Part One; Being The Burberry Of Public Space: Building An Integrated Experience - Adam Scott


This week we have been discussing creating a new public space for a major American city, how to generate attraction and involvement whilst all the time dealing with the way in which technology is changing and influencing the way we use and move around cities.

It struck us that, perhaps controversially, the business of placemaking has much to learn from the example set by our other clients, notably premium brands.

Burberry is a particularly interesting example in this case. A premium brand that, above all others, has demonstrated it truly understands the value of blurring the lines between the physical and digital worlds.

We think the business of placemaking has much to learn from this.

Burberry's transformation over a seven year period from an outdated, waning fashion icon to a relevant, loved and valuable brand globally is a well recorded process that saw their sales triple in just five years.

The brand successfully redefined itself as a leading voice in the global fashion industry and its pioneering approach to the digital set a benchmark for an integrated customer experience across the brand's physical and digital landscapes.

Angela Ahrendts, CEO at Burberry during this pivotal period of change, speaking about one of the brand's flagship stores said;

'Burberry Regent Street brings our digital world to life in a physical space for the first time, where customers can experience every facet of the brand through immersive multimedia content exactly as they do online. Walking through doors is just like walking into our website. It is Burberry World live.'

Looking beyond the shop to the public realm as a whole we find this fascinating and can't resist teasing out from an 'experience thinking' perspective what Burberry has achieved.

Where do such great brand-driven experiences start? Using Burberry as an illustrative example, here are four stages from FreeState's Experience Masterplanning process for developers and city planners to consider when creating public spaces.

1. Declare Your Experience Vision


Burberry Brit Concept Design - Photo Courtesy Of

What we learn from Burberry:

Burberry's strong heritage of glamour and luxury from the 1950s and 60s made the vision relatively simple for the brand's new leadership team to define.

Harking back to and building on their roots they aspired to become the 'leading, globally relevant, luxury British brand.'

What this means for Developers:

The Experience Vision properly sets the tone and direction right from the outset, aligning the whole team - developer, architect, contractor, community - around a common target, a common aspiration for the ideal experience they are all aspiring to create for the end user.

2. Focus On The Right People


Burberry 2014 Marketing Campaign - Photo Courtesy Of Burberry

What we learn from Burberry:

Burberry made a shift away from their legacy customers and focused on really getting to know a new target audience - the Millennials.

Gaining a deep understanding of their behaviours allowed the brand to identify ideal activation opportunities along the customer experience journey and create solutions that focused on 'people first'.

What the brand discovered was that the digital story was vital to their customers' needs and motivations.

What this means for Developers:

Imagine the human centred story - this is focused on the target audience and founded on a deep understanding of their behaviours - then identify, develop and disseminate a pervasive story that will resonate with the target audience across all ideal activation opportunities.

3. Design The Narrative Experience


Sketches Drawn By Burberry’s Creative Director, Christopher Bailey - Photo Courtesy of

What we learn from Burberry:

The in-store experience was elevated above other luxury brands by the seamless weaving together of the physical and digital landscapes.

RFID tags on items gave access to interactive digital content on screens, digital signage was on the floor and walls and staff were equipped with iPads from which they could access the website or customer profiles to better assist customers.

What this means for Developers:

Through the eyes of the target audience, design the solution taking into account how their ideal experience is often a narrative journey across humanware (people), software (programme) and hardware (place).

By looking through all three lenses rather than just the place lens you create a better integrated experience.

4. Keep Plussing The Live Experience


Live Show From Burberry Regent Street London - Photo Courtesy Of Burberry

What we learn from Burberry:

Some of Burberry's ongoing initiatives have included the live streaming of runway shows and the live buying of runway pieces. Burberry Acoustic is a programme that celebrates up and coming British artists with their music played in-store and online.

What this means for Developers:

Ensure that the ideal experience aspirations found in the vision are an ongoing operational reality everywhere and all of the time.

In Conclusion

With the digital being so intrinsic to the needs and motivations of their target audience Burberry recognised the need to blur the lines between the physical and digital landscape of their brand experience. What they developed was a pioneering, relevant and integrated ideal customer experience that beautifully combined the hardware (physical) and software (digital programmed experience) to deliver their vision to the target audience.

Just imagine how engaging public places might be - what it could mean for this major American city and cities everywhere - if the integrated experience was considered more carefully from the Experience Vision onwards...


About the Writer – Adam Scott

Adam is Founder and Executive Creative Director for pioneering Experience Masterplanners FreeState, he is Global Head of Design at leading international design practice HASSELL. He is internationally recognised as an expert in experience design and is personally responsible for storyboarding some of the world's greatest brands and stands at the forefront of a very modern and multi-sensory wave of experience design for cities. 

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