Sunday, 30 March 2008

Uniqlo Beijing

I blogged about the Uniqlock digital idea back in June last year (click the speaker icon in the bottom right corner for full effect - it still rocks as it's regularly updated) and frankly I'm a big fan of the marketing communications of Uniqlo. They are hip, refreshing and quirky.

I only occasionally shop there as most of the stuff is too straight forward for my liking but if I was into that plain and simple, done-well thing that Gap had going a few years back I'd much prefer Uniqlo over Gap because of the way they communicate. In short I love their personality.

I anticipate that Uniqlo are going to be massive in China after seeing their latest shop open in Beijing at Joy Shopping Centre. I was ascending the subway escalators a few days back and caught site of Chloë Sevigny on some Uniqlo wall posters announcing a store opening. I was immediately hooked. Now I know this will look kind of dull to people in other parts of the world but locally this is about as standout as it gets in China/Beijing so I do feel the need to blog about it. These executions are cutting edge for this neck of the woods, and would normally be stamped all over with the "well in China we do things differently" creative meddling that results in most communications as lamentable marketing mediocrity if not downright spammy once it is fiddled with.

I heard Neil Christie of W&K in 'this podcast' refer to some parts of the world looking for the differences instead of commonalities of an idea, and I couldn't agree more. Once the dull marketing folk who should really be in product development get their mitts on a bit of communication that is handed to them by an agency without the balls to stand for anything other than spreadsheet profit and loss, it becomes evident that the cardinal rule of advertising gets lost in the communication theory quagmire of venn diagrams, brand visions, engagement planning and link testing.

The first rule of advertising is to be NOTICED and that by its very nature means putting a few noses out of joint - It means having the courage to stand for something. Time and again I see an approach to Chinese advertising that is so timid it begs the question why aren't the suits in charge working in banks or actuarial cubicles instead of the (cough) creative industries?

Anyway in short the Uniqlo stuff is a breath of fresh air and hasn't been watered down. It's not Chinese, it's not Japanese, it's not American but it will be successful. The point of focus groups was never to let the 'consumer' (ugh) tell us what the creative direction should be it was about creative development and disaster checking. Those who hang on the focus groups' every word are destined to be followers not leaders. It takes leadership to be a brand, not the correctional marketing, and insipid rear view mirror copycat mimicry that is endemic in what should be the most exciting and new emerging market on the planet. There's a reason why China doesn't have a real global brand yet and I've talked about it more extensively in the comments over here. There's deeper socio-historical reasons too but I will go into that more fully when I write the post that suggests if you're over 25 and in advertising in China - You are part of the problem and not part of the solution.

Uniqlo - We salute you for being the nail that sticks out, for having a personality and being interesting. Rant over.
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