The Rebirth of Burberry
Brands are businesses, managed and made by people. Next to what is produced and sold under a certain label, the character of a brand is determined by its behaviour (just like a person). From time to time, this behaviour can change quite radically, for instance to stimulate sales, launch new products or address a new target audience. This was how British fashion house Burberry underwent a radical but interesting transformation without losing its strong identity, during the first decade of this century Just after the millennium, Burberry was little more than a typical brand of rain clothes, favoured by footballers, football fans and soap stars. Not exactly the pinnacle of Great Britain’s style icons. But then Christopher Bailey appeared on the scene, introducing a whole new style based on the trenchcoat. He streamlined its silhouette into a very feminine and flattering form, brought in new materials, improved the styling and poached actresses and super models like Kate Moss who adorned the cover of Vogue several times, wearing his trench.His coat became a superstar, an extremely lucrative fashion icon that played the leading role in Burberry’s story which Bailey spread all over the world. A story positioning Burberry as the glossy, romantic and modern version of Britishness. What could be more British than rain? Bailey, however, did not appreciate how vindictive fashion can be in its hunger for newness. That was how Burberry came to lose its newfound glamour and charisma, over the years to follow.
When Angela Ahrendts was appointed CEO just before the beginning of this decade, she categorically stated: ‘I grew up in a physical world; and I speak English. The next generation is growing up in a digital world; and they speak social.’ Embracing the digital world was essential for survival as far as she was concerned. ‘Digital is the newest thread in the fashion sewing kit’ she concluded. Ahrendts let Burberry’s business model revolve around digital transformation. With the iconic trenchcoat as a sparkling centre. She brought regional websites together in a single platform and fed digital technology to employees and consumers alike. Within this world, she positioned Burberry as a gripping and progressive haute couture persona. She was the first to launch aproprietary social network site for a fashion brand, ‘The Art of the Trench’. Here she collaborated with trend setting fashion photographers and with Scott Schuman of the world famous fashion blog ‘The Sartorialist’. Designed and established in honour of Burberry’s trenchcoat, the site was an online public space for Burberry trenchcoat-wearers who uploaded photos of themselves in the iconic coats. The platform makes it easy to share content on all the popular social media channels.
Burberry thus acquired its reputation as a digital democracy; constantly updated by users and fans and thereby enticing millions of existing and potential consumers. But that was not the end of it, the brand introduced Burberry Acoustic- exclusive live performances for Burberry by young British musicians, that could be watched and listened to on the Burberry platform. And then Burberry Kisses, a technology project in collaboration with Google which allowed its users to send a digital kiss to anyone they chose, all over the world. This arose partly from the desire to give digital technology more heart and soul. Burberry also redesigned its shops to match the blueprint of its digital platform, so that consumers could receive ‘on the spot’ product- and brand information in both audio and video format. The look & feel of the stores was revamped to a cooler, more modern and approachable appearance. New branding items saw the light of day such as a big bear and contemporary patterns made with a new logo symbol. Christopher, who was appointed CEO after Angela’s departure, began a collaboration with modern illustrators and artists like Henri Moore. His sculptures served as inspiration for the new Burberry collection which was presented together with his work. Similarly Moore’s sculptures appareared in a selection of shops and some were even created in-store using 3D-printing.
Progressive Style icon
Burberry did not sell its soul but rediscovered itself in the digital world. This brought the company onto the radar of a new, larger audience which gave it the opportunity to innovate and renew itself in the physical world also. Burberry remained Burberry, but it became a Burberry of this era; a wanted and progressive style icon from the twenty-first century!