The word ‘Reinvention” is a beautiful word. It links people to a path of hope, dreams and possibilities. It is a point when people or organizations are ready to claim and design a new defining moment that will cause a major transformation in their lives and in their organizations. It takes commitment, reflection and action and in the process removing distractions, making peace with realities and sometimes completely letting go of the past.
Business historian can come up with a long list of great names of firms that failed to adapt and change with the times. For every Apple and Jobs; IBM and Gerstner; and GE and Welch, there are dozens of firms - many of which once held great status in households around the world - that are no longer great, good or even exist.
Companies that have reinvented themselves successfully typically have some combination of factors on their side. Committed leadership, a deep sense of trust among employees and the courage to throw away irrelevant legacy systems are but a few. The new issue of MISC Magazine is the Big Reinvention Issue. The cove feature story is Burberry – the Reinvention of a British Icon.
So, why are some companies successful in reinvention while others fail? To begin to answer that question, consider the road taken by the company that can arguably claim the biggest success story of the past decade, Burberry. What's the difference between Aquascutum and Burberry? Both are famous for their trenchcoats but while Burberry's success is the luxury brand equivalent to the iPod, Aquascutum's is the MP3 player. Here's an excerpt from the article Burberry: Reinvention of A British Icon. You can download the full article here.
So, how did Burberry do it? While its secrets are woven in and out of the ideas, experiences, inspirations and actions of Ahrendts, Bailey and their senior executives, here are five ways that the iconic British brand has reinvented itself over the past six years.
Too many organizations attempt to spark a reinvention with an over simplified vision or a strategic statement like "double sales by 2015" or "achieve an ROI of 15% by 2015." These goals may be achievable, but they're uninspiring. At best, they provide a measure to evaluate strategic outcome. At worst, they are more suited towards pursuing efficient operations than encouraging innovation.
From smart shareholders to employees, people being told about a reinvention in the works need stories they can get behind. While never losing sight of how to make the firm more competitively effective, Ahrendts and Bailey clearly understood that Burberry needed bigger aspirations and goals powered by passion. They achieved this by making brand the core focus and announcing to executives that art, not business, would drive major decisions. In doing so, they reconnected employees around the world to the legacy of the iconic 150-year-old British brand, enabled strategists, to planners and beyond to experience the real spirit of their industry and inspired everyone to design beauty into every facet of the business.
Having a globally recognized brand is one thing. Making it magical is something very different. In failing to understand meaning, purpose, promise and history as defining features of a brand, too many companies hope to spark reinvention with a new logo, tagline, communications strategy or other 'brand' sleight-of-hand. With years of what some critics suggested was irreparable neglect and damage to the brand caused by copies of its trademark tartan, mass-market designs produced by franchises and a dearth of product presence in discount outlets, Burberry could well have fallen into this trap. It didn't. Instead, since 2006, its comeback has been elegantly executed with constant brand refreshing, courtesy of Bailey and his design team charting a sustainable growth path through collection after collection. Surprising and delighting customers with every new handbag, jacket, trench or dress, Burberry keeps the magic alive by reimagining its spirit of 'disheveled elegance' with every season. From the latest collection inspired by the color and energy of Henry Moore's textiles to the opening of its more causal Brit store in London's Covent Garden, surprises are always around the corner.
Companies often think about customer experience in a very limited sense and are often far too conservative in adapting to and using new social technologies. And luxury companies have, arguably, been the most reluctant to embrace and adapt to the new. To reinvent its brand experience, Burberry brought a redefined promise to life by designing a customer experience that was truly global, true to its core and what other luxury houses at the time could never have imagined and would never have implemented: democratized access to luxury. With an agnostic and borderless approach to social media, Burberry gave customers total access to the brand across any device, on multiple platforms and anywhere, anytime. As a result, it's the dominant luxury brand on Facebook. With a belief that fashion is for everyone - not just the press and industry elite - it opened the locked doors to the runway by livestreaming each season's show and then allowing customers to order pieces for home delivery before collections arrived at stores. The result is excitement, interest and loyalty among consumers who are not yet even customers.
Creating a results culture requires not only producing the right results but also producing the right results the right way. For too many companies, that means relentlessly promoting a single way of thinking, working and doing. At Burberry, where 'balance' is one of the key words in the company's vocabulary, there is no single way of thinking, working and doing. Instead, by hiring people with an EQ as high as their IQ, pursuing cross-disciplinary collaboration between right- and left-brain specialists, and encouraging informal mentorships across and between various departments, tacit knowledges, divergent processes and asymmetrical personalities are shared. The result is that ideas are born, decisions are made and designs are discovered in ways that are more organic and holistic. It's not a formula; Burberry recognizes that maintaining balance is not an end game, it's an ongoing practice.
Making the right trade-offs between investing in today and investing in tomorrow can be one of the most daunting challenges for any organization. Performing well or not, every company feels the short-term pressure that often forces managers to make bad trade-offs. Very few have the capabilities or the culture of trust that empowers management to make the right trade-offs to balance the need for long term strategic health, cash flow and shareholder expectations. Burberry does. In addition to a clear, creative vision at the top, a Strategic Innovation Council pools the interdisciplinary and intergenerational wisdom and experience of some of the company's best and brightest to consider, examine, feel, see and sense what might be ahead. Stacked with Millennials who live and breathe the kind of cultural shifts that are or potentially will be relevant to the industry, it's a place to challenge assumptions, imagine solutions and, ultimately, dream about what this iconic, 150-year-old British brand could become in the years ahead.
(Disclosure: Burberry is a client of Idea Couture)