Driving Awareness in Japan

West Fraser

A new positioning to stand out from the crowd

  • Brand Strategy
  • Insights
  • Graphic Design
  • Localisation

Headquartered in Vancouver, Canada, West Fraser (formerly Norbord) is the world’s largest manufacturer of OSB (Oriented Strand Board), a material used extensively in building and construction as an alternative to plywood. OSB comes with strong sustainability benefits, the primary one being it is made from young, fast-growing trees rather than from older, slower growth trees that are typically cut down for plywood. With over 10,000 employees and US$10bn in annual revenue, West Fraser holds a leadership position in the construction materials industry.

However, in 2020, OSB was only being used in around 10% of construction projects in Japan with competing, lower sustainability materials like plywood holding the majority market share. The West Fraser leadership had a strong desire to develop a larger commercial presence in the country and called on Eat to help them to do so.

The Japan construction industry is conservative and dominated by local Japanese players. However, decisions on specifications for building materials are led by the architects associated with each project, so they became our target group.

Additionally, it was important to build engagement and alignment with stakeholders in the sales process, including West Fraser Japan team members on the ground, distribution partners and industry representatives.

This included workshops where we could seed the benefits of West Fraser products versus competitors and unite the long-term ambitions for both sides. We also undertook substantial research into target audiences and customers to ensure the brand positioning was relevant and inform the communications strategy.

Canada has a positive image in Japan and so we leveraged this to develop a local-market positioning for West Fraser which puts the country’s natural environment and strong environmental credentials front and center.

Our communications strategy championed three key values: Trust (emphasizing the strength and resilience of OSB), Canada (with its image of nature and environmental protection resonating positively in Japan), and Together (West Fraser works with builders to build better, safer buildings).

We took a warmer, more human tone that was distinctive from the product-led communications of competitors. This was carried through into a refreshed website, brochures and other key collateral.  

Content emphasised key strengths of the brand and product portfolio – quality, ease of use and resilience against natural disasters. Testimonials from end users were also used to show how West Fraser works just as effectively as local competitors.

The repositioning and messaging has helped West Fraser further build their brand and product portfolio in Japan, as they expand their business across the country, from Hokkaido to Okinawa.

Illustrations depicting the OSB production process