Uniqlo: From Tokyo to the World

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The Who, The What, The Wear to Next 

Japanese retailer Uniqlo has its sights set on world domination. In order to do this, the company must be able to successfully convey the brand’s concept to non-Asian markets. Although this was a task that it previously failed at, Uniqlo has since amended its launch strategy and as a result the company’s ambitions of superseding Zara and H&M as the world’s number one apparel brand may just be achievable.

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Since opening its initial store in Hiroshima in 1984, as Unique Clothing Warehouse, Uniqlo (Unique + Clothing) has grown to include over 1300 stores worldwide and is the largest clothing retailer in Asia. Its success can be attributed to a number of factors, including its strong brand identity, “clothes for a better life. For everyone, everyday.” They position themselves as “simple and clever, just like our clothes, which are world famous for being high-quality, innovative, functional and affordable.

So how does Uniqlo then translate this into the European and American markets? Initially, it didn’t. In the early 2000’s the company opened 21 stores across the UK but by 2006 only 8 remained. The reason? Not effectively establishing a ‘brand identity‘ before opening in a new market.

Becoming a Global Player

For their global relaunch Uniqlo partnered with MP Creative Inc to overhaul their strategy. This involved individualising the launch campaign for each new city in order to help consumer’s understand and identify with the Uniqlo brand.

MP Creative initiated a cross-platform campaign, transforming each launch from a single store opening, to a citywide event. Not wanting to lose the strong brand identity Uniqlo was known for in Asia, the campaigns successfully blended Uniqlo’s Japanese heritage with a ‘genuine interest in becoming part of the local culture.’ The announcements “from Tokyo to New York” or “from Tokyo to Melbourne” immediately gave consumer’s an understanding of the brand’s origins and its intentions.

The next step was to personalise the brand locally and help establish the “Made for All” campaign involving collaborations with a broad range of local celebrities, musicians and media personalities.

These collaborations were an effective drawcard for local consumers. In addition, the London launch ran an online competition to see Dizzee Rascal perform in-store thus further broadening the brands reach and engaging consumers. This personalised approach to their global relaunch was immediately evident for Uniqlo where in just 3 hours of the London Launch Day sales surpassed any other store launch.

By immersing and sharing the brand in the local community Uniqlo have been able to create positive associations in the minds of their consumers. This in turn has enabled them to convey meaning, imply quality and consistency and increase foot traffic by reducing the riskiness to the consumer to try something new (Iacobucci, D, 2014).

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For the Australian market Uniqlo adjusted their approach by opening a Melbourne pop up shop. Merchandise giveaways combined with staff approaching shoppers asking “Have you heard of Uniqlo?” helped to significantly increase the buzz, and brand awareness spread in preparation for the flagship store launch. From this one flagship store in March 2014, Uniqlo now have a significant presence with 10 stores in Australia and plans for more. Clearly the model is working.

Efficiency in Production, Efficiency in Branding

Uniqlo claim they are able to maintain their low prices by working directly with manufacturers and creating their own designs. This idea of efficiency in business is carried through to their branding by maintaining consistency not only in the logo, but in staff training, customer experience and store layouts. Enter any store globally and you’ll immediately notice the similarities. This approach of carrying one brand name and logo internationally as well as maintaining similar positioning’s in all markets is not only strategically efficient, but highlights that Uniqlo is a “true global brand”(Iacobucci, D 2014)

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Top Down and Bottom Up

When it comes to product development and maintaining a culture of innovation, Uniqlo employs both a top down and a bottom up approach, actively encouraging both consumer and staff feedback. The technological refinements and increase in colour ranges of the HEATTECH products are a direct result of consumer feedback. They believe that “it is precisely this customer feedback that makes it possible for UNIQLO to produce the high-quality apparel that it does.” Not only that, but listening to the voice of customer creates a strong consumer relationship and helps to build brand loyalty and ensures any new products/refinements are a success (Iacobucci, D, 2014).

Is Global Domination Achievable? 

Uniqlo are clearly a company very determined to be #1 in the global retail space, with their eye on the goal of achieving $50 billion in sales and $10 billion in profit by 2020. Having learned from their mistakes, they are taking on new markets rapidly and successfully, thus far on track to achieve their ambitious goals. Being a relatively new presence in the fashion retail market in Australia, we will have to wait and see how the company performs compared to H&M and Zara. Have you been to Uniqlo? Were the brands goals of offering good quality, reasonably priced clothing for all clear to you as the consumer? The success of their branding and subsequent sales goals are in your hands.

Lyndall  Boardman / 214418665

References:

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