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Burberry Launches Social Networking Site

Burberry will today unveil its own social networking Web site, Artofthetrench.com, an homage to the brand’s trenchcoat.

LONDON — Burberry will today unveil its own social networking Web site, Artofthetrench.com, an homage to the brand’s trenchcoat.

This story first appeared in the November 9, 2009 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

According to creative director Christopher Bailey, the Burberry site is not commercial, but is aimed at engaging the brand’s fans and tapping into their passion for trenchcoats, old and new.

“It’s a natural extension of everything we’re doing on the digital front, and a way for our fans to interact with the culture of the brand and with the emotional aspects of the trenchcoat,” said Bailey.

Indeed, Bailey — a self-confessed gadget lover — regularly tweets from the design studio and keeps Burberry fans updated on his work via YouTube and Facebook.

A week before Burberry’s spring show, which was streamed live on the company’ Web site, Bailey gave his 700,000-strong Facebook audience regular updates on the progress of the collection.

Immediately after the show, which drew 75,000 online comments, the brand also gave customers the chance to pre-order two trenchcoats from the collection via its Web site. A spokesman said Burberry sold out of the trenches within 48 hours, and the delivery would be “at least one month” ahead of the first spring drops.

The new site features photos by Scott Schuman of The Sartorialist of young and old people sporting trenches in cities around the globe. Bailey said more collaborations are in the pipeline, but he declined to reveal details. He added the site will “always be about the trench.”

Users can comment on the photos, build their own profiles, create trench photo libraries and share opinions on the new site or via Facebook and Twitter. Fans will also be able to submit portraits of themselves wearing Burberry trenches, some of which will be selected and posted on the site.

Bailey said Artofthetrench.com, a separate entity from the Burberry Web site, will also feature a “living archive” that charts the history of the trench, with a timeline and original black-and-white footage of the first wearers of Burberry’s trenchcoats.

The new site is a public manifestation of Burberry’s progress on the digital front.

The company, one of the first luxury brands to invite bloggers to its shows and events, has already swapped printed mailers for e-brochures. By next year, Burberry’s look books will be digitalized, with videos of models wearing the collections and a 360-degree view of the clothing. Viewers will also have the option to make the model open his or her coat to show the lining or a special feature. The videos will also be used in-store and for e-commerce.

Bailey has also designed digital ad campaigns with video content. Burberry has shifted 25 percent of its global advertising spend to digital media.

Industry observers said they are eager to watch how the site progresses.

“Burberry clearly has a very passionate fan base, and it sounds like they’ve made a lot of smart moves by linking this site to Facebook and Twitter,” said Michael Ross, co-founder of eCommera, a London-based e-commerce services business with clients including Space NK, Habitat and Asda Direct.

“But it’s a big roll of the dice because there are so many sites out there. The success of this one will likely come down to whether fans will want to continue engaging with Burberry on Facebook and Twitter — or to embrace fully the whole world of the Burberry trenchcoat,” he said.