BoF Twitter Poll | Gucci Eyeweb versus Burberry’s Art of the Trench

BoF Twitter Poll Gucci Eyeweb versus Burberry Art of the Trench | Source: BoF

Gucci Eyeweb versus Burberry Art of the Trench | Source: InFashionMedia

LONDON, United Kingdom In recent weeks, two major luxury fashion brands have taken the plunge and launched social networks built around their brands and products. It’s not a new idea by any means, and indeed I wrote a piece on this very idea for the Financial Times almost two years ago. But, that doesn’t make it any less notable because, as far as I can tell, it is the first time top fashion brands have used social media in this way. Indeed, both Gucci and Burberry went to great efforts to highlight these initiatives at last week’s IHT Techno Luxury conference in Berlin.

So, have their experiments been successful? Of course we at the BoF have our own opinions, but in the spirit of democracy we thought it was the perfect opportunity to turn to the BoF community to see what you think. In our first ever BoF Twitter Poll, we asked:

BoF Twitter Poll: What do you think of Gucci Eye Web versus Burberry’s Art of the Trench?

The responses came in fast and furious from BoF’s followers around the world, including James Gardner, CEO of the industry’s leading creative agency CreateThe Group, and influential bloggers such as Bryanboy and DisneyRollerGirl. In the end, it was a no-contest knockout for Burberry which was unanimously selected as the winner.

So why did our followers feel this way? Here’s a quick summary of their thoughts:

1. Burberry shows a deep understanding of how to use social media, while Gucci just jumped on the “bandwagon” without thinking first, which feels “insincere.”

@alexanderlewis in London: “Gucci heard about something called social networking Burberry AOTT remixed and embraced it”

@subversiveglam: (aka, James Gardner, CEO of CreateThe Group) in New York: “Burberry AOT shows luxury brands how to effectively embrace social media. Gucci jumped on a band wagon and then fell off.”

@randalltodd also from New York: “Trench: engaging. Eyeweb: limited, insincere.”

@InFashionMedia in Australia: “Gucci literally places customers behind their products. Burberry features people & their products on same level.”

2. Burberry creates a “visual feast” that inspires users to explore further, while Gucci quickly loses users’ “interest.”

@bryanboy in Manila: “I prefer Art of the Trench. It’s a visual feast. Gucci on the other hand, well, I lost interest when I had to pick a city.”

@DisneyRollrGirl in London: “I prefer Art of the Trench, I didn’t even get beyond the Gucci homepage.”

@pascalgrob in Zurich: “Definitely AOT! Burberry’s approach is an art project and so pleasing to the eye…Gucci just doesn’t convince”

@lolaswij in Sydney: “Art of the Trench, based on aesthetics alone! It’s appropriate to judge a fashion www by it’s looks, non?”

3. Burberry’s offering is “fun,” functionally superior, “user-friendly” and easy-to-navigate while Gucci frustrates users.

@FearlessBG in the Netherlands: “Art of the Trench! The Gucci Eyeweb is annoying to navigate and doesn’t offer that much.”

@djuwearit in Dubai: “ – it’s user friendly and fun.”

@xanod in London: “Definetely (sic) Art of the Trench, interactive, fun and more user friendly which is exactly what people want”

In addition, we would add two more points to Burberry’s successful social media outing:

4. Art of the Trench relies on editing by Christopher Bailey to ensure the integrity of the brand is maintained while Eyeweb’s images often have no clear connection to the brand.

Take a gander at Art of the Trench and you will find an almost uniformly style-savvy and well-dressed crowd of international fans in their Burberry trench coats. These photos have been carefully selected and screened by Burberry to ensure a good fit with the brand. On the other hand, Gucci’s site which also allows users to upload photos of themselves, is populated with a mish-mash of sometimes tacky, random images that seem to have nothing to do with the Gucci brand at all.

5. Art of the Trench is linked to a specific business objective whereas the purpose of Eyeweb is unclear.

In the same way that Ferragamo has built an identity around its shoes and Louis Vuitton has built a business around its leather goods, the trench coat has been identified by Burberry as the brand’s key item. By launching this site, Burberry further cemented ownership of the luxury trench coat category. On the other hand, Gucci’s site is highlighting sunglasses, which may be an important category, but isn’t really a core part of the brand’s DNA.

Having done such a good job, it’s no wonder that within the first week the Burberry site had more than two hundred thousand visitors and registered more than 3 million page views. The challenge for Burberry now will be to create reasons for its fans to return, without the support of the wall-to-wall press coverage that supported the launch of the site. Apparently, this will be achieved by bringing in new curators and creatives to populate the site with interesting content. But, even with all of the things that Burberry have done right, methinks that it will take a significantly more than that to draw people back again and again.

