MUJI, Japan’s super successful minimalistic “brandless-brand” has recently released a new app, MUJI to Sleep. It boasts a series of natural sounds to help induce a sound slumber, anytime, anywhere. The app is aesthetically awesome, free, boasts a tight design, and last but certainly not least, aids in perpetuating MUJI’s brand values. Other brands take note: this is how you do digital.
The beginnings of MUJI date back to the early 1980’s, when it served as a generic supermarket brand. Since then the company has grown into a well-respected global name, encompassing a huge variety of goods, everything from housewares to fashion. “Muji” is short for “Mujirushi Ryohin” or “brandless quality goods.”
If you’re familiar with MUJI then you can see the irony in this; MUJI’s “brandless” has become quite the well-known brand. In recent years they’ve expanded out of Asia and into European and North American markets, having seduced design-centric crowds, their wares even sold in MoMA. MUJI to Sleep seeks to continue the brand’s successful trend of function meets natural simplicity.
In an ever-increasing digital world, it’s hard to keep electronics out of the bed, even when we know we’re not supposed to. But MUJI’s sleep app defies this logic, using the sounds of nature on your smartphone or tablet to make drifting off easier. It’s a very niche app, thus the interface and design is refreshingly simple and straightforward. You swipe through six calming sounds of nature: seaside waves, tweeting birds, kindling fire, a stream, forest, and waterfall.
Every sound was recorded on-location, in Japan, using head-shaped binaural microphones to closely duplicate the experience of actually being within the setting. This technique creates an audio frequency gap between the left and right ear that syncs with the user’s brainwave cycle to encourage sleep. Each sound can be set to a timer of 30, 60, or 90 minutes.
This app couldn’t fit any better within the MUJI family. The brand has risen to popularity precisely because of its refined products and tidy stores, which ultimately offer a bastion of calm. MUJI to Sleep reinforces this association with its minimalistic design and simple, yet functional use. The app is clearly a brand-builder, but doubles as a product-seller too.
Accompanying MUJI to Sleep is a fantastic microsite that demonstrates the app’s use when paired with one of the company’s most popular products, the Well-Fitted Neck Cushion. The app appears to have been created to supplement the cushion’s effectiveness (and that of other other MUJI products too). The two compliment each other so well that you feel like you can’t own one without the other, effectively creating need and consequently moving product off the shelves.
This isn’t MUJI’s first foray into the digital; the company has successfully released other apps that work congruent to their physical offerings. It’s an effective means of digital advertising and marketing—I don’t feel like I’m being worked over by the brand as they’re offering me functional experiences to enhance my living.