Post-Cannes Ruminations: Burberry Uncut – Christopher Bailey on today’s most digital luxury fashion brand

If there is one brand that comes up every quarter or so in discussions of fashion brands that are really going all out in digital, Burberry is it.

burberrykisses

Christopher Bailey, Burberry’s Chief Creative Officer, made a rare public appearance at Cannes (when it comes to speaking about what really goes on in the company, rather than their fashion lines) in a conversation on stage with Lorraine Twohill, Google’s Head of Marketing. Mr. Bailey has always been a sort of enigma to me, in keeping with the usual closed-door approach of high-end fashion brands; they approach marketing from the point of view of ‘the less the public know about what goes on behind our closed doors, the better it is to maintain the brand’s aura.’

I beg to disagree, so I was pleasantly surprised when he came jogging sprightly on to the stage to join Lorraine – his disarming smile and general cheerfulness gave me confidence that he might actually be a creative leader I’d be able to relate to.

I wasn’t too far off the mark; he spoke quite eloquently about the Burberry philosophy, ably aided by Lorraine Twohill – the two collaborated on the newest Burberry campaign Burberry Kisses.

Mr. Bailey spoke about the company’s culture: he sees it important to get different kinds of people working with him so that the brand gets exposure to new ideas. Burberry’s Strategic Innovation Council get together monthly to chat and throw ideas around, and they come from backgrounds that range from acting and weaving to design and music. Both Mr. Bailey and Ms. Twohill spoke of the importance of ‘hiring dreamers, because only dreamers use gut instinct to force change’.

He also isn’t an advocate of setting a firm process that stifles creativity, he said you get ‘constipated’ (creatively) by working that way.

Google’s 20% philosophy is also an example of this as Ms. Twohill said – their Art Project came about as a result of the desire of one of their employees to satisfy a childhood dream of visiting art galleries around the world (it’s one of my favourite Google projects!) and also won a Gold at Cannes in 2011.

Mr. Bailey went on to speak about always surprising people and not becoming a brand that does things people come to expect: Burberry’s Beijing fashion show had holograms of models combusting on stage to gasps of wonder from the audience, for example.

Risk-taking and being bold are a key philosophy for the brand. I warmed to this because I couldn’t have put it better when he said, “You can’t build a business model for anything in a rational way because the world is irrational,” reminding me of why as an industry we need to remember the importance of behavioural economics.

He also spoke about the importance of giving people different ways in to your brand: Burberry Acoustic, Bespoke and Art of the Trench all allow people different ways to experience the brand. In fact with regards to music, Acoustic is such an important part of the brand now that he has new music artists emailing him demos so they can be a part of the Burberry Acoustic private gigs and other fashion events that the brand organizes.

Burberry is one brand that are not afraid to experiment with digital, whether it’s through their digitally-enabled flagship Regent Street store in London, or their latest Burberry Kisses campaign, built in HTML5 and utilizing StreetView. We got a live demo that saw Googler Aman Govil send a live kiss to model Cara Delevingne (and even get a response), which was very entertaining.

It’s no longer just about fashion for Burberry, it’s about entertainment and light touches too; and they seem to be in it for the long haul.

Posted by Anjali Ramachandran, Head of Innovation

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