Casio Computer Co., Ltd. spent about five years working to redefine the vision of the Privia digital piano brand. The Privia PX-S7000 launched subsequent to that process has been very well received, with first-month orders surpassing projections by 50%. Here, we offer a closer look at the Privia Reborn Project carried out by designers and project planners in two locations — London and Tokyo — in 2018 as part of this effort, along with the three-step process they implemented to make it all happen.
Background information the implementation of the Privia Reborn Project
Maeda Takaki :
Senior General Manager, EMI Business Unit, Casio Computer Co., Ltd.
Joined Casio Computer Co., Ltd. in 1986. Engaged in sales planning and promotion, business planning, and global marketing at the head office, bringing about 10 years of sales experience with him. Having been consistently involved with the EMI business, assumed his current post in 2018. His unique approach of providing enjoyment has contributed to the expansion of the population of musical instrument players.
Senior General Manager, Design Unit, Engineering HQ, Casio Computer Co., Ltd.
Joined Casio Computer Co., Ltd. in 1992 and has led the development of various consumer product designs. He was in charge of the digital camera brand EXILIM in 2001 as a designer. In 2016, he established the Communication Design Division, and currently oversees design development for all of Casio's brands, including timepieces.
Maeda: The Privia brand, since it was established in 2003, has helped to overturn conceptions of pianos as bulky, heavy and expensive and has made great contributions in bringing digital pianos into the homes of more general consumers. In considering a flagship line of stylish, compact models like the popular Privia PX-S1000 (launched in 2019), it struck me that it would be great to come out with a totally new instrument that no one but Casio could produce to revitalise the market. The assumption was that the target might be people who have been dissatisfied with the style of existing pianos or who are not content to just play classical music — in other words, people with piano playing experience and advanced skills who had stopped playing. Upon conducting actual surveys, we found that people who fit that description are in fact out there and in considerable numbers. So, we made the determination that with this new product, for the first time ever, we would target skilled players who want to enjoy themselves playing popular music casually on a daily basis.
Nagayama: I had a sense that in this era where having a good product isn’t enough to guarantee good sales, it must be essential for a musical instrument brand to have something unique about it that people associate the brand with — just as people say, “For toughness… G-SHOCK,” to develop a reputation like, “For some certain attribute... Privia” — as well as added value to emotionally engage users. In approaching the development of the new product, from a designer’s point of view as well, I felt it would be preferable to start the process of creation from a brand statement for Privia as a whole rather than a tentative proposal for the product design. That led to the establishment of the Privia Reborn Project in 2018. Working from two locations — Tokyo, where the Casio head office is located, and London — we took on everything from conducting research and defining potential issues to formulating, verifying and visualising ideas.
Adding London as a base of operations for the project was something we did because of its status as a city alive with the traditions of Europe, with its deeply rooted piano culture, as well as trends from all around the world. Also, a number of years ago, when I was working on design myself, I’d had the experience of being better equipped to produce a product matched to the needs of target users by hearing what they had to say directly and having firsthand experience with their culture. So, we had a designer spend about six months in London, as well. We welcomed a local design agency onboard in an advisory capacity and moved forward with the project while taking in objective input from them regarding its branding.
The three- step process implemented in the Privia Reborn Project:
1. Delving into Casio DNA,
2. Articulating Privia's domain.
3. Engaging users emotionally.
Delving into Casio DNA
A vision of bringing the joy of making music to everyone has guided Casio musical instrument development since 1980, and the first step in approaching this project involved probing through the company history of achievements that transcend product categories to work out which aspects of the unique Casio identity were best suited to be incorporated into these forward-looking plans.
