How Burberry Is Leading the Digital Media Game

Art of the Trench. The social media campaign that started it all.

The rise of social media–starting between 2008-2010–has led well-established companies scrambling to hop onto the bandwagon and adjust their business models so they can appeal to millennials.  One company that has been very successful in the digital media field is Burberry

Angela Ahrendts

Burberry is known for their British roots and their famed trench coats, which is a huge advantage to them.  Due to poor marketing strategies though, Burberry’s licensing deals threatened to destroy the uniqueness of the brand.  This is where Angela Ahrendts, the former CEO of Burberry (now SVP of retail and online stores at Apple), came in on July 2006.


In her article from Harvard Business Review, Ahrendts recognized at that time, luxury was one of the fastest growing markets, but Burberry was not capitalizing on that. They were focused more on expanding overseas, doing licensing deals, and selling products that were not unique to the brand.

Ahrendts brought in Burberry’s current chief creative officer and now CEO, Christopher Bailey, in 2006.  Prior to Bailey, Burberry had design teams around the world producing their own designs. Bringing in Bailey allowed Burberry to centralize all their designs, creating consistency (a theme that will be carried over to the their digital channels, more on that later).  The team decided to focus on the trench coat because that was what Burberry was known for. Their target audience was the millennials, which seemed risky since they were the least educated about the brand’s main product.  On the flip side, it was a smart move because millennials were often the influencers in today’s society.  Bailey and his design teams then reimagined the trench to appeal to the target audience and this led to a variety of new colors, styles, and materials that we see till this day.


When Ahrendts established Burberry’s new corporate image, position, and product, the rest of the marketing strategies (price, distribution, and promotion) fell into place.  The trench coat was one of the most expensive products the brand carried, where many of them were priced over $1,000; however, the sales staff did not have the proper tools and knowledge to sell the product.  This led the team to help educate the sales staff through many videos demonstrating the craftsmanship that goes into the making of the trench.  These videos were also implemented into the store’s digital technology along with the iPads that sales staff were equipped with.

As mentioned earlier, the theme consistency played a huge role in the new positioning of the brand.  To appeal to the millennials who favored the digital platforms, the team consolidated the multiple regional websites and made it into one single platform.  They incorporated music, storytelling, and history to create a branded experience that was unique to Burberry, thus attracting viewers every day.

Their first major social media campaign was the Art of the Trench in 2009.  It was a platform for customers to share their love for the brand’s trench coats through their own individual styling via pictures through Instagram and Pinterest.  People could like, comment, and share the pictures from anywhere around the world. It has millions of visitors to date and that number continues to grow.

Digital Media Now

Screen Shot 2016-05-21 at 6.33.21 PM
Timeline of Burberry’s Social Media Platforms

Since the Art of the Trench, Burberry has been one of the first luxury brands to test out new social media platforms, like Snapchat, Periscope, Instagram’s video ads, and Twitter’s buy buttons.  For the Spring/Summer 2010 fashion show, the company decided to live stream the entire show, giving people who normally do not have access a chance to view, which is something they still do till this day. The rise in Snapchat led Burberry to share shots of the entire Spring/Summer 2016 collection on their account before it hit the runway, bringing customers closer to the brand.

It was the right move for Burberry to invest in their content on Snapchat since it is the third most used social media app, behind Facebook and Instagram, among millennials.  This allowed them to connect with young users who hopefully will translate to loyal customers in the long run.  Using Snapchat let users feel like they were participating in real time, which eliminated the fear of missing out.  For their spring 2016 campaign ad, the brand worked with Mario Testino who shoot images and videos on the brand’s Snapchat account real time, which let me remind you, disappeared after 24 hours.

One of their most recent social media campaign was promoting the brand’s new men fragrance, Mr. Burberry, through a sponsored Snapchat channel.  If Snapchat users were a in-store shopper around this time the campaign was launched, they could have used Snapcode to unlock content about the campaign through their mobile devices.  Its content aligned with the campaign’s theme of “how to be a modern man,” by including articles, videos, and interviews.  There were style and grooming tips as well as the full-length director’s cut and behind the scenes.  For this campaign, it was directed by Steve McQueen (director of 12 Years a Slave) and told a love story between a young couple.

By establishing the brand’s digital channels, Burberry focused on how to create a consistent experience for shoppers around the world, such as the website.  The new website gives the option to buy online and pick up in-store, let a sales associate order items online while in-store, and have a unified shopping cart on mobile and desktop devices.  That consistent experience then allowed the company to expand more easily into new markets like Japan and Korea.

Final Thoughts

Burberry’s digital strategy helped them establish their dominance in the digital media category in luxury fashion, but it also put them in the ranks of digitally savvy companies like Apple, Nike, and Google. It was probably why Ahrendts was recruited to Apple seeing how well she managed to turn the brand around.

Personally, I cannot wait to see where Burberry ventures next in the digital media world.  They are breaking barriers and creating new standards for brands that are behind the social media game.  So take note.


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