While apparel brand Uniqlo has sold its Heat Tech product to about one in three people in its native Japan, it is new to the US, where the only Uniqlo store is in New York City. As part of a larger marketing strategy to introduce the product in America, the company launched a PR effort that would enable consumers to interact with the product.
“We wanted to do something that... was... indicative of the [innovative] nature of the brand,” says Linda Faello, its US PR manager.
Working with US AOR Paul Wilmot Communications and Dentsu Communications, the US affiliate of Uniqlo's Japan-based AOR, the company decided to hand out the one-size-fits-all garment to passersby via a “human vending machine” in Times Square.
In New York, “heat techies” in silver bodysuits scanned participants with thermograph machines that detect and show body temperature, Faello says. They then sent participants to “machine” windows, from which dancers inside dispensed the product.
A week before the event, street teams handed out tissue packets printed with the event information and tagline, “Stay warm, look cool.” The PR team also did a consumer poll on voteheattech.com to identify the “coldest” iconic New York profession, Faello adds. The winner – bike messengers – could cut to the front of the line at the “machine.”
Outreach, including a teaser in mid-October, consisted of local TV, print, and online media.
Heat Tech sales jumped 82% the day of the event and continued to increase at an average of 35% that week, Faello says. The poll attracted close to 2,000 entries. Coverage included 80 print and online outlets in the US, and broadcast news segments on various stations.
Uniqlo will continue to look for innovative ways to build brand awareness, Faello says.
PR team: Uniqlo, Paul Wilmot Communications, and Dentsu Communications (all New York)
Campaign: Uniqlo Human Vending Machine
Duration: August-November 18, 2008