Ralph Lauren - editorial marketing

Lessons from a Legend: As Ralph Lauren Steps Down, Son David Continues Telling His Father’s Stories

“It’s not about fabric. It’s about dreams.” As head of marketing, David Lauren brings brand’s — and father’s — story to life.

Although content marketing is still a relatively new concept for many industries, the idea of marketing through storytelling has been central to Ralph Lauren since its inception in the late ’60s. Its familiar cross between James Bond-era England and JFK Americana has endured over nearly five decades, drawing in consumers with the promise of a place at the polo match.

As Ralph Lauren the man stepped down from his place as CEO last month, it is this story line he created that continues to defines Ralph Lauren the company.

“My father writes through his clothes,” Lauren’s youngest son David, the company’s head of advertising, marketing and corporate communication, told WSJ Magazine last week in a profile that published the day Old Navy’s Stefan Larsson took the reigns as Ralph Lauren’s CEO. “My job is to help my father tell stories.”

The younger Lauren has succeeded by all accounts since joining the company as head of Ralph Lauren Media in 2000, launching Ralph Lauren’s first website with an approach he called “merchaintainment,” a cross between merchandising and entertainment that has continued to define his strategy over the last 15 years. An early adapter in digital and immersive storytelling, Ralph Lauren won Luxury Daily’s Luxury Marketer of the Year in 2010.

Here are three strategies that have put David Lauren at the forefront of editorial:

1. Start with a Brand Narrative

Most people can easily picture the Ralph Lauren world of English manors, sail boats and “relaxed luxury” living. David Lauren has built his marketing strategy around inviting shoppers into this world. Every piece of content, from print advertisements to the website shopping experience, is meant to immerse. In one successful example, the R.L. Gang storybook, narrated by Harry Connick Jr. for the Ralph Lauren children’s brand, received more than 100 million impressions worldwide, according to Luxury Daily, driving year-over-year sales 250%.

How to do it: Imagine the lifestyle your consumers aspire to, and develop your own storyline to bring this dream to life. Think of the movies, websites, social media networks and actors that appeal to your audience and develop a campaign that encompasses these elements. 

2. Bring the Story to Life

As a sponsor of events like Wimbledon and the U.S. Open, Ralph Lauren attached itself to the lifestyle that its consumers sought, solidifying the brand’s connection to the world that its clothes promised to provide, but the brand didn’t stop at funding. To take consumers even deeper into the experience, Lauren developed clinics with tennis star Venus Williams, who led an interactive virtual tennis clinic with tips and techniques. This experience was arguably more effective than even the light shows, holographs and digital film that marked Ralph Lauren’s 10-year anniversary.

How to do it: Identify the events, whether they’re trade shows, conventions, concerts or sporting competitions, that speak to your consumers. If budget doesn’t allow sponsorship, developing a promotion, interactive experience or tutorial that brings your consumers closer to the event can achieve the same goal. 

3. Think Outside the Brand

Ralph Lauren took a chance on RL Magazine in 2011, communicating the brand lifestyle with in-depth features and insights into culture, sport, travel and style. The online magazine has since been a driving part of the brand’s success in making loyalists of its consumers.  “Our intention was never to launch a website,” David said in an interview with Fast Company ahead of the magazine’s launch. “Our intention was to build a media brand.”

How to do it: You may not have the resources or budget to create a full-fledged magazine, but you can transform your efforts by thinking of content marketing as building a media brand, rather than just a website or blog. See each piece of content as a chance to draw consumers into your brand.

Have thoughts on editorial marketing? Send your insights to our editorial team, and we may use them (and of give you lots of credit) in our next post!

818 Agency provides creative B2B content marketing and social advertising campaigns to Fortune 500 companies and growth-oriented startups.   Purveyors of real-time event content marketing.

 Post by Tracie Heffernan, content strategist at 818 Agency



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