by Rachel Lothspeich

Preserving prestige is what sets brands such as Burberry and Hermes apart from Gap and H&M, but that same elitism has previously kept certain luxury brands from engaging in the digital space/social media — one of the most powerful forms of marketing at the moment. Despite the initial industry-wide hesitations, we have seen a recent increase in digital marketing initiatives from select premium brands; with Burberry leading the way. Luxury retailers are finding they can earn an immediate connection with their customers through something as simple as streaming runway shows or creating Facebook and Twitter personas.

Burberry started as a slow adopter - initially criticized for their lack of digital customer interaction (see June 2011 rankings) - but in the last few months, has paved the way for its peers through several initiatives. Using innovative and brand – relevant digital content, this London – based brand has climbed to the top ranking spot on L2's Top Digitally Gifted Brands. (see October 2011 rankings)

Aside from traditional email marketing and social media strategies (streaming runway shows, tweets about new designs, a noteworthy 9 million followers on Facebook, and their very own Christopher Bailey posting videos to the fans regularly), their notable Art of the Trench is a unique digital venture where anyone who purchases one of Burberry's trench coats (a historic staple of this brand) can post a picture of themselves wearing it on this site. It can also be used as a look book with portraits of different ways to wear and style the coat. It's a great space that thousands of customers join, discuss and most importantly, engage in the brand.

Burberry's newest initiative - Burberry Bespoke - allows the buyer to completely customize their own trench coat (comparable to NikeID ). Even people who can't afford to buy a customized trench can create one and share it via Facebook and Twitter. In an interview with WSJ, Burberry's Chief Executive, Angela Ahrendts says, “Honestly it makes no difference at all how many custom coats Burberry sells; it's customer engagement. You want them to engage in your brand.”

Burberry's digital marketing strategies are giving fans a new way to engage, and more importantly, giving the company a new trove of customer data. The brand increased its digital marketing spend to 60% of the total marketing budget (via digitalstrategyconsulting.com) and is expected to post increasing sales and revenue through 2012. Also, with experts forecasting a new era of rising mass customization, this label is headed down a path of probable success.

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