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Uniqlo’s Brand Differentiation Dilemma

Uniqlo’s Brand Differentiation Dilemma

04.25.2011

Uniqlo, one of Asia’s largest fashion retailers, plans to open 1,000 stores in the China by 2020. According to Hideo Majima, Uniqlo’s director of global marketing, “We say it doesn't matter who you are, or where you come from, Uniqlo makes clothes that transcend all categories and social groups. Our designs are aimed at going beyond age, gender, occupation, or any other way that defines who people are.” Uniqlo appears to be building a valuable brand in Asia and globally, but trying to be everything to everyone is a well known brand strategy mistake. Let’s take a closer look at what this burgeoning brand is up to.

The aspects below have likely contributed to Uniqlo’s success thus far:

1.) Sticking to the core: Uniqlo offers basic and quality products. The attractiveness of the brand comes from the consistency and trustworthiness of their products. Uniqlo does not consider itself to be a “fast-fashion” brand allows for more stable product offerings over time, leading to repeat business and contributing to brand loyalty.
2.) Building a flagship store: To increase brand awareness, Uniqlo has built flagship stores in several international cities, including London, New York, and Shanghai. These stores are located in high traffic areas and can build positive brand perceptions by delivering superior customer service and an appealing shopping environment.
3.) Remaining relevant: Many fashion brands build on culture-specific trends and fads that are not globally relevant or pass quickly. Offering quality products and sticking to basic designs has allowed Uniqlo to transcend multiple cultural consumer types and remain relevant as short-lived fads come and go.

Although Uniqlo has used these techniques to build their brand thus far, the lack of a clear target consumer group or groups is worrying. Uniqlo is attempting to transcend all cultural, age, and economic profiles. However, there are noteworthy differences between consumers in New York, Japan, and mainland China that are being overlooked. As was seen with the recent demise of Mattel’s Barbie store in Shanghai, a clearly identified and well understood target demographic is often essential for sustained success.

Will Uniqlo manage to be everything to everyone? It’s highly unlikely, but let’s wait and see.

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