Consistent and Innovative?

by Trudy on November 1, 2013

I will admit it, I am a brand geek. I regularly dig into brands that intrigue me to figure out their magic. And do you know what I find over and over again? What makes a brand enduringly successful is doing the basics of brand well. I know that may not be sexy to hear, but it is true.

A recent brand I was inspired to look into further is the Ralph Lauren Company. I heard an interview with 74-year-old Ralph Lauren the man and was fascinated by the ease and excitement with which he discussed his company’s place in this world.

Brand is how he talks, it is not a separate thought, it is the business. In the interview it did not at all come across as “selling it”, rather he has internalized the brand. It is not something he needs to think about, it is how he naturally thinks.

And this is a company we can all learn from. The Ralph Lauren Company has been growing for 45 years, and has no signs of letting up. Let me tell share a few stats that will capture its business gravitas:

  • It is a Fortune 500 company
  • It is considered the biggest selling designer brand in the world with annual revenue of $6.94 billion, with an EBITDA of $1.36billion, and it has almost doubled its net income during the last 5 years
  • Ralph Lauren-branded products are sold through about 11,000 doors worldwide
  • It went public 16 years ago trading at $26, today it trades at $167
  • Looking at its corporate timeline, during its 45 years there is no period of time longer than 3 years, that something new was not launched at the company

How do you do this in the fickle world of design? How does a company stay relevant and grow for 45 years and counting? It has a mandate far beyond design; design is simply the way they do things. The company purpose, not surprisingly is bigger than design or the designer, it is a company built around living, creating things so people can live a quality, beautiful life.

Its philosophical underpinnings are:

  • Consistency: of vision and action (45 years of consistency – that is valiant!)
  • Innovation: a constant pursuit of the next opportunity (no resting on laurels here)

Its power is in its exceptional PRESENCE with 11 sub-brands, in 4 categories, across 30 countries, through multiple channels.

In the interview I heard, Ralph Lauren’s comments were insightful. He got the idea to create a product when he was a teen working in retail. He saw the product range and thought he had something different to say with products he had in his head. It took him 14 years to realize his first product, but he never looked back. Why? Because he never lost the consistency of his vision to: create things that enhance lives. And the other part of his magic, innovation, it is a drive that is genuine. Forty-five years later he still ends every collection showing with one nagging thought. What am I going to do to do next?

We can all strive for this kind of vision, commitment, and drive. Executing the basics, well and consistently always wins the day.

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: