directly on emotions and memories while other four senses work to form a rational judgement.

Handcrafted furniture by Conde House.

Indeed, I often feel like smells trigger some memories or emotions. It can be said that a sense of smell is most likely to cause psychological reactions, like aromatherapy does. The reaction is not a judge of good or bad, but a gut feeling of like or dislike. As far as I remember, most of our likes and dislikes in smell are formed by the age of about three years, but I believe most people like the smell of wood, right? It always reminds me of a sauna, by the way. In addition, some medical reports are saying it actually has some good effects of relaxation, bringing down blood pressure, boosting immunity, etc. There’s no reason not to buy our furniture made of special wood in Hokkaido!

Shungo Ijima

He is travelling around the world. His passion is to explain Japan to the world, from the unique viewpoint accumulated through his career: overseas posting, MBA holder, former official of the Ministry of Finance.

Photo Credit: https://www.vox.com/science-and-health/2017/5/11/15614748/human-smell-good-science