The Best Brands of 2011 and What You Can Learn from Them in 2012

The Best Brands of 2011 and What You Can Learn from Them in 2012

Back in October, L2 Think Tank released a thoughtful, in-depth analysis of the brands that did the best digitally in 2011. That article was then blown up all over the blogosphere, which got us thinking: How can small companies learn from these big brands? Now TWF is taking an even deeper look into some of these companies (as well as others that deserve mentioning) and seeing what makes them so successful. Other brands and designers: take notes. This is how you dominate digital media in the fashion industry…


Snagging the top spot on their list, and our list, is Burberry. In 2011, Burberry hit over 10 million Facebook likes, garnered the second highest amount of followers amongst brands on Twitter, and acquired the most followers on Instagram. Burberry also acts as an online shopping platform themselves, and have even jumped on the F-commerce bandwagon. Functionalities such as Burberry Bespoke” are amongst other reasons why they topped the list, allowing users to virtually custom create their own staple trench coat (as if “The Art of the Trench” didn’t give the trench enough attention.)

According to Burberry CEO, Angela Ahrendts, retail sales were up by 45% in the first half of 2011. She stated, “Burberry has delivered a strong first half, reflecting our continued investment in innovative design, digital marketing, and retail strategies.” Digital marketing was particularly key; with half their budget spent directly on digital media. Their presence on YouTube (a dedicated channel with over 200 videos and almost 30,000 subscribers) also elevated the global success of Burberry, providing videos to millions of people worldwide.

There’s no denying that 2011 was Burberry’s year and 2012 will reap a profitable outcome.

Fun fact: Burberry is the fourth fastest growing brand in the world, joining the ranks with Apple, Amazon, and Google.

How startups can learn from Burberry:

1- Do invest, and invest wisely: Put time, and money, into everything you do.
2- Invest time on forecasting digital trends: Spend a chunk of time weekly trying to predicts trends in web 2.0 and analyzing your competitors’ actions.
3- Invest money on projects that will set you apart from your competition: Always have some money set aside to invest on projects that will make you stand out in this competitive field.
4- Don’t be discouraged if you don’t see the return on investment immediately: Burberry’s CEO states that she has just recently started seeing the return on investment from years ago. What goes around, comes around. This is true of money, too.

Watch Burberry CEO, Angela Ahrendts, Discuss Their Digital Impact in 2011


Another force to be reckoned with is Coach. With over 2.6 million fans on Facebook, 321k on Twitter, and a strong presence on Instagram and YouTube, it’s no wonder that they’ve had a successful year. However, it’s not all about social media. In 2010, Coach foresaw the impact of fashion bloggers and implemented them into several projects. This digital project then catapulted their brand into a more youthful and successful territory; subliminal advertising at its best.

According to WWD, David Duplantis, SVP of global web and digital media, took a deep look at gender behavior this year stating: “Our female customers want to be digitally engaged with more frequency, and are more interested in new products, value, celebrity, and blogger fashion trends. Men, on the other hand, prefer their engagement with us to be more focused on increasing their knowledge of the product.” Due to this, Duplantis launched a male-oriented Facebook page (with close to 20,000 fans already) that features “Product of the Week,” and “Did You Know,” where male fans can learn a little bit of Coach history.

Understanding their consumers’ habits has been the key to digital marketing success for the Coach brand, and it’s no wonder that they took Coach to whole new level in 2011.

Fun Fact: Coach released their “Poppy” line (their lower “vegan” line) in 2011 and  Ellen Degeneres surprised her audience with Poppy handbags for Christmas! Talk about good press.

What startups can learn from Coach

1- Know your consumer: Pay close attention to who your customers are and what their habits are.
2- Adjust with your consumer: If there are concepts that your consumers aren’t latching onto, figure out what it is they want, and apply it to your business.
3- Spend money on PR: Let’s face it- celebrities sell, so do bloggers. It’s totally okay to shell out a little bit of dough on them. Whether we like it or not, they’re press magnets — and press certainly pays off.

A Coach Holiday with The Glamouri

Ralph Lauren: All-American brand Ralph Lauren is no newcomer to kicking butt in the fashion world. What you might not know is that they’ve been the biggest innovators of digital marketing amongst major fashion houses. Back in 2009, their Rugby line produced an online-only fashion show where, for the first time ever, viewers could shop the looks in real time. One season later, Burberry did the same thing — coincidence?

2010 was an even more extraordinary year for digital innovation over at the Ralph Lauren HQ. The first ever 4D experience & runway show appeared against the London flagship store in November of 2010 to celebrate the launch of Ralph Lauren e-commerce in the UK. The screen projected models walking down the runway, followed by men playing polo, and then transcended into images representing the Ralph Lauren brand.

According to Fast Company: David Lauren, who is Ralph’s son, is the man responsible for turning his father’s fashion empire into a digital leader. In 2011, they focused a lot of their attention toward the holidays; gracing us with a holiday microsite that consisted of hi-res glossified images with a “buy now” emblem that casually pops up as you’re gliding through the stunning imagery. Their personalized holiday cards consisted of their signature bears with a 3D snow effect and Christmas music. After all, doesn’t the Ralph Lauren brand just evoke the holiday senses?

In addition to some holiday fun in 2011, RL also provided us with two mobile apps: one for fashion shows and news updates and another (by Rugby) that allows you to custom create your own Rugby shirt, sweater, or Polo shirt – either on their own virtual models or an image of yourself. You can even shop your own design! Very nifty stuff, RL.

The Ralph Lauren brand, in our opinion, is unstoppable when it comes to digital media. They’ve innovated, conquered, and continue to evolve in the digital realm. We’re excited to see what creative magic they have in store for us in 2012.

