Case Study: UNIQLO "Storms" Pinterest
Ed. note: This case study is a selection from the 2013 “Justified” competition, for which an esteemed jury identified 14 submissions that demonstrate the value of design in a clear, compelling and accessible way. To learn more about the jury’s perspective on this selection, see the juror comments.
Japanese clothing brand UNIQLO was looking for a way to introduce themselves to an American audience. The explicit goal of the project was to build national awareness of the brand and highlight their new line of Dry Mesh T-shirts using Pinterest. UNIQLO wanted this done in an interesting and innovative way, but they did not have money to spend on paid media.
Fashion has been notoriously resistant to change. There is a status quo and advertising tends to adhere to it. The fashion industry is highly competitive and any sort of marketing success has the ability to make for much larger returns.
In marketing its new line to consumers, UNIQLO—already known for its innovative digital initiatives—wanted to think outside of the norm and do something that would make people take notice. The clothing company is a relative newcomer to America, so the goal of this project was to introduce the brand to a larger audience.
As part of the UNIQLO Innovation Project, the brand was looking to showcase their new Dry Mesh T-shirts in a way that spoke to the innovative nature of the clothing itself. UNIQLO needed to reach a large segment of the population, but they did not want a traditional ad campaign. Instead, they wanted to separate themselves from the chaos of online fashion and social media.
After some careful observations of people navigating Pinterest, we realized that it would be the perfect platform to help deliver UNIQLO’s message to an already-captive audience. Pinterest users endlessly scroll through content, like zombies. In order to break the monotony, we decided to create the first-ever branded mosaics. UNIQLO came to us with a really open and interesting brief, so we knew they would be receptive to trying something different.
In order to bring the mosaics to life, we had to perform countless hours of research testing. We adjusted the approach daily until we were confident that our insights would enable us to effectively complete the project. Pinterest is a young platform and the backend is constantly being adjusted and refined. When we first started working on the project, we were unsure if our idea for these branded mosaics was even possible to execute.
To determine when, or even if, our “pins” would show up, we spent a great deal of time refining our approach. What we initially thought could be executed from a development standpoint turned out to be impossible, given the nature of Pinterest’s detection algorithms and user interface. Therefore, our preliminary hypotheses were tested over and over again until the best course of action was determined.
We were given a great deal of creative freedom to design and develop a truly innovative solution for UNIQLO. The clothing company was open to experimenting with the Pinterest platform and gave us free rein to come up with something that would drive awareness of the brand. They were fine with us using minimal branding and making the mosaics feel more like a design experiment than a typical clothing ad. The only real constraint was that everything had to be done without using traditional paid media.
In terms of the actual design of the project, from the beginning we had a very clear idea of the sort of aesthetic we wanted to convey. Although that never changed, the actual execution went through a number of iterations before a final course of action was determined. Any image that we pinned had to work within the overall mosaic, no matter where it ended up being pinned.
The most important aspect of the design was that each mosaic filled the screen and appeared to “move” as the user scrolled. The final aesthetic mirrored the moisture-wicking properties of Dry Mesh T-shirts, with blue dots changing to white as users scrolled through the mosaics. Once that “animation” was nailed down, others followed to ensure that Pinterest users would take notice.
For this project, we were entering unknown territory. The Pinterest platform is constantly evolving and the backend of the site is undergoing updates just as frequently. The greatest challenge was making sure that our idea would remain viable even in the face of so many changes. A solution that worked one day might not work weeks down the road. Because any update to the platform altered if and where an image might appear, our team had to continually adjust our approach.
While we initially believed that our developers would be able to create the mosaics for us, that ended up not being possible. Each individual tile had to be manually pinned in order to create long, scrolling mosaics, a process that was much more labor intensive than originally anticipated.
This campaign far exceeded anyone’s most optimistic projections, including ours. It provided a visually jarring and disruptive experience for countless Pinterest users but required no paid media.
The branded mosaics garnered UNIQLO 55 million media impressions and more than 6 million mentions on Twitter. On June 26, 2012, “UNIQLO+Pinterest” was mentioned once every two minutes across digital media platforms, and the work was covered by 64 media outlets. Prominent blogs such as Mashable, AdAge and Business Insider kept the project in the spotlight, contributing to 37 million media impressions.