burberry pr

Exclusivity is a vital component of any luxury brand’s marketing message, so it should come as no surprise that some brands go to extreme ends to protect that exclusivity. But those efforts do not always sit well with the consumer public, and that can create some PR tension for the brand, especially if it mishandles the messaging related to the issue.

A recent example of this is the upscale British fashion brand, Burberry. It’s well known that Burberry is targeted at a certain, higher-income, market base. Sometimes, though, business realities can lead to overstocks, racks and racks of unsold items that have to go somewhere. From the perspective of the brand, they can’t be just “given away,” because that would dangerously dilute the power of the brand as well as one of its prime selling points.

However, when a headline hit announcing to the general public that Burberry destroyed about $37 million in overstocked clothes, accessories, and perfumes, last year alone, many consumers were outraged.

But what really set people off was the messaging Burberry used to attempt to soften the news. According to the company, the items were destroyed in an “environmentally friendly” way by “capturing the energy” generated by the burning items. Consumers were not assuaged.

And that’s a reaction that Burberry must have seen coming. After all, those who tend to be more environmentally conscious, overall, also tend to be more concerned with social inequities and what they may see as unfortunate aspects of “crass commercialism.” To these people, the wholesale destruction of perfectly good clothing is unthinkable.

Burberry continued trying to explain, saying a good portion of the destroyed products where because of a product deal with perfume firm Coty, which would be making a new line of perfume for Burberry, necessitating the destruction of the previous stock. The company said this was especially necessary in light of recent counterfeit Burberry perfumes flooding the market and devaluing the company’s products. They didn’t want actual Burberry products being “stolen” or acquired at a discount, thus diluting their brand profitability any further.

As reasonable as that might sound, it’s still not an easy “sell” for consumers to buy. They see a company that made too much product, and now is destroying it to keep it out of the hands of people who could not otherwise afford it. That may not be a fair reading of the situation, but it’s a popular one… and it’s a perspective that Burberry is faced with countering.

Ronn Torossian is the CEO of 5WPR.

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Ronn Torossian is the Founder, President and CEO of New York-based 5W Public Relations. He has overseen the company's rapid growth and expansion to the Inc. 500 list, as well as provided counsel to hundreds of companies, including members of the Fortune 500, Inc. 500 and Forbes 400. His work spans global interests, corporate entities, high-profile individuals, regional business entities, government agencies and academic institutions - both on routine public relations matters and extremely sensitive issues. One of the foremost public relations experts in the U.S., Torossian is known for his aggressive, results-focused orientation, as well as his close working relationships with members of the media, influencers, decision makers, politicians and celebrities. At 5W Public Relations, Torossian's client experience has included programs for Coca-Cola, Microsoft, Anheuser-Busch, Barnes & Noble, Cantor Fitzgerald, IHOP, McDonald's, Evian, EDS, VeriSign, XM Radio, Seagram's, The Loews Regency, Bad Boy Worldwide Entertainment, Marriott Hotels, Vail Resorts, Pamela Anderson, Snoop Dogg, the Government of Israel, and others. Referred to by The New York Post as a "publicity guru," by Fox News as a "high-powered PR CEO," by Tyra Banks as a "crisis management guru," and by CNN as "a leading PR expert," Torossian is regularly featured in and quoted by the media, including by CNN, Fox News Channel, MSNBC, NBC, The New York Times, and others. CBS National News said "Ronn Torossian knows spin," and a New York Times feature story on Torossian referred to him as "The consummate hard-driving, scrappy NY publicist." Earlier in his career, Torossian was a Vice President/Group Director for one of The InterPublic Group's (IPG) largest PR agencies, where he was responsible for significant client growth and successful client programs, including work for Clinique, Fox News Channel, DHL, Hard Rock Café and others. A resident of Manhattan’s Upper West Side, Torossian was named to the Advertising Age "40 Under 40" list, PR Week's "40 Under 40" List, is a regular lecturer at universities and conferences, a member of Young Presidents Organization (YPO) and a board member of numerous non-profit organizations.