Uniqlo's HeatTech Ads Confuse Customers

Uniglo subway ad for HeatTechEven a marketing juggernaut like Uniqlo gets it wrong every once in awhile. The Hiroshima-born discount fashion palace, known by some as "the Japanese H&M," is confusing New York City subway riders, tourists and online visitors with an ad campaign touting its HeatTech line of clothing.

In the ads, Charlize Theron and Orlando Bloom wear chic down jackets with the HeatTech logo prominently displayed next to them. Problem is, the popular HeatTech technology, a material that is a combination of Rayon and milk proteins said to generate and trap body warmth, isn't incorporated in the jackets. It's in what's under the jackets -- the T-shirts, turtlenecks and sweaters -- that Uniqlo sells.Like many other shoppers bracing for a cold winter ahead, I was seduced by the ads and visited a Uniqlo store in Manhattan intent on finding a HeatTech down coat. The first thing I did was to ask where the HeatTech ski jackets were. That's when the salesperson informed me that there is no such thing. In fact, the salesperson estimated, some 500 customers entering the store have been confused by the ads, as well. Uniqlo was doing something to clear up the confusion, the salesperson assured me.

The misleading message continues with the video spots featuring the pretty Bloom and Theron. Both brave the elements with their lightweight jackets dominating the imagery. In the Bloom spot, The Pirates of the Caribbean actor pads around a snow-surrounded cabin and departs with his snow board and unzipped parka. "Thin, warm, comfortable," he says. "HeatTech. It's what I wear." The Academy Award-winning Theron walks a beach as flakes fall. She caresses her coat and says, "Thin and warm and soft on my skin. HeatTech keeps me warm."

The advertising is probably helping business. It's just not doing it in the most upfront way. Folks like me entering the store all jazzed about HeatTech jackets that don't exist aren't going to leave empty-handed. I still bought a well-made down jacket on sale for $99 -- a bargain -- to go with a $19.99 HeatTech turtleneck.

Now I'm just waiting for the truly frigid weather to kick in to test my purchases. HeatTech or not, as long as I'm warm, I'll be a happy shopper.

(UPDATED 12/4)
In an email response, the company did not mention any changes to the campaign. Aoi Matsumoto, senior marketing manager for Uniqlo USA Inc., wrote that "One thin layer of warmth" appears in the largest font on some of the print-ad sections. "We believe a lot of customers understand what it is and come to the store to check it out," Matsumoto said.
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