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How Burberry executed one of the most successful brand identity transformations of all time...

Perhaps one of the most talked-about brand transformation stories of our time is the quintessential British Luxury brand: Burberry. Its success in revamping its image from an old-fashioned label into a luxury lifestyle powerhouse has much to teach us about brand reinvention.

Burberry was one of the most iconic luxury fashion brands in the world. It had over 165 Years of History and Heritage, was renowned for its expert craftsmanship, and was embraced by celebrities and royalty – Burberry had all the hallmarks of a Luxury Brand.

But despite these amazing attributes, a few years ago the company faced what could have been total extinction. After years of struggle, revenue was plummeting, and the brand was facing an identity crisis that nearly brought Burberry to its knees.

The business found their luxury brand image deteriorating and unwittingly associated with ‘Gangwear’. In fact, at one point, anyone caught wearing Burberry’s signature check was banned from certain establishments due to its association with Gangs, Football Hooligans, aggression, and violence.

Burberry desperately needed to rebrand itself and embarked on an ambitious brand transformation initiative. They sought to reposition themselves as relevant, covetable and to create an identity that would resonate with their ideal audience.

The Transformation Process

To understand how Burberry transformed its brand, we need to look at Burberry’s identity transformation through our Brand Strategy framework:

Brand Essence

Burberry spent time and effort improving its product (Value). They developed and modernized their fabrics, reinvented their silhouettes, and branched out into profitable and aligned product sectors.

They redefined their brand attributes and whilst still honouring their heritage, they decided they wanted to be perceived as:

· Disruptive

· Utopic

· Individual

· Invincible

· Gallivanters

At its inception, Burberry’s persona built ‘Warrior’ and ‘Creator’ brand personas. In line with their goals and aspirations, Burberry decided that the ‘Magician’ and ‘Rebel’ Archetypes were a better fit for the future of the brand since these personas centered around the themes of transformation, metamorphosis, and the pursuit of freedom.

“Inherent in every Burberry garment is FREEDOM” – Thomas Burberry

Customer Needs

Historically, Burberry served traditional luxury consumers. However, they found customers from older generations are more cautious and considerate with their spending.

They shifted their focus towards a younger demographic: Millennials and Gen Z, as these consumers show a higher level of resilience, continuing to make luxury purchases despite economic uncertainty. Realising their spending power will increase in the coming years, and with their ability to influence older generations, they centered their branding efforts around these younger customers who are expected to drive 180% of growth between 2019 and 2025.

When profiling this consumer, they found their values centered around power, leaving a legacy, reinvention, and emotional connection. These consumers value brands with a clear viewpoint, that can communicate with them in an authentic and meaningful way.

Business Goals

As part of their branding efforts, Burberry mapped out a number of ambitious business goals. They embarked on a cost-savings plan and closed 10% of their stores. They identified new streams of revenue by focusing on new product introductions. To generate the right type of brand awareness, they set a goal to ‘excite, inspire and foster a strong community of brand advocates’ and adopted Brand Advocates Marcus Rashford and Emma Watson.

The results

Did it work? Yes.

By reinventing their brand identity, Burberry successfully:

  • Increased sales leading to a 14% surge in shares (its best performance in a decade)

  • Upped its stock market value by more than £1b

  • Saved over £100m through their cost-savings plan

What’s next for Burberry? According to their 2020/21 Strategic report:

“Having successfully executed Burberry’s transformation and established a strong foundation, we are well-positioned to embark on growth and acceleration. In this next chapter, we will leverage our unique brand equity to deliver sustainable, high-quality growth, while continuing to be a force for good in the world.”

Key Takeaways

So, what can aspiring premium or luxury businesses take from this success story?

For brands to thrive, we must always be:

  • Sharpening our product or service.

  • Designing a strategy that carefully considers our core attributes, our businesses goals, and our users’ needs and values.

  • Building a brand identity that respects our origins but evolves in line with today’s dynamic landscape.

Many small businesses are often caught up in the day-to-day operations of their businesses and ignore their branding until it is too late. Taking the time to define a strategy and build an identity can be challenging but shifting your identity (arguably the most valuable asset in your business) can lay the foundations for a successful future.

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