Burberry Eyes the Dots in Japan

By Tk Published on .

Can a fashion brand change its spots? Tokyo agency Tugboat, founded in 1999 and described by Time Asia as the "first purely creative agency in Japan," did just that for Burberry Blue Label recently, in an effort at a major turnaround in the Japanese market. The brand was simply not perceived as hip and happening in fashion-fickle Japan, hence "the brief was to develop an advertising campaign to evolve Burberry to appeal to fashionable women in their 20s and 30s," explains Tugboat co-founder/AD Seijo Kawaguchi, who led the project. "But we felt that an ad campaign was not enough to communicate the brand message and change the brand's perception within the target market," where it sorely lacked the hip-hop-fueled cachet found in the States. "We proposed to the client to reinvent the Burberry trademark and do a campaign for the new product line."

So, in the course of two years of development, Burberry's checks were cashed in to become Burberry's dots. If this seems like an unusually bold move for a brand, the fact that Burberry Blue Label went to Tugboat in the first place is a testament to the client's desire for serious change. As Tugboat CD Yasumichi Oka told Nikkei Weekly, in Japan, where a precious few megashops dominate the ad world to a degree unimaginable in the U.S. or Europe, "creative work in general is thought of as something extra, just like a consumption tax. This is in part due to the fact that Japanese clients, unlike those in the West, never lay eyes on the creatives when they place an order with an agency. In Western countries, clients regard creatives' ideas as important for promoting their products; in Japan, some clients consider TV personalities more important than ideas."

In the case of Burberry, however, it's not simply an idea that rules but a radical one. "The challenge in developing the new pattern was how to maintain the tradition and the quality of the Burberry check yet make it into a new iconic image of the brand," says Kawaguchi. The ads make a relaxed effort to bowl fashionistas over with the updated look, via "dots" arranged in artsy tableaux in incongruous situations. Which is not to say that such a transformation is an easy sell to the target market. "There are people who love the new dots, but there are also those who don't think it's Burberry," notes Kawaguchi. But, in true boutique spirit, he adds, "I'd like to think that something that causes an argument is itself a sign of good creative."

Client: Sanyo Shokai Agency: Tugboat, Tokyo CD: Yasumichi Oka AD: Seijo Kawaguchi Agency Producer: Runako Satoh Designers: Toshihiro Hyodo, Minoru Fuwa, Megumu Kasuga, Mari Kobayashi Photographer: Shoji Uchida Retouching : Kazuya Kuriyama, Hideki Minami

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