The Ralph Lauren 50th anniversary party continues Thursday when the designer will throw out the first pitch at the Yankees-Red Sox game. But more than just a ceremonial nod to his Bronx roots and lifelong love of the team, the moment will also coincide with the official launch of the first mobile app dedicated to his Polo brand.
Appropriately named Polo, the app is intended to embrace the community of Polo collectors and bring them into the company’s fold.
David Lauren, chief innovation officer at Ralph Lauren Corp., said that there is a robust active community of collectors from around the world that buy and trade vintage Polo merchandise. And after a visit to Japan about three years ago when he found several stores devoted exclusively to the product, the brand set out to capitalize on it.
He saw that brands from Disney and Mattel to Lego have apps that connect them to their avid followers — sites that also allow people a forum to talk about the brand. And he wanted Ralph Lauren to do the same.
Fast-forward to today when the company will invite these fans to enter into the world it will create on the Polo mobile app. The site will not only present the brand’s latest men’s and women’s apparel but also offer limited-edition product launches, exclusive content, and curated product selections that will only be available there.
“We asked ourselves, ‘Can we create an avenue that connects our brand to the loyalists?’” Lauren said.
The Polo app will feature editors, influencers and celebrities who will make guest appearances. Collectors will be profiled and users will be invited into their homes to view their stash. Vintage items from the archives will be sold, users will be able to vote on potential new product releases, and they will even be able to ask the famed designer questions through the “Ask Ralph” link. (And yes, Ralph himself will answer, his son said.)
David Lauren said the Polo app, which is the only mobile app within the company, is intended to “create a pathway not only to sell product but to create limited-edition merchandise only for them. They want it first and they want to hear the story behind it and really go inside our world. We’re marrying the modern digital age to Ralph Lauren.”
The app will have a soft launch today and a wider releaseon Thursday and will feature a limited-edition Polo x Yankees commemorative collaboration produced in partnership with Major League Baseball. The collection will feature a New Era and “RL 50” logo hat, a “Ralph 50th” logo leather Wilson glove, a Rawlings baseball with a pony logo, and an embroidered Ralph Lauren satin baseball jacket. In addition to throwing out the first pitch, the designer will be celebrated with a pregame ceremony at home plate before the game.
The app will also feature a section about Ralph Lauren’s childhood in the Bronx, some behind-the-scenes footage from the big 50th anniversary show and celebration in Central Park last week, and a close-up view of the making of a classic tweed jacket, a product that the brand will be reissuing this year. Users can also vote on which rugby shirt they’d like the company to bring back.
The content can be updated on a daily or weekly basis, depending on demand. “We’re going to keep adding product and it’ll develop its own cadence,” Lauren said. “But this is more about culture. You won’t find the full breadth of Ralph Lauren product here. Instead, it’ll have a handful of our favorite pieces.”
He added that the content is being produced internally with the same standards that are used for all of its other projects.
Lauren said the whole idea behind the app is to allow fans to interact with the brand. “We want to galvanize people who love the brand and allow them to get close to our culture.”
He said there are no special requirements to download the app and start interacting with the brand. “There are no velvet ropes,” he said, “It’s accessible to anyone.”
While the app was “shaped to attract Millennials,” Lauren said he hopes it will “attract a cross-generational customer.
“We were the first luxury brand to sell on the Internet and the first to have an app,” he said. “This is about diving into a community.”
Lauren said that if it’s successful, the company will consider launching apps for other brands within its stable, such as Double RL. “We’ll think about it, but we’re going to go slow. There isn’t going to be a big marketing push behind it, it’ll be more organic, word-of-mouth, and we’ll see if it connects.”
Going forward, he said he’ll listen to the customer to see what improvements need to be made. “It’s a learning opportunity for us,” he said.
The app will be available exclusively in the U.S. this fall and globally in 2019.