Although the Ralph Lauren brand is known for looking wistfully back at a soft-focus era of country estates and hunting parties populated by the wholesomely beautiful, the technology the label uses to sell that vision continues to be on the cutting edge.
The company demonstrated this last week with the world’s first “4D” shows, combining 3-D imagery, digital sound effects and even scent diffusion. The shows were spectacularly presented on the facade of the Ralph Lauren Boutique on Bond Street in London as well as the New York women’s flagship on Madison Avenue in New York, using light-mapping technology.
The artvertising project required building elaborate 1/3-scale sets, and is rumored to have cost millions.
The 4D shows, also available for viewing online, are celebrating the 10th anniversary of ralphlauren.com's launch and the subsequent decade of “digital innovation” — as well as heralding the launch of its U.K. website, which the American brand hopes will be a gateway to the European and Asian markets.
Ralph Lauren was one of the first major brands to combine merchandising and buying opportunities (as Lauren's son David, SVP of Polo Ralph Lauren, tells Suzy Menkes of the IHT and New York Times, the brand calls it "merchentaining") at a time when many in the industry were hesitant about online shopping.
The current incarnation of its websites features videos, the Ralph Lauren magazine, style guides, fashion advice and more. The brand has also been at the forefront of mobile commerce: In 2008, Ralph Lauren became the first upscale U.S. retailer to encourage customers to swipe QR (quick response) bar codes. And of course, for those iPhone users who want to instantly see Ralph Lauren’s runway shows, there’s an app for that.
Not surprisingly, Ralph Lauren recently tied for second with Louis Vuitton in LuxuryLab's 2010 Digital IQ Index for luxury companies, which measures a brand’s digital footprint.
Luxury brands are all about creating an exclusive experience − or the perception of one − and Ralph Lauren’s latest extravaganza goes further than any high-end brand has before in the virtual arena. But this is not technology for technology’s sake; rather, it is used as an eye-popping medium to present a consistent brand ethos, something that Ralph Lauren has been very good at across a range of touchpoints from the start.
By combining the virtual show with its brick-and-mortar locations, the brand takes the mythology it has created, grounds it in the real world and literally takes it to another dimension. Check out the videos below for more on the Ralph Lauren 4D event.