Why Ralph Lauren Should Think Beyond Selling The Polo Tech Shirt Off-the-shelf

A tweet caught my eye recently. Something about Ralph Lauren and a Sport tech shirt. RL isn’t the kind of brand I’m feeling connected to or following, although I’m into sports and tracking lately, so it got me interested in seeing more.


It’s a great move for Ralph Lauren or any other sport brand to move into the wearables market. It’s also a great deal and leverage for the people behind this technology, OM Signal. Part of a big deal for both parties. A win-win situation.

Although… it got me thinking about the shirt, the potential reach of clients and how they could market this thing.


No doubt about it, we’re living in interesting times these days.
Technology is booming and lots of stuff is messing up tons of industries.
Wearables, a part of the internet of things, are one of those new technology gadgets that are interesting for many reasons.

OM signal for instance, is a smart shirt tracking your long capacity, heart rate and other biometrics.
Very cool. Syncing included in real-time with the iPhone to update you of your current status.
The beginning of fully integrated tech into clothing. More about that later in this article.


OM Signal is unique, but not that amazing.
Industrial, Medical & Entertainment (incl. gaming) purpose has more potential.
I myself, am using the Fitbit Charge HR. Nothing unique, but lots of potential.
My next tracker will be this one. Waiting for it.


Although the shirt comes close to a wearable (like we tend to acknowledge more as a fitness tracker) some other sport products are coming out, like the Smart Tennis Racket and The Smartball.

So… the deal with Ralph Lauren is just a growth effort from OM Signal and a first tech product for Ralph Lauren (mainly known as a high-end Polo Sports brand in the first place). I guess they didn’t really think it through to make an effort finding a match that’s much closer to their clients.

Fashion + Technology = Bingo

Fashion & tech are becoming a very good match. No doubt about it. Fashion within the next five years (actually, I would love that), will be functional as hell and will give us that extra dimension you’ve been expecting from clothing. Fashion has been always about colours, fabric, attitude and some high-end brands making up trends. That’s it really. Time from a change, don’t you think?

A chameleon suite would be sweet that changes according to your meeting, mood, time of day and even according to the temperature? Just giving a random idea here for fashion brands. If you make this, let me know. I’ll buy you instantly.

Or what about connecting family together? When your five year old son runs of in Disneyland and you, having no eyes on your back, get a small notification some left your side further than 2 meters. It could be a small chill you’re getting, a change of colour, maybe even a sleeve rolling up or some other stupid interaction.

All things can be made smarter!

Oh.. and please… make me that Marty McFly jacket & the Nike shoes.
I’m an instant customer if you do ;)

Technology is the added value to fashion, like it is in many forms an added value to other industries.
I would highly encourage any fashion brand to make beautiful as well as super functional clothing in one item.
Especially for the men!
Finally, men will get a reason to buy cloths and will stop looking like shit.

You have no reason not to look at your best

Project Jacquard from Google is one step in that direction. Brillo will be a part of this as well.


Wearable Fashion Strategy for Ralph Lauren

Personally, I haven’t seen any branding activity from Ralph Lauren online. Maybe I’m not on there radar for targeting. Could be and would make sense. I’m not the kinda hockey or golf playing kinda guy.

Seems like they invest their time in making videos and are popping up in all sorts of magazines.
It’s a good strategy. I really like this playlist about craftmanship. It sets the tone for the brand.

They’re running their own magazine as well with some cool articles, for instance, this one is cool which I didn’t expect from this brand. I must say. I’m impressed. It’s also up there with the upper class of course.

They kinda sneaked in their apparel. It’s nicely done. Not subtle, but I doesn’t have to be subtle in this case, or you will sell nothing. Kinda the focus in e-commerce, no? :)

So… I think we can form a mental image of the style and clients Ralph Lauren is focusing on.
Upper class (acting?) people into (sophisticated?) sports.

Potential Clients for Ralph Lauren in a today’s world

Depending on the communication online and the presentation of the wearable shirt, I guess this is only the beginning and they haven’t communicated any of future intentions yet. So … this is just common sense to think about the next step, or the step they’ve forgotten to take so far.

Let’s be honest.
We (humanity) are all getting fat as fuck.
The numbers don’t lie.

The average amount of us don’t sport that often, or maybe not even the slightest bit
The average amount of us are eating big amounts of junk (sugar, fat, …)
The average amount of us are having a desk job, even more and more

We aren’t the cavemen we used to be. Burning thousands of calories a day, hunting down mammoths and running from being eaten by a wild animal. That’s why the health food industry are growing at enormous rates. Same for fitness and sports in general, whey products, all kind of diets and detox programs.

Instagram is full of it! Really, it’s insane! Check out the hashtags being used.
And if you’re want to grab a piece of that pie, you’re probably a bit late to the party!

A bit of data to support this rant & get some good pilars to support a strategy behind selling this shirt

Blablabla… lets support this thing with some data & why RL needs to take this in account for their business & marketing strategy.

Mid 2014, Reuters wrote this. You don’t have to click.
I’ll give you the most important insights:

  • There are a staggering 2.1 billion obese people, almost 30% of the world’s population (obese & overweight)
  • 13% of them are Americans
  • fueled by the ability of cheap, fatty, sugary, salty & high-calorie junk food & the rise of sedentary lifestyles
  • 28% adults, 47% (!) children

So you could say that 1 in 3 adults have overweight and almost 1 in 2 kids suffer from obesity.
That’s really bad.

Now… look at the photograph presenting the OM signal shirt.
Does it target those people? Nope.
Would they benefit from this shirt. Probably yes: getting more self-awareness.

Strategy aspect n°1: help decreasing the amount of obese and overweighted people (within our target group)

Next. Let’s act like every brand should act: do good & have a BHAG

Obesity cost a shit load of money to society.
And I mean _a shit load_ of cash!

Obesity can get you diabetes, heart failure, muscoskeletal disorders and even some cancers.

Less people able to work, less taxes, less economical growth, etc.
Maybe a bit short-sighted, but in the end it comes down to this.

I’m not sure if this is an upside or a downside, but i’m having mixed feelings about the rise of plus size clothing shops and brands using this to sell more while not having a healthy program as a counterbalance.
And even then, they seem not to be afraid to do some Photoshop magic.
All about the cash, sadly.

plus size clothing shop
Some shops… I’m not sure if their clients see this as a blessing
or are their feelings getting hurt by its name?

Strategy aspect n°2: encourage sports in any way you can

First steps into a Wearable Fashion industry for Ralph Lauren

As shown in the previous paragraphs, it is quite easy to find a strategic layer to spray on top of your products. Yes, you’ll need to step up your game as a company or brand. The advantage of thinking about your product and its strategical value to go to market is essential and can deliver you a broad spectrum to do other things, to build out your following/(loyal) customers.

Although I’m not keen of the word loyalty (it actually only exist for your top 20% clients, and even then, … it’s a myth and something timely), I wouldn’t just sell this OM Signal shirt simply off-the-shelf as it comes.

This is what I would do, if I’d be a part of Ralph Laurens Commerce team:

  1. Figure out a way to get the sizes of every customer or at least a part of segmented groups
  2. Figure out the exact and best marketing communication per segment
  3. Offer an extended/upgraded (loyalty) program

1) Get the sizes of customers

Not sure if they keep track of orders and size, I guess they do.
If so… invite people to come to selected store to have their sizes measured in order to give them better product suggestions.
Sure you want your customers (& your products) to look at their best, right? You know everyone look ridiculous in about 80% of our clothing.

If offline isn’t a option, forsee an online “how to measure your size” tutorial for your best selling products or the most vital parts of clothing. There is a mathematical approach to this. While your at it, helping them out, ask them if they do some exercising and what they actually do. You’ll want to know for better communication.

If needed, give 10% reduction on a next purchase or your new OM Signal shirt.
The myth says you should invest 10% of your budget in marketing (which is never enough in real life btw), so.. that covers that expense. You know you have margin and will trade it in for growth.


2) Marketing communication per segment

Not all of your clients look like Adonis. So there are two segments that can be a target very easily.

  1. The ones who need to lose weight
  2. The ones who don’t

You could find more segments in your data, although these two will cover about the whole database you have.

What if…

  • If they don’t need to lose weight and aren’t very into sport, you can give them a nudge to start exercising.
  • If they need to lose weight and they are already exercising, you can encourage them to do better, not more

So your communication will be different per segment and per type of sport.
It’ll take some effort, although it will be repaid with sales and/or insights about the connection between you and your customer.

3) Extend the program

If you do the above things, it will look like a one shot and that you don’t want.
So… think about how you could extend the client card with an extension: a sport/activity extension.

A good start to connect with your customer on a different level.


RL, if you read this, thank me later.
Ps: get your languages sorted. In Belgium, we (mainly) speak Dutch.


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