Burberry’s Tweetwalk

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Should designers use the power of  technology to promote themselves, or should they follow  Tom Ford’s lead and  shut the door?

For the first time ever, Burberry launched its  collection on Twitter. Burberry ‘Tweeted’ live from backstage at its 2012 Spring/Summer  collection, posting photos of each design moments before the models appeared on the catwalk.

With the every major label increasingly acknowledging  the importance of an online presence, it is not surprising that Burberry have embraced digital technology to  maximize their position in terms of online image management.

But in a radically different approach to digital-age promotion adopted by top American designer  Tom Ford at this year’s London Fashion week, shows  how differently the big fashion labels are approaching digital strategies.

Ford has turned away from a social media approach  and opted for a return to the past embracing a pre-digital  campaign. He presented his latest designs to a handful of monthly fashion editors only. Ford has said that he favours  a  ‘pull back’ strategy . He argues  that when clothes shown on the runway are online within an hour or so they become ‘overexposed’.

So which of these two diametrically opposed approaches is best?

There is no doubt that Twitter has not always been advantageous for the labels. Good for spreading the message and getting the brand out there, but not always so good when it comes to fashion shows. The immediate access provided by the Internet has often meant that the first pictures emerging for the general public are poor quality, often blurry and colour distorted. In other words a problem for the labels.

This season both Burberry and Tom Ford tackled the problem head on.

Ford has shut the door  with a strategy involving the  release of tightly controlled images which are released according to  a timeline he controls. At a time where the typical catwalk show is live streamed online around the world enabling people from all parts of the globe to feel like they are sitting in the front row, Ford turned away all the bloggers, invited only one chosen photographer, and set a strict prohibition on the release of information about the collection so as to relate it more closely to the date the garments hit store.

Burberry took the opposite approach and opened its doors to the world at large with each look tweeted by Burberry  before it even got to the runway  -effectively upstaging the bloggers and maverick  photographers.

Burberry’s PR team claim success for their strategy.  Pointing out that by getting in first with their own tweets, Burberry effectively stopped the proliferation of their images and controlled the quality of the images that hit the social networking sites. The novel idea had an immediate pay -ff according to Burberry, claiming that the pre showing tweeting elevated the label to one of Twitter’s top global trends.

On the other hand, Tom Ford says that his pre-digital strategy has paid off. The former Gucci designer broke the mold in New York last season when he opted for an intimate fashion show event for a limited number of carefully selected guests. His concern is that people will get tired of the clothing before it is in the stores. He also wants to show his collection in the best possible light.

Burberry’s ‘beat the Tweeters’ approach is aimed at showing its collection the way it wants it shown before anyone else has a chance to do otherwise. The first time ever live streaming before the models hit the catwalk is considered quite a turnaround in the industry. Especially given that it was not so long ago that high street stores smuggled spies into the shows to pick up clues as to what might be in the stores in six months time.

The general opinion about the differing paths taken by the two labels seems to be that Burberry got it right. Ford’s closed shop approach is seen as a risk in an industry which, while initially slow on the uptake, has now wholeheartedly embraced the fashion democracy offered by the internet.

Certainly the folks at ebay are not impressed with the Ford approach.  “Some of the world may be obsessed with fashion that hasn’t yet happened – of the stuff now appearing on runways from London to Paris which won’t be in the store until late February of 2012” says an ebay representative. The message to Ford and his elitist stance is clear. Times have changed and consumers (even those buying high end labels) are interested in the instant gratification offered by the internet and its social media platforms.

To view the tweet walk show CLICK HERE