Sakura: Innovating a Classic Childhood Brand



Since 1925, Sakura has delighted Japanese children with its “cray-pas,” becoming a nationally loved brand. Unfortunately, when the children grew older, they lost the need for their dear Sakura Cray-pas. CIA Tokyo was asked to figure out a way to reintroduce Sakura to adults who grew up on their brand but no longer felt the need for their products.

What we did

Futurology Branding

Internal Branding Workshops

Local and international stationery research

Customer Experience Design

Product design

Visual Merchandising Display Design

Marketing plan implementation

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Our Process

The CIA team applied its own brand of Futurology Branding to navigate the future of Sakura and figure out the brand’s evolution. CIA’s strategists conducted branding workshops and interviews with Sakura’s CEO and executives. Market research on the local and international stationery scenes were done, interviewing stationery users and store owners. The research allowed CIA to identify the brand’s DNA and its future direction, encapsulated by what would become a simple yet profound mantra – “New and yet Nostalgic.” The next step was designing the customer experience that fully expressed “New Nostalgia” in terms of the format, materials, colors and shapes.


The process gave birth to a new sub-brand, Sakura craft lab, with two major products 001 and 002.  

Sakura craft lab 001 takes design cues from antique cameras and eyeglasses, features a heavy brass and smoked acrylic body and a grilled crown with an embossed Sakura logo. The refillable pen is designed to acquire a nice patina as it ages.

CIA produced a video featuring Mr. Tetsuya Okada, owner of Globe Specs Japan, voted the Best Eyeglass Store in the world, using and talking about Sakura Craft Lab 001.

Sakura craft lab 002 features a more playful line of colorful pens, that feature a sleek, brass, yet lightweight body, that evokes the look of the classic Sakura “Cupie” pencils, popular among school children. To launch the pen, CIA produced a video featuring model, movie actress and designer, Ms. Naomi Sundberg.

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Result &

Sakura craft lab 001 and 002 were big hits that 001 won “Grand Prize” at the Japanese Stationary Awards 2018 while 002 was included in the GOOD DESIGN AWARD 2018.

After the string of successes, CIA was then tasked to create the next Sakura craft lab 003. This time, the CIA team came up with a new design philosophy for this new product, “Gravity Inside The Hands,” creating a shorter and meaner pen. The gold pen is made of heavy brass, while the silver pen is made of lightweight aluminum. Both pens feature Sakura’s trademark silk smooth ink. To launch the 003, CIA produced a video featuring Kei Suzuki and Hayato Naruse, the brains behind Camelback, a popular coffee and sandwich café in Tokyo.