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Editor's pick Retail

From simulators to bouncy rooms: 3 NYC pop-ups innovating the customer experience

THE ARRIVALS pop-up

In an ever competitive landscape both online and offline, retailers are upping their game to attract customers to their stores by creating more immersive and interactive experiences.

The success of initiatives including the Museum of Ice Cream and Refinery29’s 29Rooms, has resulted in brands understanding the power of experiential campaigns for engaging digital and social natives.

New York has become a hub for many such activations, and we’ve seen endless examples over the summer and fashion week season: everything from a seven-room “experience” at Winky Lux, to an interactive market that Calvin Klein created in partnership with Amazon Fashion.

More experiential stores are popping up this fall. We toured three that recently opened in Soho to check out how they’re upgrading the customer experience in a bid to compete for foot traffic and ultimately drive sales.

Cartier Parfums Pop-Up
Cartier Parfums pop-up

From workshops to an art installation, the first-ever Cartier Parfums pop-up offers lots of activities to entice customers to step inside. This is part of the brand’s strategy to celebrate the launch of their new perfume: Carat, which is inspired by diamonds.

Upon walking in, shoppers are met with a colorful wall of mantras written on postcards, inscribed with phrases like “Reveal all the carats that shine through you” and “To live it all, you have to scent it all”. Visitors can send them to anywhere in the world for free. The store also has several of the brand’s iconic red jewelry boxes, which emit the scent of the perfumes when opened, offering an “olfactory journey”.

Flower workshops, hair styling, and even scented meditations are some of the experiences curated at the store – and they are free of charge. Taking place from Friday evenings to Sunday mornings, the activities need an RSVP.

The icing on the cake, however, is a multi-sensory light installation called Mille Facettes. Store-goers step into something that looks like the inside of a baguette-shaped diamond, in which a white light is diffused into a million facets of colors, plunging the visitor into the creative mind of the perfumer. The 90-seconds experience is also a beautiful background for an Instagram photo. In addition to that, visitors get a shareable image and a video over email.

Moncler’s House of Genius
Moncler’s House of Genius concept store

Moncler’s new concept store looks like a modern art museum. It’s part of the brand’s Genius project, in which eight designers were invited to redesign Moncler’s signature down jacket. Selling genius collections exclusively, the store has eight spaces that each designer transformed into their own. All the rooms are numbered and unique, prompting curious shoppers to walk through them to see the different interactive designs.

Valentino’s Pierpaolo Piccioli, one of the chosen designers, created a capsule collection for Moncler combining haute couture and skiwear. He took his inspiration from the renaissance period, so his space in the store displays mannequins similar to the ones seen in the Costume Institute exhibitions at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

Meanwhile, there is a space dedicated to the Grenoble collection, which is designed to be like the top of a ski slope, with angled mannequins that look ready to ski. There’s also Moncler’s “Yellow” collection, which is full of cult items like dog jackets – in the store they adorn statues of French bulldogs right at the entrance. Even though a typical Moncler jacket costs at least $1000, it’s easy to overlook this detail when a dog is welcoming you.

THE ARRIVALS Pop-Up
THE ARRIVALS pop-up

With the Holiday season in mind, NYC-based, digitally-native outerwear brand, THE ARRIVALS, has opened a pop-up in partnership with Dyson Supersonic. The concept is based on the intersection of where high-tech design and innovation meet functionality.

Earthy tone clothes are displayed against cushioned walls in soft millennial pink. Highly Instagramable, the space even has a wind-tunnel-meets-bounce-house, in which customers can jump while being blasted with the force of 36 high-powered DYSON fans. This is a great feature for a Boomerang-effect video.

The pop-up offers THE ARRIVALS collection Release 5.O and 5.1, in addition to limited edition items that are only available at the brick-and-mortar location. The pop-up also offers a selection of partner brands, including: Fates jewelry, BLYSZAK eyewear, Von Holzhausen handbags, and Sennheiser headphones.

After visiting all of the stores, one thing was certain: selfies aren’t going anywhere. Customers were willing to take their heels off to take pictures on the bouncy house, walked into Cartier asking for the sensorial room and Instagrammed everything in Moncler’s new store. Retailers that use unexpected physical experiences to generate buzz end up generating a ton of online traffic. As their customers would tell you: “Pics or it didn’t happen.”

How are you thinking about retail innovation? We’re all about finding you the perfect partners to do so. TheCurrent is a consultancy transforming how fashion, beauty and consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to learn more.

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business digital snippets e-commerce product Retail technology

ICYMI: The resale market grows, reporting gender pay gaps, augmented reality at retail

Thredup - resale
Thredup

A round-up of everything you might have missed in relevant fashion, retail and tech industry news over the past week.

TOP STORIES
  • Resale is expected to be bigger than fast fashion within 10 years [Fashionista]
  • Major fashion names among worst offenders in Britain gender pay gap [NYTimes]
  • 10 retailers leading the way in augmented reality [RetailDive]
TECHNOLOGY
  • Retailers race against Amazon to automate stores [NYTimes]
  • Will brands start selling digital apparel in video games? [LSN Global]
RETAIL & E-COMMERCE
  • Tencent shows off their vision for the future of retail [JingDaily]
  • Why Sephora merged its digital and physical retail teams into one department [Digiday]
  • How Men’s Wearhouse became a bright spot in the declining retail space [AdWeek]
  • Could entering a lottery be the future of shopping? End Clothing thinks so [Vogue]
  • These 25 companies are revolutionizing retail [Business Insider]
MARKETING & SOCIAL MEDIA
  • Ssense shuts down Polyvore, sparking outrage among fans [BoF]
  • Tommy Hilfiger’s new campaign features models with disabilities [Teen Vogue]
  • The day Warby Parker lost its cool [FastCompany]
PRODUCT
  • Counterfeiting makeup is a new trend in Chinese how-to videos [JingDaily]
  • Louis Vuitton now sells a pricey tracker for your designer luggage [Engadget]
BUSINESS
  • Why Virgil at Vuitton only begins to combat industry racism [HypeBeast]
  • Comme des Garçons is launching a direct-to-consumer brand [GQ]
  • How Zegna caters to today’s novelty-obsessed Chinese consumers [JingDaily]
Categories
data e-commerce technology

Four quick highlights from NRF 2018

NRF 2018
NRF 2018

NRF’s Big Show hit New York once again this week with an expo floor covering every form of technology modern retailers need today*, and big topics of conversation pointing to the future of the industry.

From a topline perspective, focus was on everything from personalization through artificial intelligence, to the need for speed, enabling a frictionless experience as well as the increasing demand for invisibility in technology.

Personalization

Artificial intelligence remains one of the hot terms in the industry today – machine learning, computer vision, natural language processing and chatbots were found left, right and center across NRF. Underlying that in terms of the reason it matters, however, was a focus on personalization for customers. Neiman Marcus’ president and CEO, Karen Katz, talked to the challenge of shifting from being a retailer that nails this in store through the human-to-human experience, and now trying to replicate that in the online world. “Online is where the next level is presenting itself for [service-oriented] personalization,” she said.

Speed

Spencer Fung, CEO of Li & Fung, talked to the idea of the industry shifting from being optimized by cost, to finding competitive advantage in speed. As an industry, the time it takes to get from ideas to stores has only extended by virtue of parts of the supply chain located further and further away. “This cost optimization model in a world where consumers are moving 10x faster is no longer valid. You can no longer make decisions today on what will sell in 40-50 weeks time,” he said. The supply chain of the future, underpinned by new technology, is predicated by speed.

Invisibility

While technology is so central to the NRF scene, the discussion for retailers is increasingly around how to make this invisible for consumers. “The most relevant future innovation platforms are ones that consumers don’t see,” said Levi’s brand president James JC Curleigh. He talked to the idea of complete simplicity on the front end, all the while there’s increasing sophistication behind-the-scenes. Intel’s chief innovation officer, Stacey Shulman, agreed with this point, telling us: “Technology should never be at the forefront from a consumer perspective, it just needs to be the helper at the back. It’s what enables sales associates to get back to the customer and back to what’s important.”

