Bringing Stylish Beauty and Health Equipment Based on Japanese Technology to the World
Japanese startup MTG is experiencing rapid growth as it continues to develop innovative products in the field of beauty and health equipment. Products under the company’s stylish cosmetic brand ReFa have already seen cumulative sales of five million units and are becoming a must-have item for Japanese women, who are known for beautiful skin.
Moreover, not even one year has passed since the wearable training gear SIXPAD became one of MTG’s hit products. This is bringing about a revolution for men who long for toned muscles as they go about their daily activities.
In this article we asked MTG about the secret to releasing so many appealing products one after another.
Creating Attractive Beauty Devices.
ReFa is a product line that enables users to easily—and at home—give themselves the kind of facial massage that until now they could only receive at an esthetic salon. It has delighted many women who pay careful attention to their skin. ReFa’s unique form is unforgettable. In addition to having scientifically proven cosmetic effects, the products have been crafted to embody the concept of “beautiful, even as a work of art.” This is something that usually has not been considered for beauty devices, and satisfies users who value esthetics.
The first generation ReFa product line was developed after considering an esthetic technique used to tighten the face and body. The idea was to replicate at home an esthetician’s skillful hand movement when giving a massage, achieved by forming the letter V shape using an open thumb and forefinger. By moving ReFa’s rollers up and down over the skin, one can work on all parts of the body such as the face line, neck, upper arm, waistline, hipline, and hips, allowing the skin to become firmer and beautifully toned.
With a three-dimensional design, the V-shaped rollers easily fit the contours of the skin. The operator simply moves the rollers lightly over the skin surface and, without using much pressure, the high-suction force generated replicates the massage technique of an esthetician who moves gently around the skin. A solar panel on the top of the roller handle absorbs light and converts it into a microcurrent (low-level current) that is emitted through the rollers to the skin. Being able to do this much loved microcurrent treatment at home rather than at a salon is one secret to ReFa’s popularity.
After its domestic launch in 2009, ReFa’s reputation began to gradually spread via word of mouth, and sales steadily expanded. This growth was not limited to general home users; the products were also taken up by beauty salons, and the brand started to penetrate Japan’s beauty industry, which is known worldwide for its pursuit of beauty. Moreover, celebrities such as models and actresses shared ReFa’s benefits, which subsequently led to an explosion in sales. Growth then expanded overseas. In fall 2016, ReFa is an unprecedented hit brand in the beauty device industry, with cumulative sales of five million units.
Becoming an Integrated Beauty Brand: The Debut of ReFa CLEAR
MTG President Tsuyoshi Matsushita spoke to us about ReFa’s record sales. “ReFa’s massage is extremely effective, just as our research had shown. I’m certain that if you actually use it you’ll soon understand its benefits. However, it is more than just an outstanding beauty device. ReFa captures the hearts of so many users because its development has pursued a beautiful design that is lovely just to look at, almost like a work of art placed in a room.”
A platinum coating covers the surface of the ReFa’s sparkling silver rollers. This coating helps prevent deterioration and discoloration, allowing the rollers to continue shining for a long time. Not compromising, even in areas that do not directly affect beauty enhancement, is the basis for MTG’s stance in undertaking monozukuri (craftsmanship) that pursues beautiful appearance.
Under the company’s representative ReFa brand, ReFa CLEAR went on sale in summer 2016. It is the first 3D sound-wave face-washing brush. With 3D sonic motion and ion cleansing, as well as a Kumano brush head (one of Japan’s traditional craft items), ReFa CLEAR features the “World’s First* 3D Sonic Ion Technology.” *According to research by the JACTA research department in August 2016.
