Burberry’s digital success not a flash in the pan
Whilst Google Glasses, Hangouts and live streaming were all being debuted/implemented to various degrees of excitement and success Stateside, although London was markedly more reserved as it looked to consolidate its resurgent reputation.
Topshop aside (a challenger brand within the Fashion Week sphere), Burberry were the ones looking to push the digital envelope and from a retail perspective the ambitious new concept got imaginations racing. Fashion writers across the media have been quick to highlight the ambition from the brand, dedicating column inch after column inch to the shiny new concept store, blazing a digital trail through the fashion world.
However, for followers of the embattled brand, it’s nothing more than the latest bold step from CEO Angela Ahrendts who has spent years preaching a new approach to fashion – fearful of brands such as Kodak, which she feels have failed to keep up with digital change and have been left behind as a result.
The new Burberry concept store is only the newest piece in the ‘Customer 360’ puzzle, which looks to debut in the store next Spring – an opt-in system where consumers can choose to let Burberry keep rich data files on their purchase history, preferences and social media movements – creating a shopper profile any shop assistant can call upon at the touch of a button to help guide the customer in-store.
But the headlines rarely touch upon the strategy. Instead, Burberry has hit the news for having an expensive new store, for Harry Styles being in its front row, and for ‘winning’ at social media (according to Vogue at least). In doing so, it’s easily claimed the title of ‘most innovative brand’ too.
While I continue to be surprised and delighted by the brand’s digital focus, I worry that it sets a dangerous precedent for rival fashion brands peering over in curiosity at this new attention-generator.
It will be interesting to see what it does following the departure of Burberry’s social-media marketing guru, Musa Tariq, who is set to leave the fashion brand to take up a similar role at Nike.
Tariq joined the Brit luxury fashion brand as global head of digital marketing in 2009, before being promoted to global director of social-media marketing last year (he had an agency background at JWT and Saatchi & Saatchi).
This season’s series of Fashion Weeks across the globe were largely characterised by a number of brands doing interesting things in the digital space, but largely experimental things – ones which carry that nice PR value to get those column inches, but remain far removed from the brand it’s paired with. My concern is that if digital is seen as ‘add-on’, soon the news value will be lost and subsequently, so will the interest in innovation.
And that will be where the luxury fashion industry really starts to fall behind. Instead of copying Burberry, rival brands need to look at their own businesses and decide what is right for them
If you can create services that your biggest fans will love, you can get more people spending time with your content and therefore your brand. If fashion brands can create quality, interactive content that is connected to the actual business it promotes, then it will transform the way brands promote and sell products.
Fashion brands can learn from Burberry, but by stopping for a moment to take a look at the deeper strategy behind its attention-grabbing new concept store. If digital is viewed merely as a way to turn a few more heads towards a particular label’s catwalk, then all this ‘innovation’ will be out of vogue as quick as the trends it debuted alongside last week.
Laura Tan is Strategy Director at Digit.