Frictionless

In the context of NRF, the word “omnichannel” is an oft-overused one. This year, however, it was the idea of making retail frictionless that was bandied about more predominantly. Neiman Marcus’ Katz talked to this as being one of the organization’s greatest challenges. Calling it frictionless retail is about having greater scope for every touchpoint, she suggested. Nordstrom’s SVP of customer experience, Shea Jensen, meanwhile, told us her focus is on providing convenience; doing things in the context of continuously solving customer problems.

*Want to know which technologies we deemed most relevant from the show floor? Our team of startup scouts combed through the innovations demonstrated, examining and analyzing those of chief importance to retailers and brands today. Get in touch to find out more.

Categories
e-commerce Editor's pick social media technology

ICYMI: Calvin Klein opens tech-enabled pop-ups with Amazon Fashion

The Calvin Klein X Amazon Fashion holiday retail experience
The Calvin Klein X Amazon Fashion holiday retail experience

Calvin Klein has opened two pop-up stores in collaboration with Amazon Fashion this holiday season, offering an interactive shopping experience throughout.

The Calvin Klein X Amazon Fashion holiday retail experience, as it’s called, sees two tech-enabled spaces, one in New York and the other in Los Angeles, as well as an online brand store on Amazon.com/mycalvins.

Each one will sell exclusive styles available only to Amazon customers, focusing on men’s and women’s underwear and loungewear offerings in the physical spaces, as well as jeans online.

In terms of technology, offline visitors are able to easily make purchases by scanning a barcode within the Amazon app to have their items then delivered home. They can also interact with Amazon Echo devices within the fitting rooms, allowing them to ask Alexa various questions about the Calvin Klein product and experience, as well as to control the lighting and play music of their choice.

Amazon Echo in the Calvin Klein X Amazon Fashion holiday retail experience
Amazon Echo in the Calvin Klein X Amazon Fashion holiday retail experience

Customisation stations meanwhile enable them to personalise their underwear with special embroidery. And content creation spaces will encourage them to create and share their own clips to social media.

In a lounge area, visitors can also connect with shoppers on the opposite coast via video using the Amazon Echo Show, in a bid to allow them to interact and share content in real time, the company said.

”We are proud to collaborate with Amazon Fashion on this exciting retail concept,” said Cheryl Abel-Hodges, head of Calvin Klein Underwear and president of The Underwear Group of PVH. “It is our goal to deliver an immersive and content-driven shopping environment to the consumer, and we are thrilled to introduce this experience to Calvin Klein and Amazon shoppers, both online and offline, just in time for the holiday season.”

Customisation in the Calvin Klein X Amazon Fashion holiday retail experience
Customisation in the Calvin Klein X Amazon Fashion holiday retail experience

Throughout the holiday season, the shops will also host special events with the likes of supermodel and entrepreneur Karlie Kloss and comedian and author Lilly Singh.

“The holiday season is one of the most important shopping times for our customers, and we are delighted to team up with Calvin Klein to provide a fun, interactive experience that connects our customers to product in an engaging way,” stated Michelle Rothman, VP at Amazon Fashion.

The stores are open now through December 31.

Categories
mobile technology

Kate Spade turns to augmented reality for experiential Paris launch

Kate Spade New York's augmented reality experience in Paris
Kate Spade New York’s augmented reality experience in Paris

Kate Spade New York is marking the opening of its new Paris flagship with an augmented reality experience designed to bring the city to life.

Joy Walks, as the initiative is called, turns the fashion capital into an interactive playground, enabling users to see “unexpected moments of joy”, such as pink flamingoes frolicking in the Seine and a New York City yellow cab bustling down a Parisian street. When users arrive at the new boutique on Rue Saint-Honoré, they will also be rewarded with a specially made set of branded pins.

A total of 10 key sites in the city are highlighted, each of them delivered from the vantage point of one of three influencers: Adenorah, Natacha Birds and The Balloon Diary (Anna Dawson).

The campaign was built in partnership with brandtech group, You & Mr Jones, who brought AR firm Zappar and influencer marketing company theAmplify on board. It can be accessed via an app called Tapage, from My Little Paris.

“Our brand promise is grounded in inspiring our customer to lead a more interesting life. We are always looking for innovative ways – including new technology – to deliver on our customer-centric brand promise. We are focused on storytelling across a variety of platforms, ensuring that we create thoughtful, unique programming tailored for each specific opportunity. Our latest innovative experience allows Parisians to experience life through the Kate Spade New York lens and brings our particular brand of joyfulness to their city,” said Mary Beech, executive vice president and chief marketing officer at the brand.