Research on the structure of the skin including its pores led to the development of this 3D sonic motion technology, which utilizes minute vibrations that move up, down, left, and right over the face to enable a thorough cleaning of its contours. The vibrations reach to the pores, removing grime unable to be removed bynhand washing of the face. Ion cleansing helps the makeup and dirt that reside in the pores to rise to the surface, which in turn improves the effectiveness of cleaning. Special processing of the Kumano brush, which is handmade by Japanese artisans using traditional techniques passed down over several hundred years, creates differences in the lengths of the hair tips, spaced at intervals of 0.5mm. This brush therefore enables simultaneous cleansing of both the surface of the skin and the pores. Since the tip of the hair has been refined to a thickness of just 0.1mm, which is thinner than a human hair, it can penetrate any pore and scrape out dirt. The base of the brush hair has been created in the shape of a wave, so the tips of the hair are perpendicular to the undulation of the face, providing soft contact with the skin and enabling effective washing.
This fusion of the latest technology and traditional crafts, or harmony between technology and human sensitivity, is one of the salient features in the attraction of MTG’s products.
Wearable Training Gear that Fulfills Men’s Dreams
SIXPAD, the wearable training gear developed by MTG, is a hit product that became famous after an advertisement was shown of Cristiano Ronaldo wearing the device on his toned and trim abdomen. It has sold more than five million units to date, just 11 months since its launch in summer 2015. This revolutionary wearable training gear allows the user to gain the benefits of muscle training simply by mounting the SIXPAD on the abdomen or arms, and using it for a training program of 23 minutes a day. SIXPAD offers a way to develop muscles by applying thin pads to the body while doing other activities, such as going to work or relaxing at home on the sofa, thereby eliminating the need for daily strenuous sit-ups or strict training regimes.
MTG began focusing on electrical muscle stimulation (EMS) technology in summer 2011, and has been researching it ever since. EMS technology promotes muscle exercise by making muscles contract through direct stimulation with electric impulses. MTG collaborated with Dr. Toshio Moritani, a Professor Emeritus at Kyoto University, who has conducted researched in this field for over 40 years. After examining Cristiano Ronaldo’s training method, MTG created a product with an independently developed electric pulse that yields the highest effect. SIXPAD uses an effective 20Hz frequency in muscle training, and stimulates muscle with its “CMM Pulse” waveform that MTG also developed independently.
With solely this information, ReFa and SIXPAD may seem to be examples of suspicious health equipment that one might see on late-night television mail-order programs. However, one of the greatest reasons why MTG is trusted by users in the market is that it conducts scientific verification for all its products, based on President Matsushita’s philosophy.
Product Development that Originates from Design
MTG’s product development flow is unique and can be illustrated by the idea, “first originate from design.” All product development starts by sketching the design for the product, conceived by President Matsushita, and making a prototype in clay by a craftsman. Developers then take on the challenge of maximizing the functionality of the product in the limited space of its prototype.
ReFa’s development started from the idea of the shape of the hands when an esthetician provides treatment. Since MTG began with ties to the esthetic field, it realized, after conducting a development survey, that the V shape was formed by opening the thumb and forefinger. This is common with all kinds of estheticians in most countries.
ReFa’s development started from an exceedingly simple question: “Why does it have to be a V shape?”
The human body feels more stimuli than the individual is consciously aware of. As such, if the roller was planned purely with sensation in mind, the stimulus would become too great. At MTG, the positioning and angle of the V-shaped roller was adjusted at 1/100mm increments, with stringent data collection and retests. This information was added to other tangents from ReFa development research, including 3D design of the roller and microcurrents, and several years of development were necessary before the product could be sold.
President Matsushita said: “All of our products undergo strict tests, and they are not ready for the marketplace until they outperform rival products in every way.”
In the beauty device industry, it is typical for product development to take 12 or 18 months. For MTG’s brand ReFa CLEAR, however, development took a startling five years. Behind this extraordinary amount of time were President Matsushita and his firm stance against compromise in design or functionality. Take, for example, the Kumano brush. If the density or angle changes even a little, there is a huge difference in the results of the brush. Over the course of development, one developer spent two years simply studying the brush’s hair.
Koji Nagatomo, director of MTG’s Planning and Development Division, which led the development said: “Our development departments are divided between the Planning and Development Division and the Production Division. In the Planning and Development Division, we see whether the ideas and questions presented by President Matsushita can be realized, and evaluate them scientifically to see their effect. President Matsushita is very strict about development and, to be honest, there are many areas where we’ll want to compromise. During those times, we might bring a prototype to him and ask, ‘This is ok, right?’ but he will take one look at it and order us to redo it.”
