“Luxury is a necessity that begins where a necessity ends”
— Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel
“Luxury must be comfortable, otherwise it is not luxury”.
— Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel
Luxury is a term that can mean different things to different people; therefore there are multitudes of ways to describe it. It is, as a whole superfluous, based on the attainment of desires and is not considered to be a need. According to Christopher Berry luxury is “an expenditure that goes beyond what is necessity” (Berry 1994).
It revolves around the concept of aspiration, objects / things that people aspire to have.
However, over time the ideals of luxury have changed drastically. Luxury was first only reserved for the monarchy and aristocracy and revolved around lavish parties, golden plates, large palaces, caviar, champagne, and servants (Leadbeater 2008). The first notions of luxury began with the French monarchy living lavish lives of luxury, which set the standards for luxury, being reserved only to a selected few. In our current day and age, the term luxury has been over used to the point that its meaning has diminished and people are no longer able to decipher what luxury is (Paul Smith 2011).
Luxury has become less differential, more emotionally driven, and self-obsessed, making it less about the traditions of the aristocracy and more about how we define ourselves (Leadbeater 2008). “Luxury is a pleasure out of the ordinary” (Paul Smith 2011) that are built on desires. These desires are created by celebrities who play an influential role, in the luxury society today. In present day, the main role of luxury is to portray status in society and convey power.
Luxury has become a mask, where one can create the persona they wish to expose to others.
Luxury goods are defined as an “association with a compelling and binding meaning in terms of emotional connectivity, personal harmony, a connection to the world of the inherently beautiful” (Karra Lecture March 2011). They are self reflexive having a major impact on one’s self ‘esteem, competence, and personal value’ and is characterized by scarcity, consistency, mastery of excellence, and emotional connectivity (Karra Lecture March 2011). It is an industry in itself that is worth $157 billion, encompassing clothes, leather goods, shoes, silk scarves, and neckties, watches, jewellery, perfume, and cosmetics.
The main purpose is conveying status and the life of luxury (Thomas 2007). Sixty percent of the business of the luxury industry is controlled by 35 major brands and the remaining 40 percent is accounted by the smaller companies (Thomas 2007). However, what makes a company luxury? Throughout this essay I will explore how Burberry, being apart of the 35 major luxury brands, has established itself as a luxury brand, recovering from a damaged brand image, and maintaining this reputation as a prestigious brand throughout time.
Focusing on the ten principles of luxury as outlined in Neri Karra’s lecture on “What is Luxury” (week 8) to decipher the aspects that make Burberry luxury and its emotional concept. Burberry’s Heritage Burberry was founded in 1856 by Thomas Burberry in England (see Appendix 1). Thomas Burberry is most known for his invention of the Gabardine material, which is a light, sturdy, waterproof material used in the creation of their iconic trench coats (Burberry 2011).
Burberry rose to fame due to their long heritage of designing outdoor and equestrian apparel and accessories, but more specifically their trench coats, which were designed purposely to suit the conditions of British warfare. Lined with their iconic Burberry check, the Trench coat has become the trademark of the Burberry brand (Burberry 2011). Throughout the years, they have expanded their product line to include handbags, jewellery, watches, outdoor accessories, shoes, children’s line, perfume and more recently beauty, with the launching of their new make-up line in July 2010. What Makes Burberry Luxury?
Burberry is a brand that is over 150 years old, with a long established heritage. With products sold at a high price point, the brand targets a certain economic segment, making it unattainable to the average consumer. This therefore gives it the exclusivity factor. Furthermore, Burberry’s trench coats and scarves are sold as luxury items, whereas these items are not generally seen as luxury, but due to Burberry’s prestigious brand image, it becomes luxury. This shows how luxury is relative, since the idea of luxury depends on each individual’s situation. When an item is hard to attain is considered luxury.
Moreover, “various cultures can perceive luxury differently and people in different economic classes will consume luxury differently” (Philippe Charriol 2010). However, they all have one thing in common and that is that they all desire luxury despite their own intentions behind needing it. Luxury is also about differentiation. It is of utmost importance for a brand to stand out of the crowd, especially in the luxury industry, where there are an abundance of competitors, being unique and different is the key to maintaining the desire for the brand, as well as the brand image.
