Retailers should be more like Liberty of London

First published in New Zealand Herald  24 September 2015 

There’s a beautiful department store in London called Liberty and it contrasts so dramatically with what we have here in Australia.

In the last few weeks, it’s as though Liberty’s integrated marketing strategy has suddenly reached me and I’ve been activated. Like I’ve followed the path of that diagram from a prospective customer, with arrows from all the different marketing channels pointing at me, gone down the funnel and am about to come through the other end with a purchase.

Myer and David Jones could learn a lot from this iconic English brand, because Australian retail need not be as dire as people make out. Both DJs and Myer have an opportunity to pull away from one another and instead of repeating each other’s dull actions, go deep into their own histories and pull out something great.

With Liberty, it all started several years ago when I caught their fly on a wall series on Foxtel. It could have been tacky and destroyed the store’s reputation, but instead I think it introduced Liberty to a whole new audience – a young and also international one. Which makes sense given how many of us have a soft spot for London, have visited Liberty and wish for something as beautiful back home.

The move into reality TV seems to have been initiated by new managing director Ed Burstell, a New Yorker and former senior vice president at Bergdorf Goodman. He has a quiet and focused energy in the show and you can see the decisions he’s making are anything but stuffy.

Liberty could very well have continued to age and lose its sheen, a la Harrods.

Instead, it has maintained the vital Britishness while remaining fresh and dynamic.

While embracing new marketing channels, Liberty has held on tightly to the very things it has always been known for. The Christmas windows, the wild floral prints, the scarves.

They’ve introduced some amazing collaborations. With Roberts Radios, Kenzo, Nike, Supreme, Dr. Martens, Edwin, Fred Perry, The North Face and more. Featuring their distinct florals in various details across the partner brand’s products.

The Liberty print, the brand’s code, is now so recognisable and yet not at all stale. Just as good as Burberry’s work in taking a brown check and creating something desirable, season after season.

The next channel that has worn me down (in a good way) is Liberty on Instagram. I’m not a big proponent of social media for many companies, but following Liberty is not like following, say, Heinz. The imagery they post is of course beautiful, the products are new and colorful, bang on brand, and I can see how good retail with integrated Instagram (or other relevant social media) really can drive a sale straight to the website.

It’s a smart and holistic strategy, and it’s just executed so well.

And here’s a fun fact that you may not know. London-based New Zealander and musician & composer Chris White, wrote the Liberty of London TV theme music. There’s something we can all be proud of.

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