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Burberry rebranding: An iconic transformation from Gangwear to Luxury clothing

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We all know what Rebranding is right? For starters, it is the process of changing the corporate or public image of a brand. The one very recent case of Rebranding is that of Cadbury, while it is one of the most expensive ones, with this piece, we’re gonna talk about one of the best Rebranding cases we have seen in the past few years.

This iconic story is of the Burberry rebranding. Burberry, commonly seen as a luxury brand. With over 150 years of history, this company brought the popularity of waterproof gabardines and trench coats to the British shores.

Their iconic design is apparent in their entire portfolio, from clothing to handbags to fragrances. Their coats were worn in the trenches of World War I by the British soldiers, and, for decades thereafter they were a big part of British culture. So much so, that the company earned a royal warrant, making it an official supplier to the royal family.

Now with this iconic and strong brand image, why would a Burberry choose to Rebrand itself?

Burberry rebranding: The “Gang wear”

Well for the starters, unfortunately, they were starting look more like gangwear. If you’d have seen Sherlock Movies, you’d often find thieves in trench coats, not to mention that Sherlock himself wore one. Anyway, this image of the brand brewed issues for them. In no time, the brand was on a spree of decline. Apart from the “Gang” bit, other reasons for the decline were as follows:

1. Industry-related: The fashion style itself was not looking good. We know how swiftly the clothing industry changes, it was about time Burberry did something to preserve their iconic design. Burberry was facing a long term cyclical industry decline due to unforeseen demand shifts.

The other reason was that the brand now started to get associated with British Hooligans and Chavs. At a point, the use of the brand by thugs was so widespread that anyone that was caught wearing Burberry was banned from certain city pubs.

2. Internal reasons: There were inadequate financial controls that led to evergrowing costs. Add to that poor management, new competitors and weak value proposition led to the further decline.

Burberry had to reinvent itself if it were to avoid the collapse. And so, it decided to turn things around and rebrand itself to tell a new story.

The Rebranding:

Burberry’s founder Thomas Burberry had a sharp eye for Marketing, which was obvious from the fact that they outfitted not only the Arctic explorers but also World War I soldiers.

While Burberry knew there was really nothing they could’ve done about the fact that expensive clothing was attractive to the gangs, they knew they could change the perception of their audience.

Their first move was to put high bounds on utility clothing. Followed by getting endorsements from well-known and well-liked celebrities to improve the brand image.

One of the very first ones was Kate Moss, who was decently well known and perfect for the brand in 2001. With the introduction of Kate Moss, they focused on younger, aspirational and stylish moods. Burberry decided to enlarge the product range from product quality to style. The need was to make it more aspirational and therefore invest in a new mood board.

The other issue was that of the licensing. Burberry extensively licensed their product which was good, in a way that it provided a great way of generating cash for the business, however, it resulted in higher imitation of the brand.

And so, Angela Ahrendts, the then CEO of Burberry, decided to take control. She decided to clean up licensing and come up with new marketing and merchandising structure. The brand needed a new type of storytelling and a new product strategy.

The Digital Strategy

Given how the brand wanted to look youthful they adopted a new way to communicate with their audience. The digital medium.

They moved aggressively into the digital space, they embraced social media and live streaming. All of this at a time it seemed to unreal to most companies. They even advertised their website on their offline stores. Even their website showcased the perfect balance of their history and their future i.e. fashion.

Something which was earlier a narrow product strategy was now fashion-forward and modern with different forms, fabrics and colours. The new advertising focused on introducing new colours and move the focus a little from black and white. But this did not mean Burberry now focused on the new and forgot the old.

Burberry still carries trench coats and swimwear. But now they’ve taken an even more creative, artistic approach without sacrificing the 150 years of heritage and brand goodwill they’ve generated. As we said, it maintained the balance.

In 2018, Burberry also Revamped its logo to something that seems a little more appealing to the generation of today. They also added a new design (a monogram) paying homage to Thomas Burberry and featuring a vibrant colour scheme that still resembles that of the legendary Nova Check.

The results?

With recorded revenue of 2.8 billion pounds in 2017 and a CAGR of more than 8% during 2013-2017, Burberry recorded profitability of 260m pounds in 2017 with a margin of 17%.

A great example of how sometimes without any fault of your own a brand can possibly be adopted by an unintended audience, but there’s always a way to get back on track. And that is precisely what the example of Burberry rebranding aims to tell us.


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