Congrats on the 50 year anniversary of the Ralph Lauren brand!
Why Ralph Lauren Brand Matters
We’re talking about an American icon here. Ralph Lauren opened for business in 1968. Today it’s a global fashion leader, despite its founder’s clear articulation of an anti-fashion philosophy.
Consider that nearly half of all businesses fail within five years. (BTW, this year Mixonian Institute celebrated its 10th birthday!) Perhaps 25% of all businesses make it to the 15-year mark. And, most survivor firms are small operations, possibly home-based businesses.
Companies like Ralph Lauren (RL), are the extreme exceptions. These businesses not only beat the odds, but become household names. Not only that, they create thousands of jobs and redefine industries.
In this case, Ralph Lauren has even become a way to describe things. You could describe a dog, a dress, or dinning room setting, is very “Ralph Lauren”. In fact our own Boykin Spaniel, is quite “Ralph Lauren”. Such a vivid image does not materialize so clearly if you were to describe a room as very “Calvin Klein” or “Coco Chanel”.
Ralph Lauren brand not only has staying power, but it even works as a clear adjective.
How RL Brand Uses Emotions, or more precisely, Emotional Intelligence
Let’s take a peek at the role of emotions in this brand building. Emotional intelligence is the skill of managing one’s own emotions and those of others. Emotional Intelligence is often an under-recognized business success skill.
Ralph Lauren brand has made us, its wearers, feel a certain way. One feeling RL evokes is confidence, but not pretentiousness.
Emotional intelligence (EQ) is key to success for leaders and brands. It’s not about trying to emotionally manipulate others. Mr. Lauren embarked on a journey to elevate his own life. From his high school days, he used the way he dressed as a way to stand out from the crowd. Through his products and marketing, he invited us to join his idealized world.
Fueled by a drive to create his own fashion look and aesthetic, he initially set his sights on clothes that resonated with him either because they filled a void in his own wardrobe or because they were not available elsewhere.
(p 18)Ralph Lauren In His Own Fashion by Alan Flusser, page 18
Ralph Lauren, founder, was not to the manor born. But neither are most fashion designers. The difference is that Mr. Lauren started designing for himself, and creating this fantasy world for his own family.
He knew intimately that feeling, that emotion of wanting something beyond one’s economic or social reach. Most of us want that something that is out of our reach. This emotion or yearning is something that resonates with customers from Boston to Bogotá to Bora Bora.
In his case, you might see a high level of emotional fashion intelligence. That talent fuels his ability to design products his clients crave, long before they know these items even exist.
Take-away: Your success depends largely on how other people feel around you.
Ralph Lauren as Challenger Brand
The Grand Poo-bahs of the fashion world are not big fans of Ralph Lauren. They say he’s not a real designer, but rather a stylist.
Mr. Lauren would not argue with this position. He never attended a fashion school. His interest has been in clothes with staying power, not season hits and misses.
What’s not disputable is his sense of which classics to resurrect and how to make them appealing, or even compelling, to customers today. If it were so easy to re-furbish old styles and sell them, why are there not more RL-type brands in the market?
Ralph resurrects classics that come to feel not like imitations of the past but collectibles unto themselves, benchmarks against which other things, including the originals that inspired, them, are measured. (p 24)Paul Goldberger in a 2007 Vanity Fair article, quoted in Ralph Lauren In His Own Fashion by Alan Flusser, page 24
Take-away: You don’t have to register a patent in order to creative; a fresh approach to traditional products and services can be innovative.
Your ability to read what other people are feeling, to anticipate their reactions and address objections before they arise, are all part of your emotional intelligence tool box. We can all elevate our communication style through a study of Ralph Lauren.