When rebrands go wrong

(And how to avoid the pitfalls)

What brands can learn from Burberry and Beckham

Romeo Beckham – Victoria and David’s 10-year-old son – has been revealed as the star of Burberry’s spring/summer 2013 advertising campaign, generating much excitement. But what can non-luxury brands, without the profile or cash of Burberry, learn from this?

Lucy Handley

Burberry is well known for the anticipation it generates in the fashion world every six months when it reveals the models it will use for the next season’s campaign. Normally creating a story between a man and woman – this winter it’s musician Roo Panes and aristocratic model Gabriella Wilde escaping rain-soaked streets – this is the first time a child has garnered so much attention in one of its campaigns.

High fashion companies by definition have to reinvent themselves as seasons change: their consumers expect something new every six months or more and the rich ones are happy to clear out their closets for the latest trend. So they are lucky in the sense that the people who buy their goods are always hungry for more – although it takes work to remain at the top.

But how does all this relate to the common-or-garden brand? The first thing to think about is simplicity with a twist. The Burberry 2013 campaign highlights its famous trench coats and umbrella – which are the items that also features in the winter 2012 campaign. But the twist is that Romeo Beckham is starring – giving emphasis to its childrenswear. It lets its core products shine and is unafraid to keep reminding people how great it is at producing trench coats. Everything else follows that.

Then there is doing it yourself. In October, Burberry brought control of its fragrances and make up in house, spending more than €180m in doing so, in paying its licensee Interparfums to end its contract. But this will give the brand complete control over how its perfumes are presented and sold – and make it more money in the long run. It is a fair undertaking to run this division itself but will mean that it has to get to know this part of its business in minute detail.

This relates to the next point which is be a control freak. While chief executive Angela Ahrendts appears to be the cool, calm, well dressed head of Burberry, I have no doubt she exacts strict control of how the brand is presented. It only has three public spokespeople – its creative director and chief financial officer along with Ahrendts.

Yet this was not always the case. Remember the days when Burberry check equalled chav chic? At that time, the company would hardly have hired a footballer’s son as a model in case it contributed to this image. So the fourth lesson is be patient. If your brand is not reaching its vision, or the place you want it to be, don’t pretend that it is there yet. It may take several years until you get where you want to be, but do it right and it will be worth the wait.

And finally tell tales. I don’t mean exaggerate the truth – marketers could sometimes be accused of doing so but it isn’t worth it – rather think about the story of your brand. In the film starring Romeo Beckham, he’s smiling and poking an umbrella towards a much more serious-looking model couple.

The brand is very good at content marketing – finding up and coming musicians for its Burberry Acoustic channel, for example (above). Yes it’s a sexy brand so people want to watch its content, but there is no reason why other brands shouldn’t create their own that people want to watch (and see our feature on how other companies are doing this).

What do you think of Burberry’s campaign starring Romeo Beckham?

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