Consumers are also encouraged to snap and share their Joy Walk experiences using the hashtag #katespadejoy.

The activity was made using Zappar’s content authoring and publishing platform, ZapWorks, which offers the ability to make interactive, engaging and expressive snackable content for on-the-go occasions. It uses GPS and maps to help the user find their individual location, and also takes advantage of the device’s gyro, accelerometer and compass to display the experiences through the phone’s camera overlaid on the real world with augmented reality.

The interactive map for Kate Spade New York's augmented reality experience in Paris
The interactive map for Kate Spade New York’s augmented reality experience in Paris
Categories
business digital snippets e-commerce film mobile social media technology

What you missed: Women’s march, what Brexit means for fashion, Branson on retail’s survival

Signs from the Women's March on Washington. (Photographed by Jonno Rattman, via Vogue)
Signs from the Women’s March on Washington. (Photographed by Jonno Rattman, via Vogue)

Top of the news agenda this past week has of course been the US inauguration of President Donald Trump, and the subsequent Women’s Marches that took place around the world. Credit to some of the intelligent coverage coming out of traditionally “fashion” (not to mention “teen”) publications, above and beyond the mere commentary around what the new First Lady and First Daughter are wearing. A particular nod to Fashionista for deciding not to comment on the latter. Lots to read, support and get behind, and the fashion industry has the potential to be a big part of that in terms of equal rights for all.

Meanwhile, other big news to know about, includes a view on what UK prime minister, Theresa May’s Brexit speech means for fashion, as well as an inspirational keynote from Richard Branson at NRF Retail’s Big Show on entrepreneurialism in retail. Also check out our recent view on whether Twitter is still relevant for fashion brands, as well as below further insight on how the industry is using Whatsapp, what to expect from Pinterest, and yet more updates on the chatbot space.


TOP STORIES
  • The most inspiring moments from the speeches at the Women’s March on Washington [Vogue]
  • Decoding Theresa May’s Brexit speech and what it means for fashion [BoF]
  • Richard Branson: Retail brands must ‘be entrepreneurial’ to survive [Retail Dive]
  • Shoes of Prey and Indochino on mass customisation and the future of retail [NRF]

BUSINESS
  • Bitter end to American Apparel as wind down accelerates [WWD]
  • Fashion house BCBG closing stores, restructuring [Retail Dive]
  • Fashion brands fear Trump’s trade policies will disrupt global production chains, with risk of tariffs squeezing profits [SCMP]

SOCIAL MEDIA
  • How fashion brands are using Whatsapp [Glossy]
  • Instagram accounts for 92% of brand social interactions: report [Luxury Daily]
  • Here’s what marketers can expect from Pinterest in 2017 [AdWeek]
  • Is Twitter right for customer service? [L2]
  • Twitter is phasing out the “Buy” button, will continue to offer donations [TechCrunch]
  • Dolce & Gabbana innovates fashion show by casting social media stars as models [CPP-Luxury]

MARKETING
  • How influencer chatbots could close the gap between content and commerce [The Drum]
  • Alexa Chung’s latest campaign video for AG is very, very, very funny [Fashionista]
  • Burberry’s forthcoming mobile app designed to ‘build connection’ with consumers over commerce [The Drum]

RETAIL
  • Meeting millennials where they shop: Shaping the future of shopping malls [McKinsey]
  • Do digital brands need physical stores? [BoF]
  • Mall owners find relief from unlikely source: online retailers [WSJ]

TECHNOLOGY
  • Your clothes will be on the radio [Bloomberg]
  • How robots in stores could revolutionise the customer experience [Retail Dive]
  • Neiman Marcus launched voice-controlled wearables for associates [Apparel]
  • Amazon reportedly in search of creative chief for VR commerce plans [Retail Dive]
Categories
e-commerce

Birchbox turns to Paris for second physical store location

Birchbox's New York store
Birchbox’s New York store

Beauty subscription service, Birchbox, is set to unveil its second permanent physical location, this time in Paris.

