THE BLOG

Burberry's Missed Business Opportunity

11/09/2010 01:42 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • Lauren DeLisa Digi-cultural trend analyst, author, speaker, consultant and producer

Those of us in the New York City vicinity know that the temperature has dropped significantly, finally catching up to the falling leaves and early thoughts of holiday plans. It's a time when many hip New Yorkers decide which new coat picks will be added to their wardrobes. Coats that make statements, without yelling; coats that are warm, rich, modern. And many fashionistas are absolutely drooling for the Burberry Prorsum peacoats and shearling aviators from the brand's Fall/Winter 2010 line, continuing its forward offerings beyond the traditional plaid patterns well-known to most. Hip and edgy with a wonderful sense of rugged elegance, these coats almost scream to be purchased. It would seem this outerwear is poised to be a revenue winner for the luxury brand.

But for all of Burberry's re-design and pioneering new media embrace, the unfortunate fact -- which could could potentially lessen market share -- is that print ads for this company are still shockingly non-diverse with only the palest of Caucasian models being used even when not one, not two, but at least 5 different models are featured. An absolutely surprising and disappointing move in this day and age, not just for philosophical considerations, but for true international business growth considerations.

As a global fashion brand, Burberry works diligently to position itself as the most tech savvy luxury brand around, enabling its consumers to interact with the brand from digital runway shows to 3D viewing before any other fashion house even considered it. Yet Burberry seems to be behind the curve when recognizing the growth areas for extending sales. As the browning of the United States takes place before our very eyes,
respected research firms such as Target Market released statistics that demonstrate that African-Americans spent an enormous $507 billion dollars in 2009, marking a 16.6% increase from the previous year. This included with the fact that the U.S. Census Bureau shows us that the Latino market is the fastest-growing in this country; the business opportunity of the day would seem to present diverse images so that various demographics can identify, aspire, purchase. And quite naturally, since African-Americans and Latinos are the fastest growing segment of Web users, the opportunity grows exponentially when seeking to expand a brand's footprint across digital platforms. The fashion industry is not exempt in the call to today's marketers to become more expansive, creative and humble enough to understand that brand messaging wins when it encompasses previously overlooked areas while, of course, still maintaining the company's philosophy and integrity. The numbers simply aren't in favor of the old school approach if a company is to continue to expand and meet shareholder expectations. It's a new day where the affluent, diverse, luxury-brand driven market coined the "Royaltons" is only growing and becoming more powerful. And luxury brands that actually begin move past the invisible approach to this demographic will, no doubt, experience competitive leverage.

Look no further for examples than the mighty Anna Wintour, editor-in-chief of Vogue who seems to guide the magazine to a few more welcome drops of diverse expansion each month throughout various sections of the book; and power-agent Paul Rowland, at Ford Models, already reported by the New York Times' "T" magazine as a man who is determined to diversify his line up of girls to better compete in the new marketplace. Thus, the economic opportunity for brands such as Burberry, too, is to move beyond the thinking that simple retail diversity team or runway inclusion is sufficient. If anything, this should be simply standard. Rather, it's the powerful and alluring advertising images which draw the consumer into the store that should be of key concern. Digital media then deepens that experience and increases the opportunity to earn revenue. Should any part of this eco-system fail to exist, a major business opportunity is nothing short of obliterated.

What may be needed on the teams of these luxury houses is at least one-insider who can provide invaluable feedback and input - someone who is of the demo and enables certain sensibilities. How much longer before diverse women look at certain print ads representing the fantasy image the luxury fashion brand has created and decide the product has simply become too expensive - not in real terms, but in terms of self-respect and inclusion if one is going to contribute to the company earnings of a luxury brand such as Burberry?