Find Your Trench Coat: Branding Success and Focusing on What You Do Best
When Burberry appointed Angela Ahrendts, an American from the Midwest, as their CEO in 2006 many scoffed at the choice. With production facilities in different countries, no two shops with the same mix of merchandise, and trench coats that varied in price not just from country to country but from store to store, Burberry was in the midst of a brand crisis.
The diversified merchandise, much of it small, random goods such as hats, key chains, and even kilts made the brand not only less cohesive but much more accessible to a broad audience. Angela pointed out the brand’s main issue in an interview with Harvard Business Review when she said, “a luxury brand turned ubiquitous is anything but luxurious.” But while she had successfully identified the problem, many were worried that she wasn’t the right person to solve it.
They were wrong.
Ahrendts’ strategy was very simple: focus on trench coats. This may seem obvious, but it is a concept many brands fail to grasp.
A great brand usually begins with one thing it does very well. Louis Vuitton’s specialty is luggage. Christian Louboutin’s is shoes. Burberry’s had been the trench coat. However, often when a company achieves success, it begins to feel as if it can do anything and forgets what had made it so successful in the first place.
Ahrendts wanted to reverse this trend and return to Burberry’s roots. When a brand’s strategy is to focus on what they do best, it creates an instant framework for each subsequent decision made about the brand. In addition to this, basing a rebrand or a marketing campaign on an attribute of the brand that has already been proven successful, desirable, or iconic leaves less room for potential disaster. Finally, a singular focus, especially one that harkens back to the roots of a company, clarifies the brand for consumers, and a clear, intelligible brand is always more desirable to the customer.
Burberry was able to return to their original brand position of premium outerwear supplier by making sure each strategic move of the company, whether it be in supply chain management, design, advertising, or social media was primarily focused on the trench coat. Burberry launched a social media movement promoting their new website, www.ArtOfTheTrench.com, which not only featured the many new styles of trench coat they had available but a look at the elite history that surrounded this most prestigious of coats.
As a result, they were the first luxury brand to reach ten million likes on Facebook. Burberry then chose Emma Watson as the face of its new advertising campaign. Emma Watson, authentically English yet still relevant internationally, wore a trench coat in every ad.
Since this massive overhaul, Burberry was named by Interbrand as the fastest growing brand and no longer will you see every person (and their dog) walking down the street in a random assortment of brown checkered products. Burberry is once more a luxury, and it should be a lesson to the many once-luxury brands that seem to be slipping down the path to overdiversifiction and ubiquity.
Every company needs to find their own trench coat and stick to it.
Addison Whitney is a global branding firm with a passion for building strong brands.