When you have been in business since the mid 19th Century, you are going to go through good times and bad times, but the most important thing to remember is the need to adapt. Burberry is a brand that achieved incredible popularity but also notoriety around the turn of the 21st Century but has reinvented itself again and embraced the use of digital campaigns and technologies as part of its rise back to its position as a top luxury brand.
How Burberry Got Started
Thomas Burberry was just 21 years old when he founded Burberry in 1856 in Hampshire and the business expanded over the next decades, becoming known as Burberrys Of London, establishing a headquarters on the Haymarket. The brand gained further exposure when worn by the likes of explorers Ernest Shackleton and George Mallory, while Burberry also designed trench coats for the British Army in the First World War, which went on to become fashion staples back home.
In the 1920s, these trench coats began to have a checked lining, the pattern for which has become iconic as Burberry’s influence spread and the likes of Humphrey Bogart and Audrey Hepburn were seen in its clothing. However, the Burberry check got a different image as the 20th Century turned into the 21st and the brand was adopted by ‘lad culture’ and started to get a negative image and reputation that led to the pattern disappearing from most of its range around 2006.
How Digital Helped Burberry Get Back On Track
As well as moving the brand away from its brief spell as part of ‘chav’ culture, Burberry has utilised digital strategy in innovative ways to bring it back to a prominent position in the fashion world, starting online selling in 2006. Last month it took London Fashion Week online with a live-streamed show on Facebook and it has revolutionised the fashion world by making items available to purchase as soon as they have appeared on the catwalk, opening up its clothes to the public in a ‘seasonless’ manner.
Tommy Hilfiger and Ralph Lauren have already introduced similar models, and while this ‘see now buy now’ approach has been accused by some fashion insiders of ‘democratizing’ the catwalk, it’s a business model that makes perfect sense in the modern digital world where customers expect immediate access. It was announced in February by Chief Creative Officer Christopher Bailey: “The changes we are making will allow us to build a closer connection between the experience that we create with our runway shows and the moment when people can physically explore the collections for themselves.”
Burberry has also led the way on social, with Snapchat, Apple Music and Instagram partnerships helping re-establish the brand, but it’s WeChat where it has had the most success, engaging with the all-important Chinese market through cleverly-targeted marketing around holidays that utilised the ability to shop within the app itself. By staying ahead of the game, Burberry has shown that being 160 years old is no impediment to being digitally savvy.