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Back in 2016, to celebrate its 160th anniversary, the British luxury brand, Burberry, launched a three-minute trailer for a movie that was never made called The Tale of Thomas Burberry. Directed by Asif Kapadia — an Academy-award winning director responsible for the UK’s highest-grossing documentary feature, Amy— the trailer starred some of Great Britain’s most familiar faces: Domhnall Gleeson, Sienna Miller, Dominic West and Lily James. Gleeson played Burberry himself, while Miller portrayed his fictional love interest. The trailer captured some of the brand’s most iconic moments in history, including those in which its founder, Thomas Burberry, came to create the famous gabardine trench coat for the British military. As a trailer, it left the audience yearning for more — perhaps an actual movie — yet as a brand content, the film successfully flipped the audience’s perception of the brand.
In 2002, Burberry nearly drove its brand over the cliff thanks to its association to chav culture, a derogatory term in the British culture linked to unsavory traits in a specific type of working class community. A few years later, the brand did what most luxury brands would never do: rebrand themselves from scratch. It embraced innovation and went on to draft a new story.
A decade later, in 2012, Burberry’s comeback story became the talk of every fashion show on the planet as it went from bad to good to great. In 2013, Burberry’s Creative Director and Marketing Director attended international seminars on storytelling to share with the world how they managed to turn a brand already on the brink of losing its customers’ trust to winning the heart of every customer they had ever dreamed of — and more.
“Great brands and great businesses have to be great storytellers too,” said Angela Ahrendts, Burberry’s former CEO (2006-2014), who is credited for saving the brand’s image alongside Christopher Bailey, Burberry’s Chief Creative Officer.
“We have to tell authentic stories, emotive, compelling stories. We are building a long-term relationship with people; and every relationship has to be based on trust,” she went on.
For decades, luxury brands have mastered the art of storytelling. When other brands are using discounts and vox populi as part of the story to attract consumers; luxury brands use stories to keep them loyal. It has been said time and again that when it comes to luxury brands and products, function is the last thing on the buyers’ minds. Meaning and connection are the primary drives of how we use and perceive luxury brands and products.
But how do you create meaning?
The Tale of Burberry is a meaningful production — at the end of the short film, you’ll find yourself yearning for some sense of discovery, of an epic romance and of heroic feats. However, the film was not what saved Burberry. It merely showed us what Burberry had been doing to save its brand: embrace its heritage and amplify its value. For eight years before the short film was released, Angela and Christopher had rebuilt Burberry’s iconic image by focusing on its origin story and implementing the founder's philosophy in everything the brand creates.
Gucci, on the other hand, successfully elevate its brand positioning by leveraging on its artistic edge and collaborative spirit. In the last few years, Gucci moved up a few ranks thanks to its authentic designs created by world-renowed artists and illustrators.
Since 2015, Gucci became the brand of choice for many high-profile customers who support and encourage the importance of self-expressions and self-acceptance. It also became the brand that is quickly associated with strong vision, voice and values. Check its social media account to experience Gucci’s lifestyle.
You Never Buy Luxury Products
Say, you walk into a store and you are presented with two similar-looking bottles of perfume. Both bottles contain 200ML of perfume and they both smell great to you. There is absolutely no difference between the two bottles, except for this:
Chanel N°5 – costs US$ 215
Autograph Inspire – costs US$ 35
The value of Chanel N°5 is 600% more expensive than Mark and Spencer’s Autograph Inspire, and yet some customers will still reach into their pocket and spend all their money on the N°5.
The reason is simple: with luxury brands or products, whatever you spend is considered an investment — and it is never too much a price to pay for a really good story you can find yourself in.
Remember this: you don’t purchase Chanel N°5, you experience it.
The luxury fashion industry is a prime example of how experience economy works. The concept, introduced by Joseph Pine and James Gilmore toward the end of the 20th century, revolves around the building of value as the core offering of any brand and business.
Based on the previous analogy, or example, those who went with Chanel N°5 as their brand and product of choice would have been willing to pay the exorbitant price due to its brand value packaged with storytelling.
But does that mean the other brand has less value, or deserve to be perceived as less valuable? What if it were to use better stories?
How does storytelling match the experience of luxury goods and services?
Coming straight to your inbox next Monday, March 1 2021 at 9 a.m.
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Co-Founder and Chief Creative Officer
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