As quoted by Coco Chanel, “In order to be irreplaceable, one must always be different”. In Burberry’s case, the brand is able to differentiate itself through its designs, specifically through its iconic camel, red and black check print, which is placed on all of their goods (see Appendix 2). This instantly differentiates the brand from others and being instantly recognized as Burberry. Additionally, the cut of their garments, from the minuscule detailing on their coats and apparel to the buttons, D rings, coat belts, zipper, the cut of the collar, can be recognized as Burberry, having the Burberry logo.
The little detailing that is seen on the garments is what makes the product luxury and makes it distinctive. This is closely associated with the principle that luxury is about adventure and risk, since in order to be different one must always take a risk. In the 1970’s Burberry had an unfortunate downturn, when their brand image was destroyed by the “Chavs”. The “Chavs” are considered to be young with a high school education, who usually wears ‘baggy tracksuits, clunky gold jewellery, and anything and everything with the Burberry Check’ (Thomas 2007).
Burberry took a risk and hired Christopher Bailey as their new creative director, as well as changed their target audience from a more mature consumer to a much younger audience, making Emma Watson the new face of their brand. This major change and risk within the brand has led to Burberry reviving their destroyed brand image, with overall revenues up by 27% and a 36% rise in their retail sales in early 2011 (BBC 2011). According to Angela Ahrendts, the CEO of Burberry, “Burberry had a strong finish to the year, driven by our design, digital marketing and retail initiatives, as well as good early progress in China”.
Burberry is also associated with superior quality having an upstream product and supply chain channels, from their manufacturing of shoes, handbags, apparel, and accessories to their home line. The company strives for the highest quality standards possible in all stages of its manufacturing, designing, and sourcing of materials (Burberry 2011). The materials utilised in their products are expertly chosen, sourcing only the finest quality leather, cotton, fur, cashmere, and silk in their products. The main aspect of Burberry that solidifies its mark of quality is its heritage of Thomas Burberry creating the Gabardine fabric.
The Gabardine fabric is a sturdy, light, tightly woven fabric made of a combination of worsted wool, cotton, texturized polyester that is waterproofed before sewn. It is used in Burberry’s suits, overcoats, and trousers. Burberry a brand of British origins manufactures a vast majority of their products within the UK, specifically in Scotland and Wales. However, due to the economic downturn in 2007-2008 and to save on manufacturing costs, Burberry has closed down a few factories in the UK (South Wales) and has moved it to China; the booming capital for low cost production, and other countries around the world (BBC 2007).
Burberry jeans are manufactured in Turkey. The jewellery line is made in India. The handbags and accessories are all assembled in China, with exception to their limited edition collections, which a still produced in Europe and sold at an extremely high price point. However, despite Burberry’s manufacturing move to China Burberry still remains fully committed to their British roots continuing their production of trench coats and scarves in the UK and assuring their consumers of the same quality standards despite being made in China. Furthermore, Burberry is luxury since it has value beyond its core function.
Burberry’s exclusivity factor with its premium prices, prestigious image and status stems from its heritage of catering to the wealthy upper class. Starting with the creation of the ‘Tielocken’, known as the predecessor of the Trench coat and was used by British officers in the Boer war in 1901 (Burberry 2011). This paved the way to Burberry being commissioned to produce the Trench Coat to be used in World War I (see Appendix 3). Moreover, Burberry has received two royal warrants for their excellence one in 1955 from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and other in 1989 from HRH The Prince of Wales.
The royalty, as well as celebrities have been seen wearing the brand boosting up the brands image and creating desire for the brand regardless of its functionality. These public figures play a major role in Burberry’s success, as much as its downfall, with which they have overcome to regain its luxury image. Emotional engagement with their consumers is what solidifies Burberry’s strong relationship with its consumers and is the starting point of generating desire and need for a product.
Burberry creates emotional engagement with its consumers through their importance on corporate responsibility through ethical trading and environmental sustainability. The brand is concerned with environmental issues and maintains a strong stance on child labour. Additionally, Burberry established the Burberry Foundation, a charity based foundation to help inspire creativity in the young adults, helping them achieve their goals and dreams. This shows that the brand doesn’t only care about making money, but also making a difference in the lives of many children.