This sort of product development stance has certainly been passed on from the ReFa series to the SIXPAD. In the fields of beauty devices and training gear, MTG has recorded exceptional unit sales for both products.
A Company That Incubates and Markets the World’s Technology
It is Japan’s heritage in arts and crafts that has allowed MTG products to develop to date. President Matsushita said: “I think Japan is a treasure trove of crafts hidden away waiting to be discovered. A long history of artisans and the Japanese people’s innate diligence has cultivated a rich craft industry. The manufacturing industry, however, has a lot of pride and is resistant to potentially helpful outside influences. Its efforts often result in work that is purely for self-satisfaction. It is the role of MTG, therefore, not only to incubate these precious craft cultures but also market them as brands that can meet the demands of today’s consumers.”
Such is the skill of the artisans that, even for the initial clay prototype of Matsushita’s idea, they can complete the prototype in no time at all based only on instructions and a sketch. It is this Japanese craftsmanship that has supported the quality and rapid development of MTG products.
President Matsushita was born and raised on the Goto Islands, off the west coast of Japan’s most southern main island of Kyushu. One would hardly believe the islands are in the same country that is home to the global metropolis of Tokyo. In contrast to the capital’s skyscrapers there is beautiful sea and a community where people quietly enjoy their own unique culture.
As a young man, he moved to Osaka for work and established MTG as a venture business, but didn’t forget his love and respect for the culture of local areas. Indeed, the motivation behind his venture business was a strong desire to raise awareness of the beauty of these various cultures and keep them relevant in the face of a rapidly aging population and rural economic decline.
Japan’s Steve Jobs; Continuing to Look for Treasure Island
President Matsushita isn’t against diversification. Alongside the current successes of ReFa and SIXPAD, the company is working on the simultaneous development of various products based on local materials and craft cultures.
He said: “At MTG, we first come up with an idea that nobody has had before. Furthermore, we do not simply incubate these materials and crafts, we turn them into brands. It is vitally important to make these three things as clear as possible: the concept of each brand; their offering to the customer; and our work at MTG.”
Thinking of ideas for new products, and pursuing both beauty and functionality, President Matsushita comes to resemble Steve Jobs, who brought forth revolutionary items one after another such as Apple Inc.’s Mac and iPhone.
Part of MTG’s business is building a bridge between ideas man President Matsushita and the managers and staff.
Director Nagatomo said: “President Matsushita is extremely strict when his staff cut corners or don’t do as they should but, in one way, he is simply looking out for his family. New challenges are always emerging but, when the staff are the ones to solve them, he is very happy. It is the desire to make him happy that drives us forward.”
The almost familial love and respect for a boss doing his best is the small business culture that supported Japan’s rapid economic growth following World War II. It is through this that MTG, the home of such business culture, finds strength for its cutting edge development and speed.
President Matsushita said: “Projects that are going to be put out on the market definitely need the presence of a person responsible for it. We take on the burden of that responsibility, and seek out attractive materials and technology that lie in each of Japan’s regions because we want to disseminate them to the world. In doing so, we want to invigorate Japan’s regional cultures and traditional technology and provide satisfaction to the world’s users.”
Having succeeded in Japan with product sales, MTG is currently selling products in parts of Asia and Europe, while also looking to expand sales to China and extend its reach in the large Asian market. At the same time, MTG has set a goal of expanding sales of its products all over the world, including to North America in 2020. It is also focusing on the development of new products and launch of brands. It is no exaggeration to say that MTG is now one of the companies in Japan with the most momentum, and it will be exciting to see what lies ahead in its future.
Business Description:Planning,development and sale of beauty devices , cosmetics , quasi-drug products , fitness equipment , HOD Kirala
Location: MTG No2 HIKARI building 4-13 Honjin-dori Nakamura-ku Nagoya Aichi JAPAN
Representative: Tsuyoshi Matsushita
Web site: http://www.mtg.gr.jp/en