The commercial value in culture value has been an idea toying in my mind for a while now. The prompt for this was an article included in ES magazine in September for London Fashion Week. The article discussed the recently renovated 121 Regent Street, now the flagship home to British luxury brand Burberry. The store has been defined as an innovative retail hub for the 21st century shopper, blurring the digital and physical shopping space. This was interesting enough, but it was a comment made by the brands Chief Creative Director Christopher Bailey about pet project Burberry acoustic. ‘It has absolutely no commercial value, it’s just that I love music, a lot of people enjoy the music we do at shows and events and I have a lot of friends in that world… I am looking at the 360.’ The project highlights new emerging British musical talent that are mostly unsigned, giving them a platform to showcase their music. This statement made me question the importance of cultural value to a brand image and how this translates into commercial value. Having been one of the driving forces in reviving the brands fortunes, after revising their image after ‘chav-gate’ in the early 2000’s, under the tutelage of his creative strategy and vision. Subsequently transforming the brand into the luxury fashion darling that it is today. No brand should be wise to the cultural implications better than Burberry, given the previously mentioned situation. With a clearly defined and consistent brand image that strikes the balance in its representation of Britishness with a cool modern twist, remaining respectful of the brands 156 year-old heritage. The integration of technology and strong social media presence is clear indication of the brands commitment to securing future longevity.
In light of this knowledge, Bailey’s statement about Burberry Acoustic seems very dismissive, given his success as a strategic marketer it could be a case of downplaying the marketing element of the project in an effort to make the projects conception seem more ‘authentic’. Whether this is the case or not, the commercial value in projects such as Acoustic provide the brand with an experiential extension of ‘Cool Britannia’ that extends beyond the remit of fashion. It remains aligned with the brands core fundamentals; by spotlighting British unsigned artists is evidence of remaining cutting edge with future forward brand thinking and devotion to the perpetuation of Britishness. These are ultimately the symbolic values Burberry wants their ‘fans’ to engage and associate with the brand.
Acoustic goes beyond the usual endorsement or sponsorship, as technically the artists are not endorsing the brand, it’s a means of self-promotion. However the associations that are generated through the collaboration, such as the artist’s music and the brands clothing being worn by the artist is mutually beneficial exchange of status. The project also capitalizes on the long established relationship between fashion and music, both on a trend forward and musing/inspirational level. More importantly both respectively heighten the others visual experience i.e. catwalk chows and music videos.
As we know today’s brands are selling a lifestyle an ideological disposition that is representative of their product. The selling of the lifestyle/ideology now goes beyond the traditional advertising marketing campaigns, requiring consumers to actively engage at a more emotive level through cultural interactions.
One brand in particular that has invested heavily in its cultural value is Red Bull. The brand is the perfect example of refuting Baileys view. They continue to demonstrate their preeminent understanding of creating cultural equity that is exchangeable for commercial value. Done so by sustaining a creative cultural ecological system, that goes beyond selling just a drink.
Red Bull has done this by building upon its famous strap line Red Bull gives you wings pertaining to its main selling point of maintaining or boost flagging energy. The brand image that has been created to signify the brands identity as an energy drink is through the visualization of extreme sports and adrenaline induced activities through its advertising and marketing events that are dedicated to providing an experiential extension to the brand image. The events are branded content and media owned by Red Bull that locates itself in a specific cultural context that is related to the thrill seeking buzz brand position they purport. So sporting teams such as the Formula 1 and MLS Football teams, with some of its 500 events such as Rampage and Flute tag, credibly strengthen the brand DNA. The game changer however has to be the most recent and hugely successfully Red Bull Stratos. The event saw Felix Baumgartner free falling from the stratosphere and parachuting back to earth. The event saw Baumgartner set the record for becoming the first person to travel at the sound of speed.
The Red Bull Stratos became a worldwide sensation with 8 million viewers watching the live stream, not to mention the TV channels and other digital platforms showing a feed. The event generated buzz during and after the event huge through immeasurable online engagement via social media. This was in fact how I came to learn of the event. This sense of engagement created not only a sense of ‘community spirit’. As people were deeply emotionally invested, whether they were rooting for him or doubting his success.
Undoubtedly Stratos was a marketing event and does not pretend to be otherwise. It was designed to continue to define and spread the brand message through a clear and constructive narrative of pushing yourself to the limit mentally or physically. The marketing becomes blurred and secondary, as it is superseded by the cultural and historical element of the event. Though it will always be remembered for pushing the boundaries of marketing. Not only by the sheer magnitude of the event itself but more so on an innovative level. The residual effects that go beyond extreme adventure, such as the scientific value and advancement both in medicine and engineering, not to mention the massive data collated can be used to provide further scientific contributions.
The hype and buzz of the event will have no doubt parlayed into commercial value through increased brand awareness and personification by creating the ultimate branding cultural interaction. Continuing to strengthen the brands image. So if Bailey is downplaying he may want to rethink that idea and celebrate Acoustic for what it is, marketing just more emotionally and culturally connected.