A few days ago I bought a Burberry trench coat because I felt it was as essential to my wardrobe as a pair of black shoes, or a white shirt. It is ‘the’ trench coat for any (wo)man, whether you are a king, a soldier, a celebrity, a taxi driver, venture capitalist, model or a new graduate (like me). Why do I feel that way? Why do people think of trench coat when they think of Burberry?
Why is the trench coat so synonymous with the Burberry brand, and gray weather?
It’s not the product.
Burberry’s trench coats are as reliable as they are stylish. But Burberry is not the only brand that makes trench coats. Many other brands provide all the functionality of a waterproof coat, and still look good.
These brands have similar quality products, similar markets, and similar price points, and even longer histories. But you still(and only) think of Burberry’s icon when you think of a trench coat.
It’s not how they market it either.
In an HBR article, Burberry’s current CEO, Angela Ahrendts, described why Burberry’s growth was minimal in the luxury market : Burberry had strayed from its heritage that was “centered on the trench.” She felt that by focusing on the trench coat she could revitalize the Burberry brand and increase growth. And she was right. With the new strategy centered around the “the ethos of the trench” Burberry doubled their annual revenue to $3 billion by 2012, and attracted an younger audience that is largely ignored by other luxury brands. By going back to their trench coats, Burberry transformed itself into global luxury brand again.
Ahrendts eloquently summarized the importance of the trench coat to Burberry: They are the foundation of a great brand and a great company. Burberry did not market their trench coat, but used them to elevate their brand. Burberry’s trench coat is an institution of its own; it doesn’t need marketing.
“The trench coat will be in every single collection that I ever do, and every collection that ever existed within Burberry.”
It’s what Thomas Burberry believed in.
Do you like your plans to be dictated by the weather? Do you want to be forced to choose between staying dry and going somewhere? I don’t want to be forced to do anything because of the weather. Thomas Burberry also believed in sticking it to London’s perpetual gray weather, and feeling comfortable and confident while doing it. His customers believe the same thing, and buy into this belief when they buy a Burberry trench coat.
Burberry started by making weatherproof jackets and clothes for Arctic (and Antarctic) explorers, and pioneering aviators who flew in unprotected cockpits.
His expertise and belief not only earned him a Royal Warrant, but also the privilege of making durable coats for British military during WW1. The lightweight, durable coats withstood the rigors of trench warfare, thus earning them the name trench coats, and forever associating them with the Burberry brand.
Burberry believed that weather should not restrict people, and that’s why his trench coats are still so popular. When people see the passion behind a product, they become not just customers, but also followers. That’s why they feel that the Burberry trench coat is the best.