Uniqlo shifts into digital to mark one year in Canada

The clothing chain's one-year anniversary in the country was marked with its first spend on sponsored content and influencer marketing.

For some, there’s nothing more Canadian than a comfy flannel shirt. Tapping into that, Uniqlo celebrated its one-year anniversary in Canada by building a promotions campaign built around its line of flannels.

Earlier in September, Uniqlo set up shop at a single-day pop-up in downtown Toronto for a giveaway that saw dozens of passers by given a free flannel shirt. They were given the option to keep the shirt or hang it on the wall of the pop-up and have it be given to a new Canadian resident. The walls of the pop-up quickly filled up with the flannel shirts for residents.

But the pop-up was all part of a bigger plan for Uniqlo, which is now channeling its media dollars into social, digital and branded content and away from OOH, which had been the focus in order to maximize brand awareness for the retailer’s launch, said Han Hoang, marketing manager for Uniqlo Canada. For this campaign, that includes branded videos of the flannel giveaway created for media companies including Toronto Life, DailyBuzz and Narcity. The flannel videos, which went live Sept. 18, were Uniqlo’s first foray into branded content.

“For the Canadian launch itself, we felt that out-of-home was appropriate for our introduction into the market,” she said. “We didn’t want to assume that we were a known brand, so having ourselves all around the city was important to see and understand what we’re all about. Now it’s more important that we have a strong presence from a digital perspective.”

She added that Uniqlo (which sells clothes for men, women and children including athletic wear, workplace outfits and outerwear) is “very much an un-targeted brand.” That said, she believes that digital is the key for mass reach. “Every age group is getting into digital use a little bit more, and we try to not target too specifically to any gender or age online.”

To further amplify the campaign, Uniqulo sent out flannel shirts to Canadian influencers such as Patois owner Craig Wong, Bad Girls Collective founders Kate Chippindale and Kara Lynne Wark and Drake Hotel head chef Alexandra Feswick. This was also Uniqlo Canada’s first work with influencers.

Immediately following the anniversary campaign, Uniqlo is embarking on a launch promotion in the Vancouver market. The “Natural Union” campaign, which goes live today, will run across out-of-home placements and social media, with influencer amplification from Canadians such as Riverdale star Hayley Law and Bao Bei chef and owner Joel Watanabe.

Uniqlo worked with Rethink on both creative and media buying for the campaign.