Hot on the heels of several successful pop-ups in the French capital, including within Le Bon Marche and Galeries Lafayette, it will open at 17 rue Montmartre this spring.

It follows the first Birchbox store opening in New York in July 2014, which is referred to by the team as “a powerful way to connect with our customers”. Shoppers to that store go on to have a three-times higher lifetime value with the brand, the press release explains.

“With 90% of beauty still purchased offline, we wanted our French team to have the same opportunity to interact with their customers in the physical world,” it adds.

The Paris store will mirror that of the New York one, which is an extension of the online experience. The aim is to deepen relationships with French subscribers, introduce Birchbox to new customers, and build partnerships with new beauty brands.

France is its biggest market in Europe, ahead of the UK, Spain, Belgium and Ireland, where it also operates.

The news comes despite two rounds of staff layoffs at Birchbox during 2016, which it said were the result of it needing to get to profitability quicker than planned because of a shift in how investors are valuing growing, but money-losing, startups, Recode reported last summer. It since raised a $15 million “lifeline” from current investors.

According to Birchbox, it saw a particularly strong holiday season, with US sales more than 10% ahead of its acquisition results year-on-year for the month of December. It also says it plans to open more stores in the US in the foreseeable future.

Categories
business digital snippets mobile social media Startups technology

What you missed: endangered fashion unicorns, Dior’s YouTube moves, Facebook marketplace

fashion unicorns
Fashion ‘unicorns’ have become an endangered species

This week’s round-up of relevant fashion business, digital comms and tech news neatly sums up a series of things to be tracking at present: the evolution of social media businesses into greater advertising and commercial retail opportunities, the role customer service and messaging apps play together, the explosion of all things virtual and augmented reality, and an ongoing bevy of start-ups to know about.

Meanwhile, also worth reading this week is detail on David Lauren’s promotion to the role of chief innovation officer over at Ralph Lauren, Dior’s catch up strategy on YouTube, and the growth of physical stores by online players including Warby Parker and Bonobos.


TOP STORIES
  • Fashion ‘unicorns’ have become an endangered species [BoF]
  • Dior’s borrowing Chanel’s strategies to catch up on YouTube [Glossy]
  • Mastercard launches ‘selfie pay’ [FT]

BUSINESS
  • LVMH to buy majority stake in Germany’s Rimowa for $716 million [BoF]
  • Swarovski, maker of all things bejewelled, refashions itself as a tech company [NY Times]
  • As their incomes rise, Chinese consumers are trading up and going beyond necessities [McKinsey]
  • Ralph Lauren promotes founder’s son to chief innovation officer [Bloomberg]

SOCIAL MEDIA
  • Facebook launches Marketplace for local buying and selling [Reuters]
  • For young brands, is the Instagram opportunity shrinking? [BoF]
  • Pinterest Promoted Video lands in the UK with Hunter on board as a partner [The Drum]
  • Snapchat users are spending 78 seconds on average playing Under Armour’s Cam Newton game [AdWeek]
  • An inside look at Snapchat’s new advertising API technology [AdAge]

ADVERTISING
  • Reebok adds Gigi Hadid to #PerfectNever campaign [MediaPost]
  • Farfetch inspires consumers to find the perfect product in new #TheOne campaign [Luxury Daily]
  • Google, Facebook become focus of holiday digital campaigns [MediaPost]

RETAIL
  • Warby Parker, Bonobos have big plans for physical stores [WSJ]
  • Shopify adds Facebook Messenger direct sales channel [Retail Dive]
  • Salesforce launches LiveMessage to provide customer service across messaging apps [VentureBeat]
  • Cocktails, cinemas and concierges: Malls weave a web of their own to entice customers [Financial Post]
  • Now you can sign up for a “.shopping” domain name [Apparel]
  • The Outnet launches first android app [Fashion United]

TECHNOLOGY
  • Japanese brand Anrealage hosts augmented reality fashion show [Glossy]
  • Mark Zuckerberg’s VR selfie is a bigger deal than you realise [Wired]
  • Will Google’s ‘soft and cozy’ approach to VR headsets make the space more mainstream? [AdWeek]
  • The mainstreaming of augmented reality: a brief history [HBR]

START-UPS
  • Venture capitalists invest $56 billion in start-ups so far in 2016 [Reuters]
  • New app co-created by Elon Musk’s estranged wife could be a game-changer for retail [BGR]
  • Online fashion retailer Grana raises $10M led by Alibaba’s entrepreneurship fund [TechCrunch]
Categories
Editor's pick film social media technology

Ted Baker launches shoppable Guy Ritchie film and Google retail partnership

British fashion brand Ted Baker has launched a new campaign anchored by a shoppable film, cryptic social experience and physical retail tie-in with Google’s voice search.

