How Brands Rode Out Uniqlo’s Sex Tape Scandal on Weibo

123 views

by Sophie Loras

Brands in China have been quick to capitalize on Uniqlo’s misfortune after Chinese lovers released a sex video on social media taken in a Beijing store’s changing room.

Chinese social media went into overdrive this week after a couple released a video of themselves having sex in a Uniqlo Beijing store change room, giving brands ample opportunities to join the hype.

The Japanese clothing retailer has denied the video is a marketing ploy, though “Uniqlo” has been searched more than 2 million times on Weibo since the news broke Wednesday. A loudspeaker announcement in the background of the video confirms the specific store.

“One of the most effective ways to raise engagement and sharing on social media is to ride hot and trending topics,” says Mark Tanner, managing director of China Skinny, a Shanghai-based marketing and research agency. “There is some quite clever tactical marketing milking it right now – some direct from the brands. Many are user-generated, which will help raise the brand’s profile, mostly in a fun way.”

Chinese budget hotel brand 7Days Inn posted this short message on Weibo: “Our rooms are as big as 18 fitting rooms.”
uniqlo-7dayinn-500-2
User-generated content is also being created around the size and brightness of H&M and Zara change rooms. British department store Harrods even got a mention with this fake post:

uniqlo-harrods-500

Chinese search engine Baidu mixed the Uniqlo news with NASA’s latest images of Pluto, creating a post that reads: “Searches for beautiful things always exceed the ridiculous things.”

uniqlo-baidu-500
E-commerce retailers on Taobao are also offering Uniqlo t-shirts with an image of the couple in question.

uniqlo-taobao-t-shirts-500-2

Meanwhile, the Uniqlo store in Beijing’s hip Sanlitun area has been inundated with people taking selfies, both inside and outside the shop, and then posting them to social media. “All in all, I think the weird behavior is likely to raise the Uniqlo brand preference and many of the brands riding it,” Tanner says.

Dou Wenyu, associate dean and professor of marketing at City University of Hong Kong, warns brands to tread carefully around vulgar or negative social events in China, as it may hurt brand equity. He advises brands using real-time marketing to make a natural connection between the brand and the message.

“Let your brand have some kind of consistency and relevancy to the news story,” he says.

For example, this post from mattress brand ARIS successfully conveys the comfort element of its product by comparing it favorably to a Uniqlo dressing room.
uniqlo-aris-500