Uniqlo’s local launch weaves Toronto’s ‘uncommon thread’

Japanese retailer celebrates Canadian diversity while emphasizing strong service

MM_PlaidThough it is known around the world for mass-producing high quality fashion staples that can easily fit in any closet, a Toronto-specific advertising campaign from Uniqlo is celebrating the city’s diversity.

Out-of-home, print creative and paid social featuring local tastemakers including artists, DJs and rappers — and the tagline “Uncommon Thread” — is launching just ahead of its Canadian debut.

Japanese retailer Uniqlo (pronounced You-nee-klo, a contraction of “unique clothing”) is setting up shop in the CF Toronto Eaton Centre on Sept. 30 and in Toronto’s Yorkdale Shopping Centre late next month.

“For us to be a great global company… we have to be a great local company,” said John C. Jay, president of global creative at Uniqlo, of the decision to launch a Toronto-specific campaign in partnership with Leo Burnett’s Toronto office. Starcom handled media buying and planning.

“Our marketing began with research of course, but part of that research was not just consumer likes and so forth, but research into the creative community,” Jay told Marketing. “Who are the movers and shakers in the creative community, who really represented this city well, who already has experience in showing global thinking, not just local thinking, out of Toronto?”

According to Fast Company, Jay has a “reputation for unearthing local art, music, and creative talent in cities across the globe—from Tokyo to Shanghai to London—and blending all those cosmopolitan sensibilities together to create work that feels new.” The same seems to be true for the Toronto advertising campaign.

Having spent nearly two decades with Wieden + Kennedy, Jay said he knows very well the inner workings of an agency and is picky when choosing which shops with whom the retailer works. (In the U.S., Uniqlo recently partnered with Droga 5 on its first-ever global campaign.)

“We were just delighted by [Judy John’s] team, and a lot of insights we tested upon them internally,” he said. “There were lots of discussions into the night about this idea that your differences are what make you so powerful there in Toronto, and we want to make sure this was not just marketing-speak, but we want to make sure there’s a truth.”

Though Uniqlo is known for a high level of detail-oriented customer service and an engaging in-store shopping experience, it’s no longer a point of differentiation in the Canadian marketplace as retailers pull out all the stops in vying for consumer dollars. Saks, Harry Rosen and Nordstrom (the latter of which is opening its first Toronto location later this month) pamper their clients with personalized service.

But, the advantage for Uniqlo, said Jay, is that such service is part of its DNA. “That sense of hospitality and service is engrained in Japaense culture. It didn’t just come out of nowhere,” he said. “It didn’t come out of a Harvard case study book where we studied another department store that needs to put grand pianos in the lobby… It’s natural for us to give good service.”

And who is Uniqlo targeting with its advertising, customer service and well-made basics? Everyone. “We’re interested in everyone, which sounds generic in a way, but it’s about respecting everyone, not just influencers at the top and hope that goodwill will drift down,” said Jay.

Perhaps one of the biggest challenges facing the retailer is a lack of brand awareness. Part of its introduction into the Canadian marketplace, and to engrain itself in the local community, includes partnerships with local retailers such as Souvenir, Blacksmith Cycle, Monocle and the Drake General Store’s Flagship location on Queen Street West. Each location will carry different Uniqlo items for a limited time.































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