Ted Baker
Ted Baker’s Mission Impeccable campaign

Penny Loafer, Jack Quard and Manny Quin are just some of the characters that appear in a new Ted Baker film launching today, produced by Guy Ritchie.

In a subtle nod to the sharp and witty nature of the British brand, this play on words is what Craig Smith, global brand communication director, refers to at “Ted-isms”, or “Ted-touches”. And it’s those, along with some significantly hefty tech bolt-ons, that anchor this integrated campaign, created with London agency Poke.

Mission Impeccable, as it’s called, is a story of 1950s espionage. Styled accordingly, it follows the tale of T.E.D, enigmatic leader of his eponymous agency (played by the founder and CEO of Ted Baker, Ray Kelvin), deploying some of his best spies to “prevent a couture catastrophe” at the hands of a villain known as The Needle.

Chapter one, which launches today, is a three-minute short following agents Lacey, Silke, Draper and Weaver trying to stop The Needle from selling the fabrics he has stolen at auction.

The story is narrated throughout with all manner of further “Ted-isms” dropped in, including: “All agents report to London, let’s get this ironed out”, “He’s out to pull the wool over the eyes of the fashion world, and you’re going to unravel the whole nasty business”, “The auction will be buttoned up tight” and “The collective influence of those buyers is woven throughout the world.”

The film saw Guy Ritchie serving as executive producer and mentor to emerging directors Crowns & Owls. Part two has also just finished filming and will release early November for the Christmas season.

Having a narrative was core to what the brand was trying to achieve, says Smith. “Understanding who we are and what we stand for provides us with a platform to tell stories. We’re lucky we have Ted – an intrepid character – it gives us a lot of creative license.”

The basis for the story, then, was built with digital and mobile audiences in mind. As a result, the campaign spans way beyond the film across the brand’s social channels and into store.

“Having narrative enables you to create different levels and meanings from a content perspective,” explains Gail Dobinson, global head of marketing and PR at Ted Baker. “It was important that everything tied together, but we didn’t want to just flood all our channels with the same content. We wanted to deliver to the nth degree, so we challenged the team to think about how it touches every part of the business in different ways.”

Ted Baker
The shoppable element of Ted Baker’s Mission Impeccable campaign

Core to this is the fact the campaign is shoppable via TedBaker.com and through exclusive retail partner sites: Selfridges in the UK and Nordstrom in the US. Created with interactive video company Wirewax, who Ted Baker previously used for a shoppable Christmas campaign in 2015, this version of Mission Impeccable comes with the tagline: “Spy it. Click it. Buy it”. While watching, users are able to click on looks to save them into a “vault”. From there, they can then look back at individual pieces, without having to interrupt the film throughout.

Online, they can also access full bios and back stories of the characters in a complete campaign hub.

Meanwhile, on social media, a cryptic campaign has played out across Twitter, Instagram and Facebook ahead of today’s film launch. Drawing out the story of The Needle, it saw “classified information” leaked, and users invited to try and decode what they saw in order to win prizes.

Another contest is now set to run in the real world in partnership with Google. Based on Google App’s voice search tool, this retail activation invites users to speak coded phrases in store windows to gain access to a total of 26,000 rewards collectable inside.

Ted Baker
The retail activation of Ted Baker’s Mission Impeccable campaign in partnership with Google App’s voice search

Hopping onto that witty Ted attitude again, the initiative is not only geolocated, but time-stamped, meaning that if users are at the bus stop outside at 2am, the app will tell the user to rather go home and put their PJs on, according to Smith. He refers to the initiative as both playful and meaningful, and a bid to surprise and delight shoppers throughout.

