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 and CEO of 5W Public Relations, one of the largest independently-owned PR firms in the United States. With over 20 years of experience crafting and executing powerful narratives, Torossian is one of America's most prolific and well-respected Public Relations professionals. Since founding 5WPR in 2003, he has led the company's growth, overseeing more than 175 professionals in the company's headquarters in midtown Manhattan. With clients spanning corporate, technology, consumer and crisis, in addition to digital marketing and public affairs capabilities, 5WPR is regularly recognized as an industry leader and has been named "PR Agency of the Year" by the American Business Awards on multiple occasions. Throughout his career, Torossian has worked with some of the world's most visible companies, brands and organizations. His strategic, resourceful approach has been recognized with numerous awards including being named the Stevie American Business Awards 2020 Entrepreneur of the Year, the American Business Awards PR Executive of the Year, twice over, an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year semi-finalist, Metropolitan Magazine's Most Influential New Yorker, and a 2020 Top Crisis Communications Professional by Business Insider. Torossian is known as one of the country's foremost experts on crisis communications, and is called on to counsel blue chip companies, top business executives and entrepreneurs both in the United States and worldwide. Torossian has lectured on crisis PR at Harvard Business School, appears regularly on CNN & CNBC, was named to PR Week's "40 under Forty" list, is a contributing columnist for Forbes and the New York Observer, and his book, "For Immediate Release: Shape Minds, Build Brands, and Deliver Results With Game-Changing Public Relations" is an industry best-seller. A NYC native, Torossian lives in Manhattan with his children. He is a member of Young Presidents Organization (YPO), and active in numerous charities.