On Ralph Lauren’s 4D digital extravaganza and the importance of an engaging online experience

Have I mentioned my love for Ralph Lauren? In case you missed my past gushings, here’s a quick recap: the Anglo-American, preppie-ish aesthetic; the beyond beautiful Bruce Weber imagery; the ‘nothing bad could ever happen here’ lifestyle stores; oh and the quality product (i.e. my favourite, still-good-as-new boys navy blazer).

All this was celebrated last Wednesday with a cinematic ‘4D digital extravaganza’ projected onto the Ralph Lauren flagship at 1 New Bond Street (and 888 Madison Avenue in New York a few hours later). The assembled guests watched as for 8 minutes, the building became a giant catwalk, a polo pitch and an all-round multi-storey 3D cinema screen, minus the cardboard glasses. The 4th dimension was represented by a gigantic exploding fragrance bottle which coincided with the waft of Ralph Lauren’s Big Pony scent pumped above our heads. This never-been-done-before ‘digital projection mapping’, involving a team of 150 and a painstaking process of green-screen filming and intricate alignment to get the film matched perfectly to the building, was in aid of the launch of the Ralph Lauren UK digital flagship.

Some questioned the real value of last week’s extravagant display but I see it as a brilliant marketing exercise – albeit an expensive one. It was a breathtaking, multi-sensory experience to watch live and the fanfare immediately made me want to check out the site to see what else I would find. I don’t shop for fashion online, for me the joy of Ralph Lauren is the real, not virtual experience. I want to lounge on the sofa, amongst the intoxicating ‘Jamaica’ candles and page through the stacks of coffee table art books. I want to swathe myself in cashmere cable knits and picture myself in a luxury log cabin – even though I hate the outdoors. I want to eat steak in the Ralph Lauren restaurant. In short, I want to imagine myself as the Ralph Lauren girl. Could the online experience live up to that?

While the site does include some video content and the Ralph Lauren magazine, there is nothing as engaging as the epic production of the 4D digital display. David Lauren, senior vice president of advertising, marketing and corporate communications at Ralph Lauren is keen to talk up the ‘merchantainment’ (merging of merchandise and entertainment) of the brand but the dynamism is missing from the online experience. Where’s the sticky content to keep the customer coming back? Yes, you can read about the allure of Shanghai and customise your own polo shirt (and add a monogram – you know how I love a monogram) but hopefully, Lauren is working on commissioning some richer, 4D content for the site as I type. Who knows, maybe the technology to transport the scent of Big Pony through our computer screens is being invented right this very second…