A Look at How a Luxury Brand Reinvented Itself and Took the Lead in Today’s Digital World
By Amy Bruining
Today, we recognize retail’s transition into a new era — the digital era. Since Amazon’s emergence and the rise of e-commerce in 2007, brands have had to learn how to adapt to a new interface of marketing and advertising. Now, strategists and advertisers need to analyze and retarget their audiences to reach them digitally. It’s critical to sales success. Some brands do it well. Others simply outperform the rest in their ability to recaptivate their audience.
One brand that exemplifies outstanding digital marketing performance is the British powerhouse and luxury retailer Burberry. The fashion house was a successful pioneer in the rise of the digital age, and used social channels to reinvent the brand to attract younger consumers.
It’s clear that Burberry has cultivated an amazing and distinguishable customer experience.
I’m not the first to discuss the brand’s epic resurgence. The media continues to tout its digital rise and revival. Britton Marketing & Design Group freelancer Steve Penhollow also noted Burberry’s rebirth in a June blog, crediting its leadership by former CEO Angela Ahrendts.
For me, Ahrendts was integral to the brand’s continued rise and growth through the digital realm.
Perhaps it’s because she has teenagers of her own, but when Ahrendts took over leadership at Burberry, she knew exactly what to do to get the luxury label back in the spotlight. She knew Burberry had to tell a better story.
In a self-published article, she said, “As the world becomes at once more complex and more connected, stories have the power to educate, write and inspire. By following these evergreen principles and leveraging the tools of the digital age, I believe the future of storytelling can be even richer and more complex than its past.”
This led to reinvention, as Penhollow pointed out in “Trench Coat Warfare.” It involved careful evaluation of where people were receiving information, and how to distinguish themselves from other premier brands, such as Gucci or Prada.
Rebranding is the marketing equivalent of brain surgery. The risks are high, and the consequences of failure can be…www.brittonmdg.com
So the question is, how is Burberry’s label distinguishable?
It’s All in the Attitude
Because it is “distinctly British,” the brand was challenged to become renewed and not lose value due to knockoffs. Ahrendts and chief creative officer Christopher Bailey capitalized on the prized and iconic trench coat, as well as the fine-knit cashmere scarves. They brought the icons back to life — digitally.
Burberry’s social marketing strategy conveys a sophisticated message: Its merchandise is classic and timeless. It’s a collection of luxury lifestyle essentials.
In a 2013 interview with Vogue, Bailey said, “We’re constantly thinking about how we translate the emotion of what we create and experience in the real world into the digital space, whether that’s capturing the energy and excitement of a live gig, the hum and buzz of anticipation before a runway show, or just the feeling you get when you pull on your trench coat on a rainy morning.” It seems that Burberry has succeeded. Through various ingenious campaigns, fashion-conscious buyers crave and still desire to make the legendary brand part of their own story.
Why It Works? Emotional Energy
In June 2013, Salesforce published a YouTube video, chronicling Burberry’s overwhelming digital success. In this documentary, Ahrendts said, “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. Whether you’re talking with customers or talking with employees, you have to do it on a social platform because that’s the language they speak.”
Burberry’s social marketing strategy conveys a sophisticated message: Its merchandise is classic and timeless. It’s a collection of luxury-lifestyle essentials. Burberry successfully rebranded from being devalued and outdated, and incorporated a playful yet elegant tone when engaging customers.
"@Adele wearing a custom @Burberry gown to perform live on stage at @TheXFactor final last night in #London"www.instagram.com
This year, the brand took first place in the fashion world’s Digital IQ Index. Competitors Kate Spade, Ralph Lauren, Louis Vuitton and Tory Burch really didn’t stand a chance.
Let’s take a look at how Burberry continues its amazing platform presence.
Social Strategy Pioneers
Under Ahrendts and Bailey, the brand realized its marketing campaigns could cultivate more — namely millennials — when using cross-channel messaging. Burberry now knows how to make this group desire its refined luxury, whether through Instagram posts that show the crafting of cashmere scarves or a partnership with Google that sends virtual smooches.
Burberry now knows how to make this group desire its refined luxury, whether through Instagram posts that show the crafting of cashmere scarves or a partnership with Google that sends virtual smooches.
The luxury brand knew it needed to commit to one comprehensive message and make all channels flow seamlessly together. The result? Photos and videos are cross-shared between Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Consumers see the same products, and the same carefully crafted posts, pins and tweets on each channel.
YouTube may be one of the most integral ways that Burberry is, and was, able to chronicle its growth and success. To date, the brand’s channel has uploaded over 500 videos and boasts 227,000 subscribers (in addition to 86 million viewers). It features how-to makeup tutorials, acoustic music that highlights British talent, and even catwalks, which offer consumers a virtual front-row seat.
Most recently, the brand produced a holiday campaign nod to the film Billy Elliot. Starring the likes of Naomi Campbell, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley and Romeo Beckham, the “festive film” shows these celebs — and other notable Brits — prancing around and sporting the classic coat-and-scarf attire. Here, the brand garnered great achievement by sticking to a “distinctly British” attitude, yet still allowed a fun vibe to be a central part of the message.
