As a brand entrepreneur, you’ll want to develop a strong verbal identity for your business brand with a distinctive name and tagline and a distinctive voice in your communications, as well as a distinctive verbal identity for Brand You. Japanese entrepreneur Tadashi Yanai is the design genius and mastermind behind the Japanese brand Uniqlo. Yanai started with one store in Japan called The Unique Clothing Warehouse. At three or four stations along the treasure hunt clues are accompanied by sweets and treats.
He shortened the name to Uniqlo, a distinctive name and spelling. The logo features a strong graphic design with two squares, one with the name in katakana, the phonetic alphabet used in Japan for foreign words, and the other square with the name spelled using the Western alphabet: Uniqlo. Both names are rendered in four syllables over two lines, giving it a strong graphic feel that complements the words.
The tagline for the brand on its ads is “Made for All.” Uniqlo has grown to more than 700 stores in its home country and has launched stores across the globe. The Uniqlo brand is known for its strong visual identity. It designs and manufactures all the items sold in its stores and is identified with modern, minimalist design in both fashion, accessories, and store design.
Not only is Uniqlo’s product line unique, but the company is run by a leader who’s not your typical Japanese businessman. Yanai is outspoken and writes about his views. In a 2011 article in the McKinsey Quarterly, titled “Dare to Err,” Yanai says that “Japan is losing the economic game. Why can’t the country learn from its mistakes?”15 He feels that the Japanese tend to be strong at home and weak away, and that is a major problem in today’s global world. Yanai feels that leadership means understanding the global sales force and that the natural Japanese standoffishness will hinder business success and its efforts toward globalization. It’s a tendency that Yanai is determined to avoid as he expands the Uniqlo brand.
What’s remarkable is that Uniqlo’s recent overseas expansion has come at a time when Japan’s economy and many Japanese companies have hit the wall financially and psychologically. To make sure that his company is tuned into the global world of business, Uniqlo English is spoken at business meetings with foreigners, and Yanai wants all emails to be in English in a few years. Uniqlo has set up a system to assemble information and collective intelligence from its hundreds of stores in Japan and around the world. Until recently, Uniqlo mainly collected information at its twice-yearly conferences for store managers. In 2006, Uniqlo launched an internal blog content management system so that all floor staff can communicate in real time through their smartphones. Before the feedback system, headquarters would design ad inserts, but it had no ability to get feedback on the inserts from the local stores. Now headquarters posts the ads and gets comments immediately.