It may have been founded 156 years ago, but Burberry is harnessing ground-breaking marketing techniques to put it at the forefront of fashion.
Where once luxury labels fought shy of the internet, believing it would cheapen their image, Burberry is now seeing its fastest growth in online sales as it embraces social media and blurs the boundary between its physical stores and the digital world.
Carol Fairweather, chief financial officer, says a presence on Chinese sites such as Sina Weibo (the country’s version of Twitter), Youku (similar to YouTube) and Douban is helping Burberry outperform rival brands in the region. The label has more than half a million followers of its own on Sina Weibo but is also benefiting from the influence of some of its famous fans. When the actor Chen Kun attended Burberry’s recent menswear show, he posted twice to his 48 million Sina Weibo followers – 6 million more than the Canadian pop star Justin Bieber enjoys on Twitter.
Burberry livestreams seasonal shows online and in stores, allowing customers to order products for early delivery with a personalised touch, such as an engraved nameplate in a coat or bag.
All the company’s shop assistants are armed with iPads and can help customers with orders for sizes or colours that might be out of stock in the store.
Not all Burberry’s digital activity is directly linked to the bottom line. The brand has not been afraid to try playful and experimental ideas. The latest is Burberry Kisses, developed in partnership with Google, which lets users capture a print of their kiss on a smartphone or webcam and send it in a digital letter to the object of their affection.
Meanwhile, electronic tags have been woven into garments and accessories so that, when these are held up in front of special screens in store, moving images appear, showing the same item on the catwalk.
creative technology on display in the brand’s latest London store, which opened in Regent Street in September. Dubbed Burberry World Live, the store not only allows shoppers to ponder the options for a bespoke version of Burberry’s famous raincoat, which can then be ordered online. It also gives them the chance to attend events including gigs by the likes of the Kaiser Chiefs and the teenage singer-songwriter Jake Bugg, which are streamed online.
The gigs are featured as part of the Burberry Acoustic project, which includes a series of short films of up-and-coming British musicians who have been selected by Christopher Bailey, the group’s chief creative officer. Shot in picturesque locations with the artists wearing Burberry clothing, they bring a hip edge to the brand’s image that is a far cry from the counterfeit baseball caps and golfing umbrellas that were once the mainstay of market stalls around the UK.