branding, content creating, creating

The Joys of Burberry, Part Two – Brand-Corporate: the authenticity of a business that communicates like its brand

about two minutes into the above video Angela Ahrendts, the outgoing CEO of Burberry, delivers a marketing masterclass:

“we needed to keep the story authentic. we needed to keep it pure. we knew we were going to target different audiences. we knew that the mediums would be different. we knew it would be so much more global than maybe things has been in the past, but the story had to be the same. so we said everything we’re gonna do is target this Millennial customer, and if we do that we’re going to have to speak in their language, and their language was rapidly becoming digital. so we studied this customer and then adjusted each of our strategies in order to be relevant and authentic to this audience that we were catering to. because I think everything you do going forward, you can’t do anything the traditional way. it has to be so visual, and we hit on this word ‘energy’ early on and said we want everything we do to have energy.”

it’s a very elegantly conceived and expressed set of convictions: things Burberry knew, clarity of audience targeting, the implications of engaging that audience on their own terms, and a set of beliefs that challenge convention and set a strategic behavioural direction for the brand. ask yourself how many of the brands you do or have worked on have that clarity of focus?

I wrote about the joys of Burberry’s marketing back in July. I described my admiration for their flip of the online / physical retail approach, the digital-first strategy and the pleasure in watching kisses fly across the world; and I described the prolific investment of time and energy into content.

what’s so interesting and awesome about this content strategy however, is the extent to which it’s spread into Burberry’s corporate culture … they have an entire section on their YouTube channel devoted to corporate videos. from financial results to exec travelogues, taking in a discussion of the group’s acquisition of its stores and related assets in China on the way. the video content is an authentic, consistent voice not of the brand, but of the business.

there is much to admire. this is a business with the story it wants to tell and conversation it wants to have firmly in its own hands. it’s not solely dependent on it’s relationship with reporters and journalists to share its news, agenda, and take on the world. the story as they see it is there for anyone to watch, not hidden in a column in the financial section or the ‘recent press releases’ page of the corporate website.

but more than any of this its a glorious demonstration of the business behaving in comms the same way as would the brand. this is important. and its rare. I can think of only a few businesses that try and succeed in doing so. mine certainly doesn’t … although I’d rather like it to. because more than anything else it’s a phenomenally effective way for a company to communicate to the constituency who are hopefully its most ardent advocates – it’s own employees.

of course there is an obvious danger; the assertion that such a ‘brand-corporate’ strategy is nothing more than a smart and elegant attempt to over-control the message. that a business journalist can’t question a YouTube video. that a shareholder can’t challenge a per-recorded statement. or that style will mask substance. to which there is only one simple response … just behave on brand: in the knowledge that consistency, transparency and authenticity will out.

and you don’t get more transparent than a YouTube video of Burberry’s Chairman Sir John Peace talking with an outgoing and incoming CEO about the news that Ahrendts will step down as Chief Executive Officer by mid-2014, with Bailey (on whom I have a purely marketing crush) assuming the role of Chief Creative and Chief Executive Officer.

of course its well-packaged, and of course its practiced and of course well-finished.

but so is a great fashion brand.


The Joys of Burberry: Inside Out Stores, a Menagerie of Content, Partnering with Google, and the Relaxation of Kiss-watching

so I stumbled across the above video whilst I was researching a project at the start of the week. I’d heard about Burberry’s new Flagship Store on Regent St before, but hadn’t taken the time to explore what they’d built. in the above video the brand’s Chief Creative Officer Christopher Bailey explains what the store is about:

“Burberry Regent St is really a kind of merging of our site … and a physical experience. everything that we do on if reflected here in this space … its a place that you can come just to hang out, its a place that you can come to kind of explore and understand all of the different things that we do … Art of the Trench, bespoke, Burberry Beauty … come and visit us, and I look  forward to hearing all of your comments”

Christopher Bailey, source – above video

it’s quite the achievement and investment. I’ve written on this blog before about a Regent St flagship when I described in a Feb 2009 post National Geographic’s store on the same street. I said at the time that:

“… the National Geographic Store is everything an interactive and engaging brand experience should be … an experience grounded not in the necessity to sell, but in the discovery and exploration of why that brand pertains to exist in the first place, and what that brand’s point of view on the world is; the concept and idea of that brand made manifest. everything, in short, that a retail space in the early 21st Century should be.”

Burberry’s store is in that tradition and more so. for starters, the idea of thinking web first and store second is easily said but rarely done. I don’t think its by accident that Bailey says that “everything we do on is reflected in this space”: not – note – the other way around. as Tom Uglow of Google said, “the future of digital is physical” (he said that here).

the second very future-facing aspect of Burberry’s approach is in many ways captured in the above video – and is reflected in the front and centre role that content plays in their strategy. if you’re in any doubt as to how ubiquitous Burberry’s content is, just check out this screen grab of their YouTube page:

Burberry YouTube

from fashion shows to advertising campaigns, taking in music sets and events on the way, its a menagerie of content that not only explicitly communicates what Burberry stands for and is producing; but implicitly communicates the design cues and high quality production quality of the brand.

an additional interesting aspect of this strategy is the extent to which Burberry are inviting comments and opinions. they are encouraging participation – careholding – of their brand.

content isn’t limited to video, a collaboration with Google sees the brand encourage people to send a digital kiss to anyone else in the world. Bailey (again) explains:

it’s all there again; the call for interaction and involvement, and – as the below screenshot from the site shows – sumptuous quality of execution. it is really rather relaxing watching live kisses fly across the world, I can highly recommend it.

burberry-kisses-hong kong

featured image via million looks