The first thing the team struck upon was the company’s history of leveraging digital innovation to carve out a new, distinctive niche in an existing market. Examples include: the digital keyboard MT-40, which triggered a computerised revolution in the reggae world; the shock-resistant watch G-SHOCK, which overturned the image of watches as luxury accessories at the time and expanded opportunities to use watches for sports and leisure purposes; and the world's thinnest card-sized LCD digital camera EXILIM, which can be carried anywhere and requires only one hand to take shots. The second thing was the company’s enduring culture of taking on the challenge of shaping proposals, not merely for products, but for how people would enjoy using them. Based on these two insights, we saw the potential of a new style derived from essential needs, even in a mature piano market.
Elucidating Privia's domain
Every expansion of the Privia product line-up seemed to impact the consistency of the brand’s identity and make it less clearly differentiated from the other Casio digital piano brand, Celviano. Considering these concerns, a review was also made of what territory Privia should ideally aim to make its own. Combining the findings of market research and interviews conducted at locations such as musical instrument shops locally in London with the Casio DNA analysis worked out in Step 1, a fitting goal was determined for the project to proceed toward — namely, to carve out a new market for an advanced piano harmoniously attuned to users’ lifestyles. This neither constitutes a vision for the sort of “authentic” or “orthodox” pianos competitors might specialise in for use in music education or stage performances, nor for an entry-level keyboard featuring pop-oriented design — this is a vision for an all-new genre that no one other than Casio is equipped to offer the world.
Engaging users emotionally
Of the three steps, the most special emphasis was placed on this step. As touched on above, a product that is simply good is liable to be taken for granted, meaning that added value can be very important: inspiring users’ identification with the brand and offering them special experiences. Understanding this, the team explored which attributes of Privia development were most apt to appeal to users’ emotions.
Interviews with people who identified as members of the target user group for the new product revealed demands for design harmoniously attuned to modern lifestyles in contrast to the imposing impression associated with acoustic pianos; free performance styles suited to users’ preferences; and high-level playability, including the user interface. The three-stage process of reviewing possibilities produced the Privia brand statement shown below, and thus the new Privia PX-S7000 was brought into being as an embodiment of these users’ wants and needs.
”In Harmony with Life”
Privia is a digital piano that continues to evolve with the times and it is a brand that is matched to user’s lifestyles and allows them to enjoy playing music with their own style freely.
People enjoying Privia in their own, individual style.
To achieve “design, playability/expression and experience”
that is attuned to the changing times.
A new pianistic life unconstrained by traditional values.
Nagayama: As one of the project owners of the Privia Reborn Project, there was a vision I instilled in the team members from the outset — a vision of a piano that would make people reflexively drawn to it, even if they weren’t familiar with the instrument and didn’t know how to play; a piano that skilled players too would be satisfied with playing as an authentic new form of the instrument; a piano that would even add flair of its own in integrating into users’ lifestyles and living spaces, functioning as a facet of interior design as well as a music instrument. This was the brand Privia should aim to be and the type of product that should ideally be achieved. Seeing that vision successfully achieved in the form of the Privia PX-S7000 and how favourable its reception has been in this new market has afforded a real sense of how vital it was to evaluate the fundamental brand definition anew. From our design and technology oriented perspective, we will continue working to develop digital pianos worthy of the Privia name to cultivate this kind of reputation: “For digital pianos attuned to users’ lifestyles… Privia.”
Maeda: Post-launch user surveys enabled us to confirm that, as we had envisioned, the harmonious attunement the Privia PX-S7000 offers to users’ lives with its innovative design and the playing styles it enables, along with its high-level playability delivered by its high-quality tone and newly developed keyboard, and it indeed resonates with people who used to play. The favourable reception it has enjoyed was accomplished, in my view, as a result of the process undertaken in redefining the vision of the Privia brand: conducting in-depth analyses of potential users’ latent needs and the unique Casio identity and more clearly delineating the brand’s target market in taking on product development along with conceptual and perceptual considerations. Looking forward, we will continue to incorporate our vision of bringing the joy of playing music to everyone and expanding the overall community of people involved with music in our approach to electronic musical instrument development, in the way that only Casio can.
See https://music.casio.com/jp/electronic-musical-instruments/privia/px-s7000-px-s6000/ more information.