UNIQLO’S AMERICAN DREAM: Presidential candidates aren’t the only ones trying to relay more of a true-blue everyman spirit. Uniqlo founder, chairman and chief executive officer Tadashi Yanai is the latest top brass executive to pen a personal letter as an ad to customers. The black and white two-page spread in the Aug. 6 edition of last week’s New York Times was noticeably starker than the brand’s vibrant colorful campaigns in the past. Save for the red “Dear America” intro, Yanai’s words were colorless, but aimed to convey a warmth just the same. “This country is a place where, if you have something great to offer, you will be embraced. I believed that in 1984 when I opened the first Uniqlo store in Japan with the dream of one day bringing my new idea to the United States.”
Aiming to hit $50 billion in global sales by 2020, Yanai literally spelled out a few new initiatives including the openings of stores in Boston, Chicago and Seattle. He also explained the company’s name as an abbreviation for Unique Clothing Warehouse, and noted that LifeWear is simple apparel with a not so simple purpose: To make your life better. While not in Yanai’s words, the opposite page highlighted various upcoming Uniqlo launches including next month’s with Ines de la Fressange, the October ones with Christophe Lemaire and Carine Roitfeld. The chain’s new “Magic For All” collaboration with Disney is also referenced.
The direct-to-consumer ads seem to have landed well with Uniqlo’s top-shelf executives. While the retailer declined to quantify how the new approach has affected daily or monthly Web traffic, global creative director John Jay said Monday, “The new advertising campaign, starting with the Letter to America by Tadashi Yanai, is the first of an ongoing series of communications, each a dialogue with the culture and audience that has so inspired Uniqlo. Uniqlo is rapidly evolving as it grows into a global brand, and we believe now is an important time to express our values and philosophy.”
This kinder, gentler rebranding has appeared weeks after a risqué online video of a couple having sex in a Uniqlo dressing room went viral in China. At that time the Cyberspace Administration of China, the country’s Internet watchdog, reprimanded two Web portals, Sina and Tencent, for not stopping the spread of the video, and police arrested six individuals including the woman and man who appeared in the video. Earlier last month prior to that Internet frenzy, Fast Retailing reported a 36 percent surge in nine-month profits, reportedly lifted by Uniqlo’s strength, as well as a boost from the weaker yen.