Ralph Lauren Executive Explains How Retailers Can Stay Relevant In Light Of Marketing And Technology Shifts

Classic brands are facing the challenge of staying relevant in light of new fashion trends and emerging sales and marketing strategies. While they may be recognized and appreciated as “household names,” these brands will die out quickly if they don’t keep pace with their cutting-edge competitors. Ralph Lauren, for example, not only keeps up, but also sets trends in the retail marketing landscape.

According to David Lauren, Executive VP of Advertising, Marketing and Corporate Communications for Ralph Lauren, the brand stays relevant by leveraging interactive marketing strategies in-store, online and via mobile. Lauren shared this strategic approach during the session titled “Keeping a Classic Brand Modern,” at the NRF annual convention last week in New York City.

After more than 44 years in the retail industry, Ralph Lauren sought new strategies to reinvent itself as a leader in the space, said Lauren. To reaffirm its stance as a desired luxury brand, the company turned to “merchantainment,” which Lauren described as “the seamless blending of merchandising and entertainment.”


“Merchantainment is all about telling stories from around the world about your own products,” Lauren said. Retailers can create stories across channels to turn items into a lifestyle, he explained, making shoppers grow more connected to brands and their offerings.

From its inception, Ralph Lauren has transformed from a tie designer; to a clothing provider for men, women and children; to a lifestyle brand. By exploring cross-channel commerce and marketing strategies, the retailer quickly outsold its competitors.

Lauren kept pace with the growth of e-Commerce by opening its own storefront, despite hesitations within the company. “When we opened online, many people thought e-Commerce would end our retail strength, potentially commercialize the luxury cause and cannibalize our in-store sales,” Lauren said.  Despite these concerns, the retailer tapped the web to showcase its story and provide shoppers with access to Ralph Lauren products at home or on the go, at any time. 

By integrating its brand image and overall lifestyle into the web site, Ralph Lauren also was able to make e-Commerce a more acceptable channel within the luxury industry. “Our goal was to get shoppers comfortable with the idea that they could buy a $5,000 bag, tuxedo or gown online,” Lauren said. “We wanted to show that the Internet was not just a cheap place to get coupons, but a place to build a luxury brand.”

The retailer also released Ralph Lauren Magazine to digitally display brand messaging and new products. Implementing this context allows loyal shoppers and prospective customers to see and understand Ralph Lauren’s lifestyle.

When asked to reveal the optimal technology to excel in the cross-channel environment, Lauren explained that retailers must first have a firm understanding of their brand and the preferences of their target audience.

“There is no one cool technology that’s going to address your needs; there are millions of solutions out there,” Lauren explained. “It’s all about understanding who you are, telling your brand story in a compelling way, and finding the right technology and campaign to tell that story.”

During his presentation, Lauren discussed the array of tools and tactics the retailer has utilized to create a 360-degree view of the brand. For example, to promote its Rugby offering, Ralph Lauren rolled out a QR code campaign in which shoppers can scan the code to design and personalize their own shirts. The retailer also has leveraged online product videos, celebrity testimonial campaigns, and in-store kiosks to allow easy access to the Ralph Lauren items.

To increase customer loyalty and overall engagement, Ralph Lauren developed interactive, virtual fashion shows that include Q&As with fashion editors.

All of these initiatives have allowed the brand to be seen as a lifestyle, rather than a line of products, according to Lauren.

“We don’t just sell clothes: we sell a dream and a lifestyle,” Lauren said. “When you shop in our stores and online, you’re inspired by this dream and lifestyle and want access into that world.”

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