Monday, June 4, 2012

Have some coffee. We're going to the Gap.

         Yoki Katsura is quoted as saying, "Buying new clothes can be like giving yourself a new life". Yoki is senior vice president of global research and design for Fast Retailing's Uniqlo stores.

          As exaggerated as that claim of a new life sounds, ask anyone who owns a great leather jacket.  I know of no other single piece of clothing that can do so much for one's persona. By the time you put your arm in the second sleeve, you've become sharp, knowledgable, with it, and someone to be reckoned with.

          A denim jacket may come in second. A black North Face jacket, third.

           Uniqlo has only one U.S. store open right now, in New York, with a second to open soon in San Francisco. I have a hunch that once they become more ubiquitous, the Gap will have to wake up. Uniqlo takes updated traditional and actually makes it fun. Basic things, like t-shirts, sweaters, khakis, and even parkas. They have 1,085 stores in Japan, and no wonder. They get it right.

           The lesson here for marketers is to never stop experimenting. Never stop imagining, improving, going out on a limb. Once you stop, it's really hard to get the engine going again.

           Early in my professional life, I left the ad agency I was with to join a cosmetics company. It sounded glamorous. It was dull. A year later when the ad agency called me and asked if I would come back, I  jumped at it. But it took a while for my brain to get back to creative work. My first ads were dull, derivative. Then my brain clicked into gear. I was out of the box again, and thrilled.

          That's probably the story of the Gap. They couldn't get out of that box they're in, so they decided to sleep there. But it's become predictable, and the last thing you want is to look predictable.

          Put on your leather jacket, open the door, and be whoever you want to be.

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