kelly kikuchi


Wahl+Case | Brand Strategy & Creative Direction

the gist

A tech-focused recruiting firm wanted to build a brand that would foster trust within the community.  I found that the problem of perception was not only external, and built an authentic brand from the inside out.

the ask

How can a small company working in a field infamous for poor behavior use their brand to build trust amongst candidates and clients?

the insight

The public is not comfortable with recruiters
because the recruiters aren’t comfortable with themselves.

the solution

Create an internal culture employees could take pride in and use that authentic momentum to propel the brand forward from within.

the client

Wahl+Case is a Tokyo-based firm comprised of four business lines: two branches of tech-recruiting and two HR tech solutions.

As mid-career job change is still relatively new in the Japanese landscape, most potential candidates and clients are inherently distrustful of recruiters.  Those who are more familiar with recruiters have had poor experiences with them.

Wahl+Case not only needed a differentiating outward facing brand image; the company was experiencing high rates of internal turnover.

the problem

Initial interviews of the management and leadership teams revealed troubling sentiments.

Inconsistency was wreaking havoc internally.

“poor management”

“lack of trust between all parts”

“gap in expectations”

“lack of constency”

“no clear vision of success”

Consistency builds authenticity. Authenticity builds trust. Trust builds a community. 

If we created the internal foundation, interactions with these recruiters (brand ambassadors) would be so refreshing that they would serve as de facto advertising.

the solution

“The Umami of Work” gives recruiters a sense of cameraderie and purpose while focusing the outward facing narrative on people and experience.

“The Umami of Work”

The Umami of Work started with writing a set of core values that were incorporated into multiple aspects of the employee’s daily experience. This consistency helped to foster trust and build the internal brand.

Brand is re-positioned as focusing on people and experiences

The Umami message--somewhere between a manifesto and a mission statement-- connects with the company’s bilingual focus.

Outward facing messaging was given a more playful and earnest tone.

Requisite traditional Japanese New Year’s cards were given an irreverent sense of humor.

Finally, the website was redesigned to be people focused, the result of  interviews withall company stakeholders, clients and candidates on both sides of the Pacific.

Dramatically slimmed-down content promotes easy-to-navigate  UI/UX

what i did

Brand Strategy
Communications Strategy
Graphic Design
Web Design/Rebuild
Content strategy
Interior Design

Kelly Kikuchi  2019