Case Study On How Burberry Became A Digital Luxury Brand

9 Min Read. |

About – The Burberry Storyburberry logo

Established in 1856 and headquartered in London, England, Burberry Group Inc is a British luxury lifestyle fashion house founded by Thomas Burberry. The company designs, manufactures and sells products under the Burberry brand. The company specializes in ready-made apparel, accessories, fragrances, cosmetics and sunglasses. And, it’s merchandise is known for its signature check patterns. The brand has dressed notable celebrities from diverse fields.

The brand is synonymous with its tan Gabardine raincoat pioneered 145 years ago. Founder Thomas Burberry was not particularly pleased with the then popular rubberized mackintosh raincoat. Gaining inspiration from the country folk’s loose smocks; Thomas designed a breathable weather proof fabric, which was then trademarked as “Gabardine”, a Shakespearean term meaning shelter from inclement weather.

The rain coat was first exported to Japan during World War 1 and brought glory to brand. The coat later came to be known as “Trench Coat” due to the pervasiveness and endurance it offered during trench warfare.

The ‘Burberry Check’ was first introduced as a lining to the trench court. The Paris store owner using his dexterity turned up the hem of one of the coats to highlight the checked lining and repeated the ‘check’ for the umbrellas. The idea was a runaway success and it made & sold hundreds of umbrellas. The experiment led to the introduction of the checked cashmere scarf, a perennial bestseller.

Burberry has branded stores and franchises around the world and the brands first store opened its doors to the public in 1891 in the Haymarket region of London, while the first overseas store opened in 1910 in the city of Paris. Presently, the brand has more than 500 stores in more than 50 countries.

Burberry Group Inc is listed in the London Stock Exchange and CEO and Chief Creative Officer Christopher Bailey has been at the helm of affairs of the since 2014.

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Business Objective – Why go for Digital Marketing?

About a decade ago, Burberry was struggling and the luxury brands performance was not at par with its peers. In 2006 the then CEO Adriana Ahrendts decided to reinvent the the brand and attract younger customers.

Ahrendts prime objective was to make Burberry the first company to go fully digital and to build a social enterprise. She quoted to the Harvard Business Review “The number one strategy that came (from our first meeting) was all centered around the brand. We want to purify the brand message and how we were going to do that; by focusing on outer wear, by focusing on digital, by targeting a younger consumer”.

Broadly Ahrendts wanted to develop a well-defined and modern brand identity and design excellent customer service.

Strategy – How they did it

The brand has employed a strong social strategy in order to reach out to its target audience in the digital space. The bulk of their campaign has centered around social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. The fashion house has maintained a steady theme across different platforms but has optimized the content to suit each platform. For example it has used Facebook for live streaming and exhibiting products, Instagram for visuals and Twitter to incite user engagement and interaction.

Apart from the social media platforms Burberry has also leveraged in a big way to engage with customers.

