Burberry CEO Angela Ahrendts took the helm of the fashion brand in 2006, and back then, the company had lost its focus.Now, the brand has come back strong, but it was quite a trip. Burberry was about its iconic trench coats, and yet, they were nowhere to be found — not even on the backs of her own executives.
Ahrendts described what it took to revamp the Burberry brand in a recent column at Harvard Business Review.
“In luxury, ubiquity will kill you—it means you’re not really luxury anymore,” she wrote. “And we were becoming ubiquitous.”
So what did she do?
She centralized the brand. Everything, from now on, would be consistent.
To do this, she would need a “brand czar.”
“Great global brands don’t have people all over the world designing and producing all kinds of stuff. It became quite clear that if Burberry was going to be a great, pure, global luxury brand, we had to have one global design director.
“We had an incredible young designer named Christopher Bailey, with whom I’d worked at Donna Karan and who I knew was a sensational talent. So I introduced him early on as the ‘brand czar.’ I told the team, ‘Anything that the consumer sees—anywhere in the world—will go through his office. No exceptions.'”
In doing this, Ahrendts has shown a remarkable amount of trust. It’s quite a risk to delegate everything about a global brand to one person.
But it also helps make the brand consistent, as long as its keeper remains effective.
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