Why Apple Poached Burberry's CEO
When Apple poached Burberry's CEO Angela Ahrendts to head up its online and brick-and-mortar retail stores, the tech world noticed. And it wasn't because she'll be the only female in Apple's 10-person C-suite. The CEO of a high-fashion brand just didn't seem like an obvious match.
But Ahrendts' experience does fit the bill. As Fast Company's Austin Carr pointed out this week, Ahrendts knew early on that engaging Burberry's consumers would mean engaging their iPhones. And she spent the majority of her seven-year tenure focusing on integrating digital and physical retail experiences, something she'll certainly be doing at Apple.
Here's a look at what Ahrendts brings to the table and what she'll do once she's there:
Make Apple more personal.
Burberry dressed them all, from Lady Di to Sienna Miller, but one thing it lacked was a modern tech presence. That is, until Ahrendts infused the 157-year-old fashion house with a sensibility it never had. Suddenly Burberry was staging "tweetwalks," in which its runway collection premiered on Twitter, streaming fashion events with behind-the-scenes extras, and reaching new shoppers through iPad distribution channels. At Apple, she could have the same impact, taking customer service farther than the Genius Bar with real-time chats and adding personal shoppers and video demonstrations to the mix on its online store.
Roll out new products.
Apple might not turn out new products as quickly as Burberry, but that slowness may change over time. With Ahrendts at the helm, Burberry went from being "little more than a licensing shell built around a sturdy trench coat," as The Wall Street Journal put it in a 2010 feature, to turning out items as diverse as sports bags, silk T-shirts, and cosmetics. Apple, which seems to have fallen out of favor in the eyes of investors since Steve Jobs passed, could use some of that spark. In this way, Ahrendts might encourage the company to turn out its own line of iPad accessories, not unlike what Barnes & Noble did with its selection of Nook cases. She could also find creative ways to sell add-ons in stores, perhaps with a store-within-store concept.
Get consumers inspired.
Running a business isn't just knowing what the customer wants right now. It's knowing where the brand is headed. At Burberry, Ahrendts streamlined its mission so the brand meant more to shoppers than just a garbadine trench. It was about outerwear as a lifestyle, living in the moment, being playful and exploring the world. That zeal came came through in print ads and a series of ebullient social media campaigns--one shared on Instagram, for example, used an iPhone 5S to take slow-motion videos of the clothing line's Spring/Summer collection.
Dust off forgotten products.
Apple wants to go global in a very big way and Ahrendts can help make that happen. As The Journal noted, Burberry's Prorsum line only makes up about 5 percent of the company's overall sales, though it's seen as its "creative heartbeat." The reason? Ahrendts and chief creative officer Christopher Bailey gave every product in that line extra-oomph--high-shine trench coats, studded purses, and so on. Ahrendt might suss out the core of Apple's brand (presumably computers) and make them feel new again. It will be exciting for consumers--and the tech world--to see what she'll do to re-energize the line.
JILL KRASNY | Staff Writer
Jill Krasny is a staff writer for Inc. magazine, where she covers the intersection of entertainment and startups. Prior to Inc., she was a writer for MTV and Esquire and an editor at TheStreet. She is a graduate of the University of Southern California with a degree in communication. She lives in New York City.