  1. Art of the Trench Campaign – First Launched in November 2009, it was Burberry’s first major campaign after is foray into the digital space. In order to enhance the appeal of the campaign Burberry joined hands with Scott Schuman also known as The Sartorialist after his fashion blog. The team created a micro site wherein existing customers could post snaps wearing their own trench courts. Users could comment, like the content and share the snaps on Facebook, Twitter and E-mail. The idea was to transfer the limelight on to customers and make them feel special. It enhanced the aspirational value of the brand and at the same time enhanced brand loyalty by art of the trench screenshotestablishing a connection with customers. The same year, the Spring/Summer 2010 show was streamed live, giving the world free access to exclusive ramp action for the first time. Within a year, Burberry’s Facebook page had more than a million followers, the largest at the time for a luxury brand and Burberry recorded a 50% growth in e-commerce sales year on year. In 2014 the campaign was rebooted to give it a global footprint. The reintroduction video has more than 1.4 million views, while the micro site has about 25 million views till date. Kudos!
  1. Acoustic – Launched in June 2010 Burberry Acoustic is a set of exclusive videos showcasing young local UK music artists wearing Burberry outfits. The idea is to promote fresh local talent and at the same time engage with consumers and initiate consumer discussion. The campaign helps Burberry establish a greater connect with the millennials and provides a platform to exhibit its products subtly. The initiative has resulted in greater traction across micro sites and social media channels and has created a buzz about Burberry products. Nice!
  1. Kisses Campaign – In June 2013 Burberry launched its kisses campaign in collaboration with Google. The initiative was used to market Burberry’s cosmetics, specifically lipsticks now popularly known as Burberry Kisses. The website would let users send out virtual kisses in the kisses screenshotcolour of their favourite Burberry Lipsticks using their webcam or by just kissing the screen of their touch screen devices. Users also had the option of adding a personalized message to the post. Google Street View using its 3D landscape then enabled users to actually follow the journey of their kiss to the recipient. It was an engaging and fun campaign that enthralled people from all parts of the globe. There were more than 250,000 searches on Google during the campaign and people from 13000 cities participated during the first 10 days of the campaign. Sweet!
  1. Tweetwalk – Burberry in collaboration with Twitter launched its Tweetwalk campaign in September 2011. The fashion house shared backstage visuals of its unreleased Spring/Summer collection 2012 with its fans even before the collection made it to the ramp. To add to the excitement Burberry fans were given an opportunity to buy products from the latest range before it was made available to the general public. The idea was to celebrate the brand with its customers. The campaign took Twitter by storm with 50000 views and #Tweetwalk & #ChristopherBailey trended on Twitter. The ramp show was then streamed live on the Burberry’s Facebook page. Further, Burberry decided to hand over control of their Instagram account to the brands most followed user, Mike Kus. Kus live streamed ramp day visuals with #Burberry #LFW #MikeKus thus increasing Burberry’s fan base & also his own. Masterstroke!
  1. – Burberry’s internet home is one of the most impressive fashion sites available on the net. It is optimized to suit all platforms and provides a smooth user experience. It is visual appealing, rich on content, quick to load and has readable URLs. Navigating through the website is a breeze. It’s a one stop solution for all that concerns Burberry. The website facilitates e-commerce sale and customers can avail the latest and expansive Burberry collection right with a click of a button. Burberry offers free shipping and a 30 day return policy depending on the customer’s location. For any queries relating to the brand customers can use the Live Chat and instant Call Me Back facility. Moreover, the website has links to a host of other digital content such as look books, Art of the Trench and Burberry Acoustic etc. It’s brilliant!
  1. The Flagship Store – The Burberry flagship store at Regent Street, London is no less than a digitalBurberry Flagship Store interior marvel. It is technology packed and is inspired by the site map of The layout and architecture replicates that of the website and the store has 100 screens and 500 speakers spread across the building showcasing digitized Burberry content. Radio-frequency Identification Technology (RFID) chips have been fitted in certain products. Chip fitted products when taken into changing rooms or in front of screens display ramp visuals and other filmed footage of the product. Genius!
  1. Burberry Bespoke & Burberry Scarf Bar Campaign – These two initiatives center around the customization feature offered by Burberry. Using the Bespoke feature customers can choose from a host of combinations that range in thousands to personalize trench coats. Customers can choose from different cuts, collars, cuffs, linings, belts, epaulets and can even have their initials Burberry Bespoke screenshotmonogrammed onto the court. Similarly, the Scarf Bar campaign allows customers the option of selecting from a range of 30 scarf colours and shades of thread. Like in Bespoke customers can get their initials monogrammed onto the scarf. These exhaustive features are all available on and customers can do all the customization online with the help of a tool, which gives users suggestions as well. Thereafter, customers can check the preview and order the product online. Smooth!

Results Achieved 

Burberry went through historic transformation between 2006 and 2014 under CEO, Adriana Ahrendts. It transformed from a tepid luxury brand selling trench coats to one of the leading voices in the fashion industry. It is easily one of the most coveted and aspirational luxury brands in the world. The company’s revenue skyrocketed from 743 million pounds in 2006 to 2523 million pounds in 2015.

In 2011 the fashion house was named the 4th fastest growing brand worldwide by Interbrand (after Apple, Google, and Amazon) and WPP/BrandZ (after Facebook, Baidu, and Wells Fargo). In 2012 it was the fastest growing luxury brand on Interbrand’s index.

Today Burberry is one of the most digitally innovative brands in the world and the most popular brand on social media. It has more than 17 million likes on Facebook, 6.7 million followers on Twitter and 7 million followers on Instagram.

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Learnings –  What we take home

  1. Target Audience – In 2006 when Burberry started rebuilding the brand, it knew it had to target the younger demographic group in order to leverage growth. The average middle-aged man probably already owned a trench coat and by targeting the middle aged Burberry would have probably continued with the 2% growth norm. Breaking tradition and moving out of its comfort zone has enabled the company to scale growth.
  1. Right Medium – Once Burberry knew who its target audience was, it was important to choose the correct medium to effectively reach out to customers. It’s a digital world and then CEO Ahrendts was confident that the medium of interaction was going to be digital social channels. Burberry designed a coherent theme for its pages on social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and actively engaged with its fans on these mediums.
  1. Content is King – Burberry maintained a consistent sense of sophistication synonymous with its brand across all its social platforms. The company shared rich, high quality, innovative and engaging content, with its fans through these channels. The content is well synchronized and updated regularly.
  1. Engage with Customers – Engaging and interacting with customers is one of Burberry’s prime objectives. Burberry has been successful in creating a long, everlasting bond with is customers and fans through its digital pursuits. Specific campaigns like Tweetwalk and Kisses have put greater emphasis on customers, hence have helped build brand image.

Image Credits: Burberry

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