Seeing the Code: Burberry’s Christmas Tale of Heroes and Heroines

December 22, 2016

Burberry’s holiday ad feels like a teaser of a featured film. In films, there are hidden ads through careful product placement and styling. In the short, the placements are critical anchors to the story: a narrative about the brand’s legacy and values. The film is a multi-dimensional portrait of Thomas Burberry describing his character and the spirit of his muses: people who push forward.

Throughout the film we see the Burberry’s quintessential brand elements: trench coats, rain, umbrella’s and scarves. Also, there are other borrowed ideas from pop-culture supporting the narrative. This remix makes the story and visuals relevant to today’s socio-cultural landscape.

What follows next is a breakdown and my analysis of the borrowed ideas.  


Breakdown of Burberry’s code, courtesy of Archivismo: Gabardine, UK flag, winter, heroines and British pride.

The very British cast of actors

  • Weather protection
  • Rain  
  • Equestrian Culture
  • Colonization
  • Craft


  • The Gabardine
  • Chasmere


  • Umbrellas
  • Uniforms
  • Trench Coat
  • Scarf
  • British Flag

BORROWED (5 Ideas)

Classic and Borrowed elements, courtesy of Archivismo: Rain, Period Drama, Trench Coats and sparkles.

1. Sparkles

We have seen a trend of the use of sparkles specially in the beauty products. Makeup artist Pat McGrath launched her “metalmorphosis kit”  a shimmery gold palette. Also Mac Cosmetics launched a sparkly collaboration with Mariah Carey for 2016 holidays.

2. Winter.

As we saw earlier this year on Games of Thrones there is nothing more thrilling that an adventure or a fight in cold weather. The adventure of Antarctic Exploration of Ernest Shackleton invoke similar visuals and emotions to when we hear the house of Stark’s motto “Winter is Coming”.

3. British Pride.

This year the UK faced Brexit. There is a sense of nationalism in this tale. It is a celebration of entrepreneurship, product innovation and support of new ventures. Thomas Burberry developed military wear for WWI, outfitted Ernest Shakleton for his expeditions and sponsored A.E. Clouston’s and Betty Kirby-Green record setting flight to Capetown. The main pattern is that Thomas Burberry supported people that pushed forward in each of their fields. This is one of the main brand values : PRORSUM, which means in Latin “Forwards”.

4. Male + Female Strength

This year we lost two pop culture icons that represented the embodiment of male and female: David Bowie and Prince. Although these two represented the embracing of femininity the short focused on the female characters embracing their male strength.  The female characters shape shifted: From homemaker to runway-wife and from sexy young woman to fierce pilot. The film also shows a reversal on the traditional male archetype: a very emotional men and fierce women. We see Ernest Shackleton’s emotional struggle from doubt and fear during his expedition to Burberry himself having an emotional breakdown and losing it, what traditionally is related to female characters.

5. Historical Period Drama

There is a touch of British drama. The short has a flare of Julian Fellowes’ Downtown Abbey. The use of beautiful outdoor locations in the countryside, the lavish living rooms and parties and the perfectly tailored costumes are out of an extravagant PBS Masterpiece series.

A brand’s code serves as creative inspiration and empowerment to tell our own stories. I find Burberry’s short entertaining, soapy and just right to uplift us during this holiday season. Our world is full of chaos and more than ever in need of heroes tales, specially the ones that help us see more current models.

Women are a  core customer and it is really important for brands to represent them as they are in the 21st century: fierce, powerful, vulnerable and agents of change.

Kudos to you Burberry for celebrating both men and women with realistic view.