There are few companies in the world, particularly clothing companies, that have amassed the prolific global brand value that Ralph Lauren Polo has. Indeed, you’d be hard pressed to find a man over the age of thirty who doesn’t own at least one Polo Shirt, an item of clothing so distinctive that, like Kleenex or Coke, it has actually become the common name for the type of thing it is. But the Polo Brand didn’t emerge out of thin air, it is the product of years of branding and marketing, coupled with an important catalyst: Brand Champion Ralph Lauren.
Ralph Lauren was born Ralph Lifshitz – a name he wasted no time in changing – in New York City in 1939. Known as a teen for his distinctive fashion sense, Ralph borrowed from such icons as Carey Grant and Fred Astaire in developing his early inspiration. After a brief foray into the army, he took a sales job at Brooks Brothers, where he created and sold his first design – a wider-cut necktie branded with the name Polo.
He began selling his design in large department stores like Bloomingdale’s, and by the late 1960’s, had developed a full menswear line. In 1970 he won the Coty award for men’s designs and released his first women’s line, which consisted of suits tailored in a traditional men’s style. Then, in 1972, Ralph Lauren released a short sleeve collared shirt in 24 different colors, all branded with a tiny logo of a polo player that would eventually become one of the most globally recognized images in fashion history.
Since that fateful design, Ralph Lauren and the Polo brand have made more than their fair share of headlines, expanding his brand to include a luxury clothing line known as Ralph Lauren