A Heritage Case Study: Burberry est 1856

I admit that I’m no marketing expert, but it seems to me that the one thing brands cling onto and evidently sell is their own heritage. We see it everywhere, established *insert date here* and boom there you have an instant connection to the past, leading towards a sense of trust and reliability with your customers. It indicates that the brand has had time to establish and grow a loyal customer base and will continue to be a brand to invest in. But how far do fashion brands project their heritage?


Take Burberry for example, Thomas Burberry provided coats for adventurers and explorers in the 1910s, innovated and developed trench coats for soldiers of the First World War and lined them with the distinct Burberry check. Although this is all very interesting, we probably already knew this, primarily because of Burberry’s focus on this back-story, as seen on the ‘Heritage’ section of their website which includes an interactive timeline of the Burberry archives. Here, customers emotionally connect to the very DNA of the brand. There is even a section entitled the ‘Art of the Trench’ where customers are encouraged to upload their own photo of themselves and thus contribute towards the trench story. For the consumer, the emphasis on this story appeals to us more than say, Aquascutum for example, who respectively, also developed the British trench coat.


Now the trenches are hardly luxurious, but despite this, their story provokes our imaginations and provides the trench with a sense of rigour, strength and durability. Heck, if it was strong enough for warfare than it is good enough for us. Burberry has made the trench into an iconic product of their brand, and it is often used as a sole product in advertising campaigns. I, and many others see the trench as synonymous with Burberry. In a way, this particular heritage story has indeed been entrenched into the buying consumer.


 In reference to popular culture, a notable time was when the brand was chosen by the masses as a representation of luxury in the era of the superbrand. How can we forget the time in the mid 2000s when the Burberry check was desired and emulated from the market stalls to the football stadiums. Consequently, the Burberry check is still one of the most widely counterfeited trademarks. In reaction to this, the check has interestingly (if not subconsciously) returned back to its roots by appearing in the lining of coats. Nevertheless, this ‘popular’ blip in their timeline can only be seen as a testament of the brand in being the ultimate portrayal of luxury. This also demonstrates Burberry’s efforts to turn the brand around from a PR disaster that was beyond their control. And with this I salute you, Christopher Bailey.


With fashion brands generally outsourcing to other countries in the case of manufacturing, it leads us to question; would a brand be distinctively British if it was making its products in Far East Asia? There is always this contradiction when it comes to globalisation. Brands keep themselves on the map by projecting the wealth of their heritage. This richness makes them seem more authentic, despite being manufactured elsewhere. Heritage implies craftsmanship and bespoke to the customer, increasing its desirability. In the case of Burberry, their Prorsum Equestrian Knight logo even gives the impression of a further extensive heritage. Whilst ironically, with ‘Prorsum’ meaning ‘forward’ in Latin, Burberry seem to place their heritage in a modern way. Take their latest catwalk show at Milan Fashion Week A/W 12, forming their production on the marriage between British rain and the trench coat (check out the finale for umbrellas galore) or their ingenious hologram show in
Beijing A/W 12. Without the emphasis on heritage, the basis of customer trust and loyalty would be broken and perhaps the brand would simply be a thing of the past. 


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