Within one month, the ad has received over 12 million views. And the brand even partnered with Google to create the “Burberry Booth.” Where upon visiting the flagship store, customers can film their very own 15-second edit of the campaign. I would say it’s been effective in spreading cheer and prompting holiday purchases, but that’s just my opinion.
I feel consumer response toward the new holiday campaign is telling, as one tweet (user will remain anonymous) reads, “I am loving the star-studded @Burberry Christmas ad @jamesbay @eltonofficial and little Romeo being my fav!”
The brand’s Twitter platform is at 5.24 million (and growing) followers since joining in 2009. One month ago, as I was gathering research, the followers were at a measly 4 million. Whoa — that’s quite the impressive jump.
The consumer followings on Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook are equally impressive. Facebook leads with over 17 million “likes,” Instagram trails with 5.3 million followers and Pinterest has gained over 143,000 followers.
The feeds showcase romanticized, scenic London cityscapes and celebs wearing the label on the red carpet. Consumers are given a great picture of what it means to have a “distinct British” attitude, and the messaging remains consistent, seemingly stating: “We are glamorous, but also ultra-inviting.”
"Christmas lights sparkle in London this afternoon #BurberryWeather 11ºC | 51ºF"www.instagram.com
Being the season for gift giving, the brand is heavy on product-driven messaging. Linked posts on each channel display CTAs, such as “check out,” or “personalize” for particular items. Products vary from ankle boots to scarves, to sweaters (shown in the images below). It’s a prime way for Burberry to drive e-commerce traffic and make holiday shopping easier for you and me.
For instance, I’m a big fan of the following Instagram post. Consumers catch a glimpse into the Scottish craft of the monogrammed scarf and view a link to buy. Again, Burberry provides insight into its brand distinction and successfully prompts a purchase.
"Personalise an icon. Follow the link in bio to monogram yours at The @Burberry Scarf Bar"www.instagram.com
In-Store and Online Mobilization
In addition to reigning on social channels, the company wanted to optimize its own website and mobile app to further customer engagement. These improvements helped create a coveted and innovative in-store experience. Burberry.com hosts unique features, such as “Art of the Trench,” “Burberry Bespoke” and “Burberry Scarf Bar.”
“Art of the Trench” gives consumers an opportunity to have 15 minutes of fame. They proudly sport their trench on Instagram or Facebook, where it can also be uploaded to the website. To date, thousands have posted, and it’s still a popular, highlighted feature.
Striving to stay one step ahead, Burberry continues to raise the bar in digital retail and branding success.
Burberry’s “Scarf Bar” also presents a great interactive experience, allowing for the customization of a Heritage scarf. Monograms and specific color choices, as well as hearts, can embroider the plaid cashmere.
“Burberry Bespoke” extends personalization through the trench and allows consumers to choose buttons, lining and color to truly make the icon their own. This specific feature has transitioned to the in-store experience.
In 2012, Burberry opened one of its largest flagship stores, on London’s Regent Street. The location was one of the first to “blur the lines between digital and physical shopping experiences.” Here, customers can enter and already have items saved to checkout in their online account. In addition, they can try on pieces and have them mirrored by looks straight off the runway. According to Ahrendts, the store was meant to feel as if “walking through the doors is just like walking into our website. It’s Burberry World Live.” And I would agree — its innovation is unsurpassed.
Distinct. Distinguished. Effective
It’s clear that Burberry has cultivated an amazing and distinguishable customer experience. It continues to innovate and set itself apart from other luxury brands. As Ahrendts has left for Apple, Bailey is tasked with building a stronger legacy and digital strategy. He must further Ahrendts’ mission to have Burberry remain content-driven and rooted as an inviting luxe retailer.
Within the last few years, the brand has effectively revealed why it should be iconic, and it learned to deliver a one-of-a-kind shopping experience. More importantly, Burberry realized there are no greater tools to reach an audience than those at one’s fingertips.
Through various ingenious campaigns, fashion-conscious buyers crave and still desire to make the legendary brand part of their own story.
As blogger Robin Swire wrote in 2014, “Burberry’s continuing focus on digital has helped them to become one of the most popular and admired brands in the world. With an exceptional rise in sales, almost 14% higher than the rest of the luxury fashion market, consistent outperformance of competitors, and an incredible rise in stock value, Burberry is surpassing all targets. With their expansion into China, including the flagship Shanghai store mirroring that of Regent Street, the future looks very bright for Burberry.” And it still is quite bright.
Striving to stay one step ahead, Burberry continues to raise the bar in digital retail and branding success. It is expanding its following through Spotify, Apple Music and Snapchat. The brand also announced a 3-D collaboration with DreamWorks to give consumers more interactive play in London’s Piccadilly Circus. And rumor has it that Ahrendts is still working with Bailey to develop a beneficial product for both companies. Now, digital ingenuity for Burberry appears perpetual.