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- 16 Nov 2010
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Ralph Lauren Takes Luxury 4D


Ralph Lauren presents ‘a collision of fashion, technology, art, commerce and architecture’ to celebrate the 10th anniversary of their e-commerce site

Ralph Lauren has recently dominated online luxury media, with the unveiling of its 4D initiative in London and New York. A large-scale art, fashion and architecture digital installation project, it was developed to celebrate what organisers called ‘a decade of digital innovation’.

The brand established its online presence in the midst of the dot-com boom, where net-based start-ups either succeeded or failed in spectacular fashion. Its debut encompassed a comprehensive portal: combining e-commerce, editorial and television content and virtual tours of key boutiques. In keeping with the brand proposition to market a lifestyle, as opposed to just selling clothes, the website sought to inform and involve the consumer in the world of Ralph Lauren, a consistent theme throughout its advertising, since the organisation’s inception

To begin with such a rich offering in 2000 was remarkable, particularly considering that some of the world’s largest luxury brands are still not fully enabled for e-commerce today and have only developed often limited offerings as recently as one to two years ago. To put it into some context, at the time of the dot-com boom, Net-a-Porter and Shopbop were still in their infancy and Bernard Arnault was forced to abandon his e-commerce project, after an extravagant failure and the loss of $135 million in 18 months. Ralph Lauren successfully navigated this unchartered territory and built its e-commerce business to a turnover of $200 million in 2010, something they felt worth celebrating on a grand scale.

Hence all the fanfare on 10 November. Projected on the flagship stores of 888 Madison Avenue in New York and 1 Bond Street in London, was one of the largest scale digital fashion, art and media projects ever launched. Celebrating its ongoing commitment to innovation in the digital sphere, the company utilised cutting edge, architectural light mapping and projection technology, to completely render the facade of the buildings and present a 3D illusion, without the need for 3D glasses.

The buildings were able to give the impression of disappearance, transformation and animation, accompanied by fourth dimension sensory effects such as sound (music), touch (breezes) and smell (wafts of the brand’s fragrance collection), timed in sequence with the show.

Within 24 hours the brand provided official video footage of both locations, as well as a comprehensive behind-the-scenes short film on the entire project. These are available on both the micro-site and YouTube channel and are completely unrestricted in terms of sharing. Given that clips viewed on its branded site can immediately be posted to all major social media networks, with the click of a dedicated button, it’s clear that Ralph Lauren has designed this experience with viral marketing firmly in mind and given users the tools and accessibility to further promote the project, well beyond what its own marketing department could probably achieve in the same timeframe.

Social media presents an interesting challenge for luxury brands, as its success relies on the democracy of access and freedom of information: essentially the opposite of traditional communications, that have been built on exclusivity and mystery. Ralph Lauren has successfully managed this dichotomy in its latest project; they have succeeded in making consumers feel unique and involved – and on a-mass market scale. By opening the events to the public and placing no restriction on the recording and sharing of content, they have enabled attendees to record their personal experiences and share them on the web, available to everyone. This strategy was a very individual take on mass interaction with a brand, one that transcended interest from the fashion or luxury communities and reached a global audience outside of Ralph Lauren’s existing customer-base.

Whether one likes or dislikes the end result, its impact is unquestionable. Ralph Lauren has sought to break digital barriers on a global scale and achieved a high level of brand awareness. It garnered an enormous amount of coverage in just a few days since it premiered and will no doubt be talked about for many more months to come.