Vividly recollecting that sea of tartan still haunts me to this very day. Over a decade ago when I was entering my early teens, the one’s your mother wanted you to avoid would be noticeable a mile off, finding identity in that dizzy patterned uniform. Burberry was considered, dare I say it, ‘Chav’.
That is why the brands turnaround achievement over the last decade, largely directed from the heart of the company by visionary Chief Creative Officer Christopher Bailey is quite frankly nothing but a masterpiece.
Whilst reclaiming that treasured British heritage that Burberry was founded upon by Thomas Burberry himself, Bailey reinvigorated the company’s product, (which originated with the famous trench coat), and image, stripping back the focus from that dreaded pattern of the past, and has pioneered the brand’s development aims in becoming the iconic multimedia fashion tycoon that it is today. Burberry is regaining the reputation of a retail brand of the highest quality and moves into the 21st century as a juggernaut in more ways than one.
Whilst businesses in all sectors still struggle to harness the digital revolution that has become part and parcel of everyday life, Bailey was long ago in the process of taking the brand’s newly refurbished identity and giving it a digital savvy focus, embracing the future and ferocious shift in the relationship roles between business and consumer.
The Burberry Experience
At the core of this success story is Bailey’s pride and joy, Burberry World Live. Before you type it into Google, this isn’t to be found online, although is as close as you can get to an online experience free of the web. This is the flagship store in Regent Street; a physical manifestation of the brands website, the absolute epitome of the customer focused in-store experience, tuned to perfection in the finest of details from the flooring, to the curves of the wall and the cinematic visualisations darting around from all angles. The in-store environment cleverly adapting to the weather changes shining down via the enormous glass dome ceiling.
On entrance to the store there are no signs of any clothing rails or robotic queues to cash tills, it seems that in Bailey’s mind those times are long gone, a new era has emerged in the retail industry.
“We designed it like that because when you’re shopping at home online, you are on the sofa with your credit card. You don’t stand up and queue”, Bailey states. “We wanted to totally merge the digital and the physical worlds.”
The store is certainly welcoming that marriage and has been tackling new challenges head on.
Staff are suited up and stylishly parade with iPads in hand, ready to walk you through a digitised visual of yourself dressed in the items of your choice, or take orders from you on any items that have been sold out in-store.
A ‘radio-frequency ID’ tag triggers one of the hundreds of in-store displays to transform into a mirror on the spot, accompanied by any detail you could need on whichever product plays to your temptations. With some retailers struggling to adapt to the so called ‘showrooming’ consumer who may browse in store but buy online, Burberry have rather taken the initiative and offered a service that keeps customer’s eyes on the prize while avoiding the temptation of the consumer to retrieve their smartphone from their pockets.
The star of the Burberry World Live however, is positioned centre piece, a 22-foot-high mammoth screen streaming Burberry events as they happen, such as their Spring-Summer 2013 fashion runway sported by handpicked British models.
This approach doesn’t stop there either, with the company utilising the talent of homegrown, high profile actors and musicians, who Bailey signs up to another ingenious idea; ‘Burberry Acoustic’, promoting material through bespoke live video and audio streams, even offering iTunes music downloads.
To add to the digital incentives, Bailey still manages to hold onto the brand’s heritage tastefully, building their own platform called ‘The Art of Trench’ where customers are encouraged to engage by posting photos of themselves championing the brands iconic coat, blending interaction with the ability to comment and share memories between one another.
This isn’t just a brand, it’s a movement and customer value is clearly displayed in efforts to constantly draw you in and listen to what you have to say. The enormous budget slice of 60% investment in digital speaks volumes of what Burberry continues to gain from it’s unobtrusive interaction with the social lives of its proponents.
“Most of us are very digital in our daily lives now. Burberry is a young team and this is instinctive to us. To the younger generation who are coming into adulthood now, this is all they know.” Bailey stated.
With nearly 15,000,000 Facebook followers and 1,800,000 tweeters making it the most popular online retailer, Burberry continues to conjure up effective campaigns appropriate to the digital world.
Take their decision to ditch the traditional magazine feature of their new body fragrance and instead dive into offering free samples to any consumer who allowed the brand access to their data on Facebook. Access to your entire back catalogue of online life may seem extreme, but in reality the trade off allows Burberry to ensure that your experiences better catered to you and more effective in the future. Blending the Burberry brand with consumer data allows Burberry to develop an alignment with its customers. The phrase ‘brands are people’ has never been more appropriate.
Even before television was included in the TV ad campaign, the Youtube channel was the primary source in encouraging and allowing viewers to share through their personal profiles across the digital landscape. This highlights the power in cleverly assembled online visual media (and distribution), and again demonstrates where Burberry’s priorities lie when it comes to interacting with it’s followers.
Then of course the now popularly replicated #Tweetwalk allows realtime streaming of content worldwide; showing off seasonal catwalks and encouraging the audience to share on a global scale, in effect the audience raises Burberry’s profile for free, before the traditional press has the chance to distribute via traditional and cumbersome methods. The showcase allows availability of chosen items only 72 hours after live stream, capitalising on instant order ability and offering bespoke tailoring based on requirements.
So, if reputation and branding are what retailers are most concerned with, it’s obvious that Burberry seem to have a clearer vision than ever before and the statistics highlight this, with sales up to £613m in December 2012.
Perhaps a lesson for all retailers out there is Bailey’s attitude toward welcoming change, his emphasis on perfection across the board from the product, to the in-store design, to the heritage and branding of the company. Bailey is truly effective in marrying the physical and digital worlds.
Every aspect is neatly packaged and well thought out, positioning itself as a leading consumer centered brand. Many budgets are likely dwarfed by that of established brands such as Burberry, but lessons can still be learnt and opportunities are rich for the future of retail, especially when it comes to social interaction through popular social platforms that continue to grow exponentially.
Consumers are on board, so it’s up to the retailers still lagging behind to get swimming, because they’ve already missed the boat.