By, Natalie Filice, Katie Kirk, & McKenna McVicker
In a recent interview with John Jay, the president of global creative at Fast Retailing, he gave the four secrets of building a global brand. Fast Retailing is the Tokyo-based parent company of casual-wear retail chain, Uniqlo. This chain is comprised of more than 1,800 stores in 18 different markets. They even have 47 stores in the United States, clearly demonstrating their brand has bridged the gap between East and West. It is the largest clothing retailer in Asia and the third-largest in the world. Being that the company was found in 1984, it is a relatively young company, especially when compared with one of its main American competitors, GAP, was found in 1969. So what are the brand’s secrets to success?
According to Jay, the first principal in creating a global brand is to “establish your ‘why,’” meaning that a business should understand what their brand is based on and carry it throughout the business. The slogan of Uniqlo is “Made for All;” they are trying to “democratize” clothing by making it durable, affordable, and accessible for all. This democracy is underpinned by the founder’s business philosophy that “equal work deserves equal pay.” The higher ranking executives are all paid the same, and in the future, the company would like to have a universal pay system for shop managers. By knowing their “why,” they are able to carry it throughout their business.
The next principal is “truth-telling trumps story-telling.” Jay believes that truth-telling has a universal appeal; what works in New York should work in Tokyo. By sticking to common themes and the “why” of the brand they create a global message. Their advertising sticks to their slogan by using people of all genders, race, ability, and other traits in their campaigns. They have used Paralympic medallists and the reigning Wimbledon wheelchair champion as their global ambassadors, which harkens back to their “Made for all” slogan.
The third principal is “Be good, do good.” Jay believes that brand trust is derived from making a good product and being an active global citizen. This global retail empire makes it a point to give back to local communities. Since 2007, Uniqlo has given $20.3 million worth of clothing items to refugees, victims of disasters, mothers in need, and others in partnership with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees. This is only one example of their strong stance on corporate social responsibility, adding value to their brand.
Jay’s final principal is “plan your location, location, location;” one of the most common mantras one hears when establishing a business. As simple as this principal is, it is the most important. It does not matter if a business is socially responsible, tells the truth, or sticks to their “why,” if consumers cannot easily access their product. Uniqlo has a physical location in almost every major market from Tokyo to London to Australia. They are still continuing to expand to make their clothing accessible to everyone. These four principals have clearly made Uniqlo a success and expanded them into the strong global brand they are today.