Burberry: the ultimate British brand

Whenever I travel, I’m always amazed at just how excited the rest of the world gets about Wimbledon, and this year is no exception. But, of course, it’s about much more than tennis. Though three other countries host major tennis tournaments, there is nothing else like it. The French Open just isn’t as French as Wimbledon is British.

While the UK government has been capitalising on the global success of the London Olympics, through its Business is GREAT campaign in recent years, one brand has been skilfully maximising its British heritage for much longer: Burberry. When former CEO Angela Ahrendts joined Burberry in 2006, as she recalled in the Harvard Business Review two years ago, the brand was in need of an overhaul. Taking inspiration from other luxury brands, she quickly realised the value of Burberry’s heritage and refocused the business around its iconic trench coat. To cement the brand’s authenticity, design and production was repatriated to the UK and everything went through what Angela dubbed, Burberry’s ‘brand czar’ – creative director (and today, chief executive), Christopher Bailey.


Nine years later, the business’s British heritage is still the beating heart of its image. Just a few months ago, its London in LA show, for which Christopher somehow managed to convince the Queen’s own Grenadier Guards to take part, was a huge success. The LA show followed a similar effort to celebrate the opening of a flagship store in Shanghai last year.

More recently, Burberry has tapped up its roots right here at home, launching Thomas’s, its first ever café, in the newly expanded Regent Street flagship store last week. The all day eatery is named after Thomas Burberry, the gentleman’s outfitter who founded the business in 1856, and serves a distinctly British menu. Like so many in the luxury industry, the Asian market is critical to Burberry and in its most recent annual results it accounted for 38% of revenues. Its British heritage continues to prove a success in the region through initiatives such as the London in Shanghai show, leading to underlying growth of 9% in 2014/15, even in the face of a significant decline in footfall in Hong Kong.


As much as heritage is important to Burberry’s success, the reality is that it is only a part of it. For Burberry, emphasising the traditional need not prevent innovation – in fact, it drives it. As Christopher puts it himself, ‘we have always looked to the past as we have embraced the future.’ Hence why Burberry is frequently cited as being at the forefront of blurring the lines between digital, retail and luxury, while its immense operational strength (thanks largely to Angela) allows it to be at the forefront of personalisation too. This smart approach, combined with very carefully selected brand ambassadors – from Eddie Redmayne to Cara Delavigne and Kate Moss to Romeo Beckham – means Burberry is able to appeal not only on the world stage, but at home in Britain too.

What other British brands are you most excited about? Let us know at moira@thembsgroup.co.uk and janine@thembsgroup.co.uk, and have a fantastic weekend!