Their current advertising sticks to their common theme of portraying lifestyle, more specifically the English lifestyle. It portrays children running on the beach wearing Burberry coats and laughing or an image that is romantic of a couple walking in the park (See Appendix 4). The concept is very simplistic but creates a strong impact on its viewers emotionally driving desire. At times it is the simple things in life that constitutes life’s luxuries. Luxury is also beyond needs.
Needs are universal to all human beings and cannot be created where need does not exist. Wants are a conceptualized manifestation to express our needs. The recognition of a need reveals itself in the instances where the consumer faces a problem, which can only be resolved with the acquiring of that particular need. Therefore, luxury can be considered an extension to a need, an extra indulgence when the need is fulfilled. Luxury creates need through marketing in order to create desire for their product and it is also through exceptional marketing that the image of luxury is bestowed upon a product.
Burberry creates this need through value for their products and consumer satisfaction, which causes a repeat purchase. Service plays a major role in the achievement of customer satisfaction, which Burberry excels at. Burberry offers personalized service to each an every customer, attending to each of the customers needs and going above and beyond the customer’s expectations. In addition, they provide a good return policy and they provide customization on all coats and most of their apparel via the in-house tailor.
For every coat purchased, the customer is fitted, measured for the perfect arm length and coat length and the customization is free. This ensures the customers satisfaction in purchasing the product, as well as giving it a very personalized feel, adding a touch of exclusivity. This also goes hand in hand, with the principle that luxury delivers the unexpected. “The Art of the Trench” was started by Burberry in 2009, in which enables customers to customize a trench coat. Starting from the style of collar, color, and the little details such as having epaulettes, D rings, and button material or shade.
However, in addition to the customization feature, “The Art of the Trench” is also a social networking forum, where customers can share their photos, experiences, and stories about the Trench Coat. The aim is to show everyday people wearing Burberry Trench Coats and people can comment and share their insights. This is also in conjunction with a renowned photographer Scott Schulman (‘The Satorialist’), who took the first set of photos to launch the website (The Guardian 2009). Consequently, luxury is always well presented and packaged.
Burberry upholding its strategy in environmental sustainability launched a new range of consumer packaging made with paper from sustainably managed forests that is 100% elemental chlorine free. This makes the bags easy to recycle and re-use due to its sturdiness. Burberry products sold are wrapped in black Burberry Check embossed tissue paper and fixed with a black Burberry logo sticker. The product is then placed in a light golden beige box, encrusted with the trademark Burberry ‘Prorsum’ logo.
This logo is in gold with an equestrian knight on a horse holding a ‘Prorsum’ flag. ‘Prorsum’ in Latin is defined as moving forward. The box is tied with a gold ribbon and placed in a similar color shopping bag that is tied with another gold ribbon to seal the bag. The long process and execution of wrapping the item is all about the experience of shopping in a luxury store. This also provides the customer with the satisfaction of shopping at the store and carrying the elegantly packaged Burberry shopping bag, since it is a way to show off your purchase.
In some instances, it is not what is in the bag that people care about, but more about the packaging. The packaging alone speaks for itself. The main reason society buys into these luxury goods is to show status and power and the Burberry carrier bag does just that (see Appendix 5). The last principle of luxury is that luxury should be timeless. It is the concept that an item that is purchased 10 years ago could still be worn today. Many brands have successfully accomplished this aspect: Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Lanvin, and Hermes just to name a few.
Burberry has done the same, with its Check scarves, Trench Coats, accessories, and even purses. Their design and style can surpass time and are ageless, because they are able to consistently maintain the classic Burberry design, yet being able to slightly modernise it to accustom to the younger consumers. It is possible to purchase a Burberry scarf in a vintage shop from 100 years ago and still be in style. It is the elegance and classic design that makes Burberry a brand that never goes out of fashion. The Timelessness of Burberry This makes Burberry luxury.
It’s the concept of buying a quality item, having an exceptional personalized shopping experience and being able to use the item for the next 50 years or more. It is also the expectation that due to the brands long heritage of creating coats for the war and royalty that it will last a lifetime and beyond, with the possibility of it being passed down through generations. This is what keeps Burberry at the top with all the major shopping brands and keeps customers coming back to the brand.
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