As for Gucci, it’s back to the drawing board. Kudos for experimenting and trying new things out, but perhaps next time Gucci may want to consider why it is jumping on the social media bandwagon and what it is aiming to achieve before punching its ticket.

Imran Amed is Editor of The Business of Fashion

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  1. Gucci’s reminds me of Jon Stewart’s recent analogy: “when you peel away the layers of the onion, there’s no onion – just talking points.” They can throw out the buzzwords: social, experience, user engagement, but there’s nothing to back it up.

    Burberry isn’t perfect, but they did better in a couple of ways. Partnering with Schuman shows that they’re connected to someone who their customers probably already know on some level, which makes it feel a bit more personal. They also make it easier to interact. You browse the gallery, you vote on the ones you like, move on when you don’t. With Gucci, you click through 9 different screens (I’m exaggerating) that take hours to load (5 minutes on DSL feels about the same), then you’re staring at a pair of sunglasses and not quite sure what to do.

    I really, really hope that usability is the next “wave” for fashion websites. For every jump right in and use it Burberry site, there are five Gucci-esque sites that require you to think entirely too much for something that should be entertaining.

  2. Christopher Bailey is just so much more in touch with the new luxury market than Gucci. “Art of the Trench” has a playful feeling. There’s a human quality which mirrors the brand message perfectly. Much like the Burberry Prorsum spring 10 runway collection; it’s young and modern with lots of personality. I thought Christopher Baily nailed it with that collection.

    Gucci Eye Web appears to poorly executed, and painfully contrived. Generally, I get the distinct impression that Gucci’s marketing campaign is still chasing the glory days of Tom Ford. While many in the industry may miss Tom’s carefully controled image, all of that just seems so 90′s to me.

    Perhaps Gucci is just too big allow for innovation. Maybe it’s just me, but Gucci seems about as relevant as General Motors.

    George from San Marcos, CA, United States
  3. Loved Burberry hands down!

    La Genevoise from Veyrier, 07, Switzerland
  4. I much prefer Burberry’s attempt at entering the Social Media world, but I have a few doubts to the sustained longevity.

    Launching with Super-Blogger Scott Schuman was a good move, but no doubt expensive. Developing this site took months and probably a fair sum of money (along with Mr Schumans fees) but a well executed social media marketing exercise shouldn’t require a large spend.

    I don’t see any real benefit for users to entice them to return regularly. Street style sites maintain traffic because they are frequent and diverse, this is all about a single product. In the short term it might seem like a exciting, but I think it might very quickly become repetitive.

    Regarding the stats , “Pageviews” is not easily measured as this site is all Flash, the boundry of what defines a “Page” is not easily measured and could be measured in ways to seem attractive.

    A real measure on it’s success would be a combination of the sites traffic growth rate, avg time on site, returning visitors, as well cost per visit.

  5. Gucci had two too many clicks. Why didn’t it just open to the action? Someday these big luxury brands, designers and photographers are going to realize Splash pages died in the 90s.

  6. Knowing a bit about the creation of both projects, I think the article seems one-sided and lacking in depth… some thoughts:

    Alistair Allan’s comment is quite right, no doubt the BBH-developed Art of the Trench almost certainly had a bigger budget and more time than Safilo’s Eye Web. Is that any excuse though?

    Well, the brands and intended audiences would seem to be very different. I sensed no comprehension of the youth audience that loves Gucci, how these club kids are very different to the more mature trench wearing urbanites…

    Both ideas are cool, I mean come on, to see oneself reflected in the lenses of the latest Gucci shades is sweet… perhaps I’m just a bit younger than some of the people who contributed to the original article…

    I’m yet to meet someone who doesn’t think Scott Schulman’s photography is amazing. Maybe some of the images on Eye Web just isn’t as ‘fashion-y’ a bit too real-world. Power to Gucci for letting real people project themselves onto their brand.

    As for the stuff about too many clicks? Wow. How boring. To be honest I’m not really counting how many clicks I make when I’m online I’m just getting on with it… splash screens = downloading… that’s the way the web works isn’t it? I’m not a techy though (thank god).

    Shame Gucci didn’t spend on cooler music. I would have thought Frida G with all her contacts could have pulled something out….

    In the end I think it’s great that both fashion houses are experimenting and that they probably have both learned a lot from it. People who’re critiquing this activity without actually producing work as well should put a sock it in (a Gucci or Prorsum design will work equally well)…

  7. I agree with Alistair, I checked out the site soon after it was launched, but why would I go back? The photos become repetitive, and after less than 10 minutes I left the site. How is Burberry planning on maintaining this? Are we going to have years of photos of people in trench coats? They need to think very quickly about how they are going to continue to drive traffic to the site while people are showing interest, and photos of people in trench coats will become repetitive. I think The Art of Trench is completely overhyped.

