In Japan, the word Uniqlo is easily identifiable as a casual clothing super-brand with about 700 locations across the country. In the U.S., it could easily be mistaken for another language. Formed as a hybrid of the words unique and clothing, the Japanese megabrand is a new language of sorts, but if the successful opening of its flagship store in New York City last November is any indication, it's one that consumers will soon learn. We spoke with Uniqlo's chief marketing officer for the U.S., Shinichiro Shuda, to find out how he created the buzz.
Shuda aimed to bring Tokyo's pop culture to the U.S. and did so by targeting New York City's cutting-edge influencers through PR, advertising and brand building. Says Shuda, "It was classic advertising where you start with getting attention, getting interest, getting desire, [then] motivation and action."
Initially, the company advertised just its logo--on taxi tops, random posters and phone booths. Then 20-foot-long blue-and-yellow containers were set up throughout the city to give the public a sneak peek at the product. Finally, eight New York City-based celebrities were carefully chosen to appear on billboards and in select publications wearing Uniqlo clothing. While the first phase created buzz, the final one got customers into the store.
For the opening, one entire wall was covered with T-shirts featuring more than 100 designs created by 40 different Japanese artists and companies--each representative of Tokyo today. Meanwhile, organization and presentation of the merchandise remain daily priorities.Interested in mimicking Uniqlo's success? "You have to be true to [the brand] and focus on a segment," advises Shuda. "Try to describe who that is and figure out what they do during the day, and then figure out how to reach them."