Fun Fact: David Lauren has recently married Lauren Bush, which now makes her new name Lauren Bush Lauren?! Ouch. Either way, what a power couple! Talk about an American dream.

What startups can learn from Ralph Lauren:

1- Mobile apps are the future: At this point, it’s detrimental to your business if you don’t have a mobile app. Everything from virtual styling to gaming is being done on mobile. Don’t slack on it – mobile is the future.
2- Do something impressive: Brainstorm until your head goes numb, and come up with a project that’ll make people say “WOW.”
3- Bank on holidays: The holiday season isn’t only about giving; it’s about making a whole lotta loot! Don’t forget to capitalize on holidays. Whether it’s Christmas, Easter, even Groundhog Day – remember  to market wisely during these special times of year.

Check Out Their Amazing 4D show.


Social interaction is DKNY’s plan-to-action when it comes to digital. Anybody who has any sort of business should have a Twitter, Facebook, maybe even Tumblr — but DKNY doesn’t stop there. In 2011, DKNY polished off their crystal ball and looked into web 2.0’s future.

Chances are you know about DKNY’s SVP of Global Communications, Aliza Licht (the woman behind the alias, DKNYPRGIRL.) What you might not know is that she’s the woman in charge of changing the brand’s digital game, even earning them several awards – such as Best Twitter, Best Mobile App, Best Blog, and Top Innovator – at the 2011 Fashion 2.0 Awards. That’s half of the number of awards given out!

So what did DKNY do to win all of those awards? DKNYPrGirl told WWD, “We’re always focused on ways to make our social media presence more innovative and interactive.” Back in April of 2011, DKNY produced an “Easter Twitter Scavenger Hunt” in NY and London, which sent bloggers out to parade the multi-level flagship stores in search for Easter eggs. Clues such as “I’m a kitten, but I don’t purr” would lead the scavengers to the correct item, and the tweeting would commence. Fast-forward five months later, when DKNY partnered with Pose App to conduct an interactive FNO campaign in which street style photographers would snap images of the guests, then use the hashtag #DKNYFNO – thus live streaming them to all of their social media channels.

With accounts on Instagram and Pinterest, and mobile apps such as Donna Karan International and DKNY Cozy, it’s evident that DKNY understands that their clientele is highly tech-savvy. With their finger on the digital pulse, it’s safe to say that DKNY will continue to entertain us in 2012. Watch out Burberry.

Fun Fact: Donna Karan is a real New Yorker, born into fashion in 1948 to a model mother and a haberdasher father. She now has 7 grandchildren and her company is valued at $643 million.

What startups can learn from DKNY:

1- Engage: Engaging with your consumer is hands down the best marketing strategy. Let’s face it; we all love feeling like we’re part of the fashion fantasy.  Engaging with your customer, and allowing them to feel like they’re an asset to your company, is the best way to guarantee brand loyalty.
2- Keep up with your social media: Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and Instagram are here to stay. Get comfortable. Be active and become an expert in all social networks. It’ll all be worth it when you have thousands, maybe even millions, of followers. (We’re working on that ourselves ;))
3- Collaborate: Don’t be afraid to team up with other companies. Collaborations are beneficial to both parties involved. More publicity for you = more publicity for them.

Watch the DKNY PR Girl Speak Up


We all know that Chanel is synonymous with innovation; the little black dress, tweed suit, the classic red lipstick and iconic No.5 fragrance. However, how did it stack up to all its competitors in digital marketing?

While not scoring high whatsoever in the digital IQ test, we feel that Chanel showed significant improvement in digital development while still maintaining its luxury appeal. The brand lost points in L2’s digital IQ test due to its lack of ecommerce (minus fragrances and makeup) but luxury is something that can’t be forfeited. Keeping exclusivity, while still appealing to a massive audience, is certainly a challenge amongst luxury brands and, in our opinion, Chanel did a beautiful job with this.

Their digital marketing in 2011 consisted of a photobooth Facebook App for their Rouge lipstick, Culture Chanel Web – where users can learn a little bit of Chanel history – as well as their digital campaign with celebrity Keira Knightly that consisted of beautiful short films, large interactive video projections in the windows of flagship stores worldwide, and print ads, of course. Videos were also a huge part of their digital marketing strategy this year; putting out fun, quirky, and engaging short films for us to feast our eyes on.

Chanel’s exclusivity is what makes them one of the most respected fashion houses in the world since Coco Chanel opened her first shop in Paris in 1913. We’re curious to see where they take their brand digitally – while still maintaining their creme de la creme appeal – in 2012. Under the reigns of Karl Lagerfeld, we’re certain they will do a fabulous job.

Fun Fact: Karl Lagerfeld is coming out with his line in February 2012, and it’s exclusive to Net-a-Porter. You can sign up for the launch party here:

What startups can learn from Chanel:

1- Don’t conform: If certain digital trends don’t suit your branding, that’s okay. There are plenty of others. Market digitally in a way that compliments your startup’s principles.
2- Be visual: It is said that about 65% of the world’s population is visual, so be beautiful. Visual stimulation in fashion is just as important as the clothes we wear.
3- Quality over quantity: It’s self-explanatory: put out good work, over mass work. Do your job, and do it well.

This is Not a Man’s World

It’s amazing what all of these companies have accomplished in the past year, let alone past decades. Keep in mind: many major companies were startups at one point. Although many startups will never come as close to these five brands’ rock star success, it’s important to stay focused on your goals and push through the obstacles. “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.” We sure hope so.

Third Wave Fashion has been your fashion tech think tank since 2011. We publish the first ever printed fashion tech magazine, Third Wave.  Follow us on Twitter or subscribe to our newsletter to stay on top of the latest in fashion tech + wearables.

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