As for measurement, what Smith really cares about is creating something consumers will care about: “Everything has got to be supported with great creative and great ideas. Otherwise consumers are not interested, or they see it and don’t come back to it, and certainly don’t share it.”

“This is not a vanity project, we want it to drive traffic, but equally we’re not basing its success on sales.” Instead he’ll look to eyeballs and of course, those shares. A little sprinkling of Guy Ritchie will certainly help that, but it’s the full force of Ted’s thought out 360-campaign that’s going to take this all the way. As Dobinson puts it: “Everything’s been considered… from Ted to toe.”

This story first appeared on Forbes.com.

Categories
business Comment data Editor's pick

5 lessons on brand creativity from Uniqlo’s John C Jay

uniqlo john c jay
John C Jay, president of brand creative for Fast Retailing

It’s relatively unique to be the former global executive creative director of an advertising agency (Wieden + Kennedy), turned president of brand creative for a major global retail group (Fast Retailing, owner of Uniqlo) – but that’s exactly what gives John C Jay, who also previously worked at Bloomingdale’s, such distinctive insight.

Speaking at the Cannes Lions International of Festivity last week, he shared some of his learnings on modern day communications in the fashion and retail space. Connecting to culture, choreographing physical spaces, launching collaborations, looking boldly to a future using data and technology, and underpinning it all with authenticity, were all referenced.

“Brands need to be worthy. We’re so busy today; there’s so much noise that no brand is going to be a part of your life if it’s not worthwhile,” was one of his key messages. Read on for the rest…


On connecting ideas to culture

“I focus not on campaigns, but connections,” Jay said with relation to finding the relevancy in local culture, or indeed current day pop culture, for any given brand he’s worked on. He emphasised how important it is to really do this properly. “Agencies are notorious for skimming the surface of culture: taking picture research of a neighborhood, sharing that in a conference room and feeling like they’ve tapped into [it],” he explained to the largely advertising crowd. “You’ve got to put the effort in and really really get to know the culture.”

On narrative spaces

This view of culture also carried over to the physical spaces a retailer owns. Jay explained how Uniqlo is turning its stores into rich playgrounds for cultural exchanges. Its latest London store has two floors dedicated to bringing the creative culture of the British capital to customers, for instance. “Agencies need to be choreographers for brands in physical spaces,” he explained in a call for the industry not just to focus on creating impacts via communications, but becoming designers of narrative in the retail environment. “This philosophy – collaboration with local communities – is more and more a part of our strategy going forward,” he added.

johnjay_uniqlo_authenticity

On valuable collaborations

“With our collaborations, we don’t choose by fame or how many hits [the individual] has, or friends they have; it’s really about values. It has to be true to them and true to us. We have to agree on what the values are. A lot of people we choose are not the most famous brands in the world,” Jay explained. Uniqlo has recently worked with graffiti artist Kaws, for instance, launching a line of t-shirts that Jay referred to as “extraordinary in terms of sales”. It has also had two very successful collections with Christophe Lemaire, former artistic director of Hermès. That partnership felt so true, Jay said, that they were “finishing each other’s sentences”. Lemaire has recently been announced as the new artistic director of Uniqlo’s R+D centre in Paris and the new Uniqlo U line, as a result.

On a tech-enabled future

Jay put any retail tech naysayers to rest with a bold statement on the importance of data and technology looking ahead. “Get on the boat or you’re never going to be a part of the future,” he said. “Data [particularly] is another way to be creative – it’s another way of finding insight. We have to adjust our mindsets to accepting there’s no foe part to it.” The new Uniqlo R+D centres will be very much dealing with technology, he added. “We’ll be looking at the issue of how to bring the physical and virtual together into one storytelling space.” A campaign run by Uniqlo in Australia called UMood, was also referenced. This neural project saw consumers wear a headset that could read their brain activity and help them choose suitable t-shirts as a result.

On authenticity at scale

Underpinning all of these lessons came authenticity. It’s this, said Jay, that has to be at the heart of everything a brand is trying to do, particularly when looking to growth. “I would argue that authenticity is the only way to scale, because brands will change and evolve, but [with authenticity] values will stay the same. It takes a lot of effort, but you just have to enjoy it.”