Case Study: Superdry – Cheltenham, nothing to do with Japan

Superdry is an international clothing label of SuperGroup plc., headquartered in Cheltenham, UK. We look at how branding was essential in the success of this label. We also look at how the definition of this brand altered consumer perception.

The jacket with the Japanese script lettering on its shoulder lining, which happens to be the logo as well, is a ubiquitous sight on any high street in Britain. Imogen succinctly writes in The Guardian – “in London, you are never meant to be more than 6ft away from a rat, even if you can’t see one. Today, in the UK – by my scientific reckoning – you are never more than six feet away from a bit of Superdry.



Superdry: who are they?

For the uninitiated, Superdry is a fashion label of SuperGroup plc, an international clothing company based out of Cheltenham, UK. Well, it didn’t start out that way but that’s what this case study is all about. It’s about ingenious branding that resurrected an almost non existent fashion line of outdoor wear – a transition from car boot sales to high street stores, from oblivion to ubiquity.

Brand Identity

They market themselves as a “fashion chain for men and women blending vintage Americana with Japanese and British inspirations.” What’s the Japanese inspiration, I hear you ask. Well, the scripting on the logo, and, yeah, that’s about it. But, boy, did it work! SuperGroup have clearly capitalised on consumer psyche towards anything Japanese. Research has shown that European consumers aspire and exhibit inclination towards Japanese brands and this is reflected in their purchase decisions. Moreover, packaging/products scripted in Japanese tend to exude a certain degree of quality and “wow” factor in the customer’s perception.

The fact that Superdry has nothing to do with anything remotely Japanese is evident if you decipher the script. If loosely translated (there’s no literal translation from Japanese), it reads “maximum dry (do)”, which sounds absolutely nonsensical. James Holder, the brainchild of Superdry reminisces of his obsession with typography and his childhood spent reading Japanese manga comics (known for its Japanese script on the cover). Apparently, the logo was conceived at a Japanese pub by James with a play on English and Japanese typography to loosely convey the meaning of staying dry on a wet day using Superdry.

The branding genius lies in the logo seamlessly incorporating Japanese and English, and conveying something totally different to what it actually says! Some market experts believe it’s a parody on Japanese clothing brands that often use meaningless English mumbo-jumbo to appear British. Parody or not, SuperGroup ain’t complaining. The logo has elevated Superdry to the point it’s mentioned in the same breath as Uniqlo, Zara, AllSaints and  Mango – labels that rub shoulders with Superdry.


Find out what happens when branding goes horribly wrong.