UNIQLO Logo – Where A Typo Made A Brand
I love stories about how companies create their brands. This is one about a Japanese company that more or less accidentally became a well-known private label brand thanks to a small error in their name.
It all started in early 1949 in a business called Ogori Shoji and their chain of men’s clothing stores known as Men’s Shop OS. In the spring of 1984 the company expanded to include a unisex clothing store and had to give it a slightly different name. That’s because Men’s Shop OS wasn’t going to attract women now that the casual wear designer, manufacturer and retailer had crossed the gender barrier.
The new store name was Unique Clothing Warehouse and it sort of fit the flavour of the business. The brand was going to be registered as “uni-clo” as an abbreviated form of the words “unique clothing” but a glitch changed that.
It was in 1988 when the brand registration got underway. During the process someone in the registration office misread the name and changed the “c” to a “q” and Uniqlo was born as a brand of its own. From this clerical error the company rebranding all of their Japanese stores to Uniqlo and by late 1991 the company name changed to Fast Retailing from Ogori Shoji. Just three years later a total of well over 100 Uniqlo stores were operating across Japan with additional stores throughout the world.
Clearly the mistake with the name proved to give Uniqlo the unique branding it required to virtually conquer the planet. That’s because a good brand extends far beyond the logo design. A unique name contributes greatly to the success of any brand.
The UNIQLO Logo Designed By Kashiwa Sato
The original logo from 1991 was in English only and incorporated a dark, wine red colour. A reworking of that logo in 2006 solidified Japanese qualities adding a brighter red, reconfigured the shape and appearance to resemble a Japanese ink seal and included Katakana – Japanese lettering.
The use of red and white in the Uniqlo logo has a deeper meaning as the colours of red and white are the same as the flag of Japan. Plus, red is the colour of passion and power and tends to show up in logos of major, iconic companies and products. So clearly Uniqlo had some kind of brand positioning intended as they created the ‘stamp’ that represents their products.
The design of the Uniqlo logo to resemble a Japanese red seal indicates (subliminally) a level of quality that cannot be ignored. The use of Katakana – one of four Japanese character sets – is specific simply because is it the one used for foreign words that have been incorporated into the Japanese language such as brands and vocabulary. This redesigned Uniqlo logo was intentional according to the lead designer, Kawashi Sato.
Sato chose Katakana to run alongside the English logo to basically produce a unique dual language logo. Plus, it gave it a unique international flavour as well.
“I wanted to make Uniqlo a brand that represents the so-called ‘Cool Japan’ and embodies Japanese pop culture, which is why I used katakana in the logo.”
I absolutely love this branding for several reasons. It is bold, thanks to the shade of red it uses. I love the way there are subliminal elements to it including the katakana, the red seal shape and the red/white combo of the Japanese flag. The dual language logo really intrigues me and gives me some ideas for future branding work of my own, as it turns out.
But there is one more part of this story I really enjoy.
You already know I’m a huge tennis fan and that there are times when my life revolves around the Wimbledon schedule. Well, Swiss tennis pro Roger Federer and Uniqlo have an interesting relationship related to branding. I’ve written about Federer’s own personal brand here:
Personal Logos of the Top 4 In Men’s Tennis
Where the two icons collide is at Wimbledon.
Let me elaborate on that a little further.
It involves a $300 million contract between Federer and Uniqlo. In fact, Federer started wearing Uniqlo clothing at Wimbledon and an actual clothing line has been created from that union.
The Uniqlo Federer Wimbledon line includes a shirt, shorts, wristband and headband.
It actually makes sense simply because of Federer’s fashion sense. In fact, Federer has admitted to having a fashion appetite to the point where he was quoted as saying, “Yes, I like to eat clothes.”
The idea is far from short-lived and a mini blast of fashion mixing a Swiss tennis star with Japanese clothing and wrapped into one giant marketing tool. Although there is some of that as well.
According to Federer’s agent Tony Godsick the arrangement with Uniqlo is one “that carries well beyond Roger’s playing days.”
Tadashi Yanai, Uniqlo CEO admitted at the time the arrangement was formalised that the company “is really excited to grow Roger’s brand in Asia and around the world.”
Now that’s what I call a truly winning combination. It’s the same with any giant, iconic brand, really.
If you sign up an iconic personality to represent your brand, it not only expands the reach of your products, it raises the brand awareness to a place where association starts to take over from the marketing part of the branding. What I mean is that the doubles pairing of Federer and Uniqlo is so natural and seamless. You could almost argue that one was made for the other.
But you know, if the pairing was not equal, it may not have gelled so well so in a way, both sides of the net in this match played their strategies well.
Like I said, I love these kinds of stories.
Are you in need of a uni-unusual and dynamic brand for your company or product? Maybe I can help. Why not give me a call so we can discuss your plans and see if there is somewhere I can join you in your journey to brand nirvana.