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Burberry Reinventing The Brand Case Study

About – The Burberry Story

Established in 1856 and headquartered in London, England, Burberry Group Inc is a British luxury lifestyle fashion house founded by Thomas Burberry. The company designs, manufactures and sells products under the Burberry brand. The company specializes in ready-made apparel, accessories, fragrances, cosmetics and sunglasses. And, it’s merchandise is known for its signature check patterns. The brand has dressed notable celebrities from diverse fields.

The brand is synonymous with its tan Gabardine raincoat pioneered 145 years ago. Founder Thomas Burberry was not particularly pleased with the then popular rubberized mackintosh raincoat. Gaining inspiration from the country folk’s loose smocks; Thomas designed a breathable weather proof fabric, which was then trademarked as “Gabardine”, a Shakespearean term meaning shelter from inclement weather.

The rain coat was first exported to Japan during World War 1 and brought glory to brand. The coat later came to be known as “Trench Coat” due to the pervasiveness and endurance it offered during trench warfare.

The ‘Burberry Check’ was first introduced as a lining to the trench court. The Paris store owner using his dexterity turned up the hem of one of the coats to highlight the checked lining and repeated the ‘check’ for the umbrellas. The idea was a runaway success and it made & sold hundreds of umbrellas. The experiment led to the introduction of the checked cashmere scarf, a perennial bestseller.

Burberry has branded stores and franchises around the world and the brands first store opened its doors to the public in 1891 in the Haymarket region of London, while the first overseas store opened in 1910 in the city of Paris. Presently, the brand has more than 500 stores in more than 50 countries.

Burberry Group Inc is listed in the London Stock Exchange and CEO and Chief Creative Officer Christopher Bailey has been at the helm of affairs of the since 2014.

Free Digital Marketing Webinar

Date: 14th Mar, 2018 (Wed)
Time: 3 PM to 4:30 PM (IST/GMT +5:30)

Business Objective – Why go for Digital Marketing?

About a decade ago, Burberry was struggling and the luxury brands performance was not at par with its peers. In 2006 the then CEO Adriana Ahrendts decided to reinvent the the brand and attract younger customers.

Ahrendts prime objective was to make Burberry the first company to go fully digital and to build a social enterprise. She quoted to the Harvard Business Review “The number one strategy that came (from our first meeting) was all centered around the brand. We want to purify the brand message and how we were going to do that; by focusing on outer wear, by focusing on digital, by targeting a younger consumer”.

Broadly Ahrendts wanted to develop a well-defined and modern brand identity and design excellent customer service.

Strategy – How they did it

The brand has employed a strong social strategy in order to reach out to its target audience in the digital space. The bulk of their campaign has centered around social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. The fashion house has maintained a steady theme across different platforms but has optimized the content to suit each platform. For example it has used Facebook for live streaming and exhibiting products, Instagram for visuals and Twitter to incite user engagement and interaction.

Apart from the social media platforms Burberry has also leveraged Burberry.com in a big way to engage with customers.

  1. Art of the Trench Campaign – First Launched in November 2009, it was Burberry’s first major campaign after is foray into the digital space. In order to enhance the appeal of the campaign Burberry joined hands with Scott Schuman also known as The Sartorialist after his fashion blog. The team created a micro site wherein existing customers could post snaps wearing their own trench courts. Users could comment, like the content and share the snaps on Facebook, Twitter and E-mail. The idea was to transfer the limelight on to customers and make them feel special. It enhanced the aspirational value of the brand and at the same time enhanced brand loyalty by establishing a connection with customers. The same year, the Spring/Summer 2010 show was streamed live, giving the world free access to exclusive ramp action for the first time. Within a year, Burberry’s Facebook page had more than a million followers, the largest at the time for a luxury brand and Burberry recorded a 50% growth in e-commerce sales year on year. In 2014 the campaign was rebooted to give it a global footprint. The reintroduction video has more than 1.4 million views, while the micro site has about 25 million views till date. Kudos!
  1. Acoustic – Launched in June 2010 Burberry Acoustic is a set of exclusive videos showcasing young local UK music artists wearing Burberry outfits. The idea is to promote fresh local talent and at the same time engage with consumers and initiate consumer discussion. The campaign helps Burberry establish a greater connect with the millennials and provides a platform to exhibit its products subtly. The initiative has resulted in greater traction across micro sites and social media channels and has created a buzz about Burberry products. Nice!
  1. Kisses Campaign – In June 2013 Burberry launched its kisses campaign in collaboration with Google. The initiative was used to market Burberry’s cosmetics, specifically lipsticks now popularly known as Burberry Kisses. The website would let users send out virtual kisses in the colour of their favourite Burberry Lipsticks using their webcam or by just kissing the screen of their touch screen devices. Users also had the option of adding a personalized message to the post. Google Street View using its 3D landscape then enabled users to actually follow the journey of their kiss to the recipient. It was an engaging and fun campaign that enthralled people from all parts of the globe. There were more than 250,000 searches on Google during the campaign and people from 13000 cities participated during the first 10 days of the campaign. Sweet!
  1. Tweetwalk – Burberry in collaboration with Twitter launched its Tweetwalk campaign in September 2011. The fashion house shared backstage visuals of its unreleased Spring/Summer collection 2012 with its fans even before the collection made it to the ramp. To add to the excitement Burberry fans were given an opportunity to buy products from the latest range before it was made available to the general public. The idea was to celebrate the brand with its customers. The campaign took Twitter by storm with 50000 views and #Tweetwalk & #ChristopherBailey trended on Twitter. The ramp show was then streamed live on the Burberry’s Facebook page. Further, Burberry decided to hand over control of their Instagram account to the brands most followed user, Mike Kus. Kus live streamed ramp day visuals with #Burberry #LFW #MikeKus thus increasing Burberry’s fan base & also his own. Masterstroke!
  1. Burberry.com – Burberry’s internet home burberry.com is one of the most impressive fashion sites available on the net. It is optimized to suit all platforms and provides a smooth user experience. It is visual appealing, rich on content, quick to load and has readable URLs. Navigating through the website is a breeze. It’s a one stop solution for all that concerns Burberry. The website facilitates e-commerce sale and customers can avail the latest and expansive Burberry collection right with a click of a button. Burberry offers free shipping and a 30 day return policy depending on the customer’s location. For any queries relating to the brand customers can use the Live Chat and instant Call Me Back facility. Moreover, the website has links to a host of other digital content such as look books, Art of the Trench and Burberry Acoustic etc. It’s brilliant!
  1. The Flagship Store – The Burberry flagship store at Regent Street, London is no less than a digital marvel. It is technology packed and is inspired by the site map of burberry.com. The layout and architecture replicates that of the website and the store has 100 screens and 500 speakers spread across the building showcasing digitized Burberry content. Radio-frequency Identification Technology (RFID) chips have been fitted in certain products. Chip fitted products when taken into changing rooms or in front of screens display ramp visuals and other filmed footage of the product. Genius!
  1. Burberry Bespoke & Burberry Scarf Bar Campaign – These two initiatives center around the customization feature offered by Burberry. Using the Bespoke feature customers can choose from a host of combinations that range in thousands to personalize trench coats. Customers can choose from different cuts, collars, cuffs, linings, belts, epaulets and can even have their initials monogrammed onto the court. Similarly, the Scarf Bar campaign allows customers the option of selecting from a range of 30 scarf colours and shades of thread. Like in Bespoke customers can get their initials monogrammed onto the scarf. These exhaustive features are all available on burberry.com and customers can do all the customization online with the help of a tool, which gives users suggestions as well. Thereafter, customers can check the preview and order the product online. Smooth!

Results Achieved 

Burberry went through historic transformation between 2006 and 2014 under CEO, Adriana Ahrendts. It transformed from a tepid luxury brand selling trench coats to one of the leading voices in the fashion industry. It is easily one of the most coveted and aspirational luxury brands in the world. The company’s revenue skyrocketed from 743 million pounds in 2006 to 2523 million pounds in 2015.

In 2011 the fashion house was named the 4th fastest growing brand worldwide by Interbrand (after Apple, Google, and Amazon) and WPP/BrandZ (after Facebook, Baidu, and Wells Fargo). In 2012 it was the fastest growing luxury brand on Interbrand’s index.

Today Burberry is one of the most digitally innovative brands in the world and the most popular brand on social media. It has more than 17 million likes on Facebook, 6.7 million followers on Twitter and 7 million followers on Instagram.

Free Digital Marketing Webinar

Date: 14th Mar, 2018 (Wed)
Time: 3 PM to 4:30 PM (IST/GMT +5:30)

Learnings –  What we take home

  1. Target Audience – In 2006 when Burberry started rebuilding the brand, it knew it had to target the younger demographic group in order to leverage growth. The average middle-aged man probably already owned a trench coat and by targeting the middle aged Burberry would have probably continued with the 2% growth norm. Breaking tradition and moving out of its comfort zone has enabled the company to scale growth.
  1. Right Medium – Once Burberry knew who its target audience was, it was important to choose the correct medium to effectively reach out to customers. It’s a digital world and then CEO Ahrendts was confident that the medium of interaction was going to be digital social channels. Burberry designed a coherent theme for its pages on social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and actively engaged with its fans on these mediums.
  1. Content is King – Burberry maintained a consistent sense of sophistication synonymous with its brand across all its social platforms. The company shared rich, high quality, innovative and engaging content, with its fans through these channels. The content is well synchronized and updated regularly.
  1. Engage with Customers – Engaging and interacting with customers is one of Burberry’s prime objectives. Burberry has been successful in creating a long, everlasting bond with is customers and fans through its digital pursuits. Specific campaigns like Tweetwalk and Kisses have put greater emphasis on customers, hence have helped build brand image.

Image Credits: Burberry

Area of innovation: Customer experience
Year: 1997 to date

To survive in the intensely competitive industry of high fashion, companies typically compete by continuously reinventing their styles and offerings. Burberry, the traditional British clothing brand, decided to gain a competitive edge by focusing on providing an enhanced customer experience - both in their brickand-mortar stores as well as online.

The new customer experience was created by combining traditional British fashion designs and in-shop boutique displays, with cutting-edge technology. This unique mix enabled Burberry to reinvent itself as a highly desired and admired luxury fashion house.

To deliver superior customer experience, Burberry prioritised its own branded boutique outlets over multi-brand stores. The new boutiques were re-styled to combine the traditional Burberry designs and classical British style with modern technology, such as touchscreens, iPod docking stations and the like - a mix that resonated well with today's luxury shoppers who value tradition, but at the same time embrace modern technology and lifestyle.

Burberry trebled revenues over 13 years, a big turnaround for a waning luxury brand. It has two American CEOs to thank for this - Rose Marie Bravo and incumbent Angela Ahrendts.

Burberry did not limit itself to embracing modern technology only in its stores - it aggressively exploited the opportunities offered by the Internet, digital marketing and social media by making its online experience just as distinctive and 'branded' as its in-store experience. By doing so, it also widened its reach to a wide global audience.

Burberry began streaming 3D live broadcasts of its runway shows from five cities around the world and then putting these shows online through 80 partner websites, reaching a potential audience of one million.

In comparison, the traditional catwalk show in Milan or London is limited to a few hundred of its exclusive clients. Customers around the world can now view the show on their iPads, click on a product they like and have it delivered in a few weeks via Burberry's 'Worldstore' portal.

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Burberry was among the first to build a presence in social networks. It now has over six million 'fans' on Facebook - more than any other fashion brand, including competitors such as Louis Vuitton and Gucci.

Focusing on "virtual marketing" has also helped Burberry reach out to luxury-obsessed shoppers in emerging markets. With the help of technology and the Internet, Burberry has become one of the most recognisable and desired fashion brands in the new world economies like China - driving revenue growth both in the new markets as well as in Burberry's traditional markets.

This year, while other fashion retailers continue to report revenue decline and decreasing profits in the aftermath of the financial crisis, Burberry's revenue is expected to rise by around 27 per cent to $1.5 billion, with operating profit close to $300 million.

Deep Kalra, Founder & CEO, MakeMyTrip.com

Innovation breeds efficiency

In the rapidly growing and dynamic market of today, innovation is necessary for a company's growth, as well as to establish a brand. In this fast-paced world, increasing efficiency is the key requirement in order to face competition and sustain growth. Hence, innovation is essential as it breeds efficiency. With the impact of globalisation, increased access to the Internet and Web 2.0, there is significant development for companies that undertake quick, intelligent solutions that will help them build sustainable competitive advantage.

Burberry has focused on creating customer delight through innovation in technology and providing best-in-class customer experience, both online and in its boutique stores, which is the right step forward. Burberry's customer approach is based on the premise that customer experience needs to be enhanced in order to elevate the brand's perception.

India is potentially a big market for the brand, and Burberry has changed its global product, as well as its marketing strategy in accordance with the demographic changes in the Indian market. The products that have been added to the Indian offering are from the global portfolio, but still aligned to Indian audiences' preferences and taste. So the brand is moving in the right direction.

Keeping the Indian context in mind, I would say it is extremely crucial Burberry uses Indian models on its website, as it would give potential Indian customers a realistic product presentation that they can relate to. In order to drive faster adoption, Burberry could try a hybrid model, in which it could display its key products in a few stores across major cities in India and use this to drive purchases online.

In the present market scenario, it becomes important for all companies to innovate in order to stay ahead of competition. Local industry bodies and the government should set up innovation hubs and forums to drive leadership through innovation in growth industries such as retail, travel and technology.

Also, companies should allocate funds to incubate projects that breed innovation and experimentation. But at the same time, they should build resilience for failure if it happens.

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