"Great brands and great businesses have to be great storytellers too." So begins a video that Angela Ahrendts, then CEO of Burberry, prepared a couple of years ago for New York's annual Future of StoryTelling summit. Before she left last year to take over retail operations at Apple, Ahrendts and her creative director and eventual successor, Christopher Bailey, led one of the most remarkable luxury brand turnarounds in business history. And they did it on the power of story—which is why Paul Woolmington and I use Burberry as a key case study in our Columbia seminar on digital storytelling strategy (details below).
Lots of marketers are talking about storytelling now, but few really understand how it works or why. Burberry does. They're using it both literally, in videos and store displays that highlight the heritage of the brand, and in a larger sense, by creating a "story world" that customers can step into at will. Because we understand stories by projecting ourselves into them, humans have an innate desire to inhabit stories we find meaningful. And because what we wear says so much about who we are—or at least, who we aspire to be—this can be as true of a fashion brand as it is of, say, Star Wars.