When Angela Ahrendts took over the reins of Burberry's dusty brand she was surprised to note that not one member of her 60 something global team gathered for a strategic planning meeting was wearing its distinguished trench despite the damp London day and the massive company discount. It was her first insight into the challenges that faced the over 150 year old brand. Her second was that despite the pomp and ceremony of its Royal Warrant, Burberry had become ubiquitous. A death sentence for luxury brands.
What followed was one of the most inspiring rebrands of all times not to mention a mantra for any brand looking to rediscover its inner sparkle. If you think of the greatest brands you know they have several strengths in common:
Consistency: "Global brands don't have people all over the world designing stuff." Within a year the new CEO had closed all 23 global factories and centralized design to one (spectacularly talented) designer and concentrated all manufacturing to one facility in Yorkshire.
Focus: Worn in the trenches of WWI soldiers and Sir Ernst Shackleton during his chilly trip south, Burberry had oodles of heritage all wrapped up in one single item, the trench coat. Yet by 2006 they were best know for yellow checks and dog leashes. The decision to focus on their heritage enabled the design team to get truly innovative. What the trench stood for was to become the pivot foot of everything they did, from catwalk to clutch.
Knowledge of Competition: A tactical goldmine for Burberry was to face their competition head on. They focused solely on markets where their competitors already had a presence and they had none. This instantly signaled to their consumer that they were a luxury brand and while their salespeople may have had a challenge shifting their mindset from selling cheap polo shirts to high-end trench coats, Burberry gave them all the tools they needed (videos, iPads) to educate them on the craftsmanship that made their trench worth the $1000 price tag.
Target Definition: Marketing luxury items to simply "those who can afford it" might be one way of selling expensive items but identifying an actual sweetspot is critical if you're going to want to leverage not just your brand assets but an entire ethos. Redirecting their target consumer from a broad base of Rich-Old-People-Needing-Overcoats and Label-Worshipping-Yuppies, Burberry chose to focus entirely on Millennials. Not only did Millennials have no pre-conceived notion of the fusty old Burberry but here was an entire generation of luxury customers in the making. The double-whammy here was 2006 was in the midst of the Cool Britannia era. Designing outerwear that was innovative and cool was a slam dunk.
Connectivity: The heavy lifting of all the above pays off when it comes to connecting with your target audience. Knowing Who You Are, What You Do, Who You're Up Against and Who You're Talking To will lead sweetly to How To Connect. If Millennials were to be the audience then Burberry would need to take the brand online. The site speaks directly to the Millennial consumer using music and movies to tell their story. More people visit the Burberry site each week than walking into all their stores combined.
Ahhh... the sweet smell of a rebranding success. Thank you Burberry for giving us something to look up to.
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