Burberry needs a little help from its (online) friends

The high-fashion brand is launching a social networking site - and it wants your trench coat pictures.

Last Updated: 06 Nov 2012

Fashion house Burberry is launching its own social networking site – which will largely be based around pictures of customers wearing its iconic trench coats. Artofthetrench.com (as it will be known) is apparently intended to deepen relationships with existing customers, create brand advocates, attract new followers and so on and so forth. Since the company already has an avid following on Facebook, where it has more than 660,000 fans, it clearly thinks there’s huge potential to build sales online – and with Zara set to launch its e-tail offering at long last, it’s apparently not the only one. Let’s hope their customers don’t beg to differ...

Burberry is currently in the midst of a three-year strategy review, which has already led to a greater focus on digital marketing. This makes sense: customers have responded well to Burberry’s online efforts so far, with online stores outpacing some flagship stores by three-to-one. Now bosses hope that this latest extension of the luxury brand will boost sales further. Speaking in today’s FT, Burberry’s chief exec Angela Ahrendts said of the site’s anticipated audience: ‘These might not even be customers yet. Or they may be a customer for a bottle of fragrance of for eyewear. But these are the customers who need the brand experience, who need to feel the brand.’ It’s not often that men in trench coats are seen as a positive from a branding point of view, so let’s hope Burberry can make an exception.

Meanwhile fashion retailer Zara is also coming to the online party, albeit a little late. Keen to emulate its rivals’ success, the high-street chain is to start selling its ranges online in the UK and a few other key European markets in time for the autumn/winter 2010 season. The group already operates a Zara Home website, but for reasons we can’t quite fathom, has so far shied away from touting its fashion fares on the internet (why would people buy a sofa online and not a pair of shoes?)

For both companies, this is a foray into relatively unknown digital territories. And it’s not always a recipe for success: recently both US online department Sears and UK supermarket Asda have launched social networks to a lukewarm reception. Then again, Burberry probably has a more dedicated following than these mass-market retailers, which should make a site like this more likely to work. We’re still not totally sure why people would want to submit pictures of themselves wearing Burberry macs, or have any desire to hang out online with other mac owners. But in the current climate, relatively cheap marketing ruses like these are probably worth a go.

In today's bulletin:

John Lewis puts on a brave face as sales slump
Business face post chaos as Royal Mail strike looms
Editor's blog: Poor old Kodak's fall from grace
Burberry needs a little help from its (online) friends
Will recovery be harder than recession for SMEs?

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