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Mulberry: How do you introduce your past to a new audience without looking like you’re stuck in it?

Faced with the company’s ambitious plan to capture growth in the Asian luxury market, Charlotte O’Sullivan recognised it was a critical time for Mulberry to clarify its brand positioning.

It was a period of significant transformation. Not only had their strategy changed but they’d recently hired a new Creative Director, Johnny Coca, to reinvigorate their creative vision and update their classic product line.

An inconsistent brand would mean risking their reputation in valuable new markets. Success would see Mulberry gaining recognition and acclaim with a younger global audience.

They needed a briefing tool, something that would show people unfamiliar with Mulberry both its history and its potential: a brand book.

But Charlotte came to us with a challenge – how could we create a book which balanced the tension between looking back and looking forward?

 

How can you fight a 200-year-old luxury brand when you were born in Somerset 50 years ago?

Johnny’s design and aesthetic signalled a new era for Mulberry, with a renewed sense of purpose. So we’d have to mine the brand’s provenance to make sure it accentuated, rather than undermined, the Creative Director and CEO’s modern vision.

With this in mind, we spoke to the current brand guardians; everyone from the Chairman and the CEO to the Regional and Department Heads. We looked at campaigns across all of the company’s history; we mined information from interviews with the brand’s previous Creative Directors; and we found the common thread that ran through all of them and their strong attachments to Mulberry.

But the more we looked into the brand’s story, the more we realised there was another obstacle in the way. Mulberry was up against revered Italian and French fashion houses with big budgets and celebrated histories, hundreds of years in the making.

Founded in the ‘70s, this younger, British brand couldn’t establish credibility using the same heritage-driven tactics of its competitors. Instead, we’d need a fundamental insight that created a distinct space for Mulberry.

 

Two directions, one book

Our research revealed that the brand’s provenance set the stage for a progressive approach to life and design.

The ‘70s were a time of reinvention, culturally and societally. It was an era for taking the best of the craft and culture of the classic, and then not being beholden to, but daring to challenge it. Mulberry’s founder, Roger Saul, was one of the many creatives redefining British design and he combined it with a fiercely entrepreneurial spirit.

The brand was then born out of -and continues to be driven by- an intellect and ambition that compels it to play with and repurpose the iconic. It was clear in Roger Saul, but it’s also plain to see in every designer that’s followed him, including Johnny Coca.

With this theme, we knew we could tie together the brand’s past and future: Mulberry looks back only so that it can produce something more surprising, more ambitious, more relevant for today.

From this central idea, we worked alongside the CMO, Brand Director and Image Team to map out the book’s content, structure and flow. The Founder and the Creative Director’s stories sat side-by-side, working together to accentuate the brand’s enduring values and exciting future.

And, as well as sections on the brand’s history and values, we developed an appendix; a key part of a brand’s mythology is its hero products. We gave insights into Mulberry’s iconic products, styles, even the brand’s signature green colour and logo, to create a carefully crafted world for the reader to immerse themselves in.

 

Better than we can say it

The book is now given to all new hires and external partners at home and abroad to inspire, educate and inform them about all things Mulberry.

It was used for current staff too, influencing and shaping the Employee Values that we were then asked to write for the company.

The brand book was used as a valuable piece of brand collateral while they launched in South Korea, successfully reintroducing the brand in a key market. Significantly, international revenue rose by 7% in the year following the brand book’s release.

Most importantly though, it has made people more committed and effective now that there is a clearly unified brand.

The brand book has been ‘a force for meaningful change within our business’ – Charlotte O’Sullivan, CMO