Burberry: Using Digital to Revitalize a Brand

Seeking to revitalize and harmonize its brand, Burberry became a digital leader in the luxury fashion space.

Up until about a decade ago, fashion brand Burberry was underperforming significantly against its peers in the luxury sector. Following the appointment of Angela Ahrendts as CEO (now Senior VP of Retail and Online Stores at Apple), Burberry underwent a transformation that revitalized the brand and dramatically boosted its performance. In its quest to develop a well-defined and modern brand identity and design an excellent customer experience, Burberry has turned to digital as a core element of its customer strategy, making it a digital winner in the luxury space. Indeed, it stands out in this sector as a pioneer in integrating digital with its traditional physical and brick and mortar business and in integrating technology more generally in a fashion business.

As it made choices about how to revitalize its somewhat outdated trench coat brand, Burberry decided to target millenials, and recognized the need to embrace digital to do so. Burberry was able to create an outstanding online consumer experience, both through social media and its website. It was one of the first luxury brands to use Facebook, and has maintained an active presence on the site, as well as on Twitter (used both as a marketing tool and a customer service channel) and YouTube. Burberry has used social media in innovative ways to engage its consumers, particularly via a long-standing partnership with Twitter which has allowed viewers to access live-streams of runway shows, receive personalized photos from shows and buy products via the social media site. Its social media presence, which has seen consistent and well-thought-out content, has allowed the brand to develop a strong community following and relaunched brand awareness and popularity amongst younger consumers.

In parallel, Burberry built a sleek website which includes digital content and drives ecommerce. Burberry has also designed unique digital content to allow consumers to interact with the brand, to provide customization opportunities and to go beyond fashion and become a tastemaker for its young customers. The brand created Art of the Trench, a community where users could upload photos of themselves wearing Burberry trenches, which positioned consumers at the center of the brand and attracted thousands of users. Through Burberry Bespoke, consumers could design and order a customized trench, and Burberry Acoustic featured up-and-coming British musicians performing while wearing Burberry items. Its strong online presence — more significant than many of its competitors’ — was built out to respond to the needs and interests of Burberry’s target customers.

Burberry’s use of technology didn’t just stop online. It has also made an effort to use digital to enhance the physical experience, with its flagship store in London laid out to mimic the online website experience, and RFID tags on some of its products which give access to interactive digital content. On the back end, Burberry developed a global ERP program to align internal processes and leverage global data.

Burberry’s approach to digital was innovative and, perhaps more importantly, completely aligned with its strategic goals as a brand and a company. It has managed to develop a consistent digital presence in order to build a strong and recognizable brand, while also being smart about using particular platforms for particular types of content – e.g. Twitter to maintain an active community and market around key events, Instagram for visuals, etc. Its approach to engaging consumers via digital has been well-adapted to its chosen target audience. And it embraced digital transformation on the inside to drive more aligned global processes, thus improving brand uniformity. In the past decade, Burberry has seen sales skyrocket, and has emerged as a true beloved luxury brand and a recognized digital fashion leader. It is great to see a brand that has managed to view digital not as an obligation in this day and age, but as a real strategic tool to build brand value and connect with consumers.



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Student comments on Burberry: Using Digital to Revitalize a Brand

  1. As a loyal Burberry fan, I’ve been encouraged by its resurgence recently. As you noted, I think digital and online presence has played a huge role in connecting with consumers as well as creating brand awareness to milennials who may have heard about the brand from their parents, but are now old enough to have purchasing power for some of its items.

    I think the perfect example that illustrates the brand’s efforts to reach both its traditional, older loyal segment and newer segments are its use of Jordan Dunn (a Millennial model) and Naomi Campbell (supermodel who dominated the 90s), featured together in many of its ads. A testament to the brand’s digital prowess and connectivity with tech savvy consumers is that it has 4.4M followers on Instagram–that’s more than Target (940K) and trailing not too far behind Forever21 (8M), comprised of millennial-heavy, younger mass consumers who are obsessed with Instagram.

    As brick-and-mortar stores become less important and online presence offers a way to stay connected with consumers frequently, Burberry gets the message loud and clear–and are reaping the benefits of following technology.

  2. Great post! I fully agree that Burberry has done an excellent job of utilizing digital to step out, especially with respect to the rest of the luxury retail industry. That said, I do think that the rest of the industry is starting to catch up — many retailers are also doing very similar things as far as robust mobile apps, RFID tags, integrating digital with the in-store experience, etc. go. I worry a little bit that Burberry maybe hasn’t made the appropriate investments to create a full digital ecosystem that can actually deliver on the envisioned customer experience. I mention this because of their recent quiet closing of Burberry Bespoke and the difficulties associated with mass customization on a complex product like the trench. While they now have the Scarf Bar, which I imagine is a much easier product to execute customization on, I find myself wondering how much of their success can be attributed to their digital savviness vs. sheer brand equity. Would love to hear your thoughts!

  3. Agreed that Burberry was definitely at the forefront of this movement, and it’s interesting to see other luxury brands now playing catchup… case in point LVMH hiring Ian Rogers (big name in the music industry) as CDO http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/02/business/media/former-apple-music-executive-ian-rogers-moves-to-lvmh.html

    Also intrigued to see how they continue to refine the tech incorporated into their physical locations. While I agree with the above commenter that online presence is increasingly important, I don’t necessarily think this has to be at the detriment of physical stores. A flagship store still has an air of exclusivity and “treat-yo-self”-ness to it, so much so that the location itself becomes part of the experience. And the line between physical and digital sales further blurs as stores beef up their tech with beacons and interactive displays, among other enhancements.

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