  8. Hmmm…Are these sites even really that similar (apart from them both launching sites in the same time period)?

    I get that they’re both big luxury brands, but essentially one is quintessentially British brand sticking with its very safe and classic heritage and the other is very Italian brand going all out with (literally) flashing lights on it.
    Burberry is showcasing it’s star product and Gucci appears to be marketing a new one. Burberry allows users to swap comments and romanticize over their love of THE Mac whereas Gucci give users the 15 minutes of fame their star loving fans desire.

    Also, i do feel it’s unfair to accuse Gucci of jumping on the proverbial bandwagon when according to their launch date (broken by WWD if i remember correctly) they infact launched Eyeweb first.

    I’m not entirely sure how this became a comparative debate anyway?
    Where’s the comparing of Burberry showing it’s A/W ’10 show and DG placing Bryanboy on the front row to live blog theirs? There’s different ways of embracing the ‘new’ found tech to very traditionally protective (and risk taking) brands – i say applaud them both for taking the chance and investing in what is always a very under appreciated area to risk budget.

    They’ll both learn that neither of their sites were particularly spot on and develop from there.

    Rome was not built in a day!

    B. Waldorf from London, London, United Kingdom
  9. @Alistair Allan and @Alexandra Suhner Isenberg: Thanks for your very insightful comments, in particular in questioning how AOT will draw people back in the future. We agree that this will be a key challenge for Burberry as it continues to experiment with its site.

    @the fashionista: We maintain that Gucci didn’t create a site that elevated and showcased its brand in line with its heritage and brand positioning. Regardless of which product a brand is featuring or which audience it may be going after, preserving the integrity of the overall brand is important. A little bit of editing of the photos would have gone a long way to ensure this.

    @Michelle: We agree. Creating a site where users can jump in and participate right away as opposed to having to click…click…click…is definitely more desirable. Websites are not only about aesthetics, but also about functionality.

    @B. Waldorf. Thanks for your feedback, which we always appreciate regardless of whether it is positive or negative. To be clear, we didn’t penalise Gucci for jumping on the social media bandwagon (because pretty much every brand has done that this season), but we did feel they could have done so with a little more thought as to how this experiment would impact the perception of their brand over the long-term. And, while the sites are clearly not the same, they are both interactive and nable users to participate and upload photos – so there are some clear similarities. I can see why you say the article does come off as a bit one sited, but indeed so did our Twitter poll! Not one of our readers selected the Gucci Eyeweb site as their favourite (notwithstanding the fact this was not a random sample.)

    Overall, we do applaud both brands for taking risks, but in our view (and indeed the view of huge plurality of our readers), AOT was much more successful. Whether they continue to have traction with the site…well that remains to be seen.

    Imran Amed, Editor from New York, NY, United States (post author)
  10. @Michelle
    So true so true!

    La Genevoise from Boll, 05, Switzerland
  11. I’m with the majority. I’ve been to AOT so many times (even while it was under construction) & keep trying to figure which of my street style shots are definitely Burberry trenches so I can submit something.. I didn’t even know about the Gucci thing until I saw your (brilliant) article, so I went to take a look so I could vote fairly.

    @michelle: Totally agree: two clicks too many. They lost me @ which city. I’m from NY originally, but we live in London… chose London. Then what? Yucky music. Too loud. Sunglasses moving around.. reminds me of when networks or other traditional institutions try to blatantly appeal to the ‘youth market’. The BBC kept trying it for a while until it finally realised, hey! We ARE old! We ARE the Establishment, let’s embrace that, and went back to doing great period dramas.

    We are all too smart these days. Even if we are children. Or the Youth Market. Everyone can smell insincerity a mile a way. What comes thru, for me, about AOT & the whole Burberry trend in general is that Christopher Bailey, from all accounts, is a talented and very nice, genuine man. He lives a simple lifestyle. He isn’t trying to be cool, which is the only way to be cool. And that, like management in a good restaurant, filters down throughout the brand.

    That’s my two cents! ; )

    jill @


  12. This is a terrific post and thought provoking comments. I just wanted to add my two cents. As a digital strategist and social media practitioner, I think this criticism is grounded in the belief that while we commend brands for taking that proverbial step forward with social media, we hold them accountable for their sloppy execution. Had Gucci put a little more thought into this project, it would have been a different story altogether.

    For a luxury brand such as Gucci, allowing users to interpret the brand with their images is a commendable step towards embracing their fans and opening up the brand. And Gucci certainly gets points for that. But as a luxury brand, Gucci (and any other) is about exclusivity, integrity, heritage and class. While it may seem that most of social media themes (crowdsourcing, massclusivity, transparency, casual-ness etc.) are diametrically opposite of what luxury brands stand for, the real challenge for luxury brands is going to be to figure out how to interpret these social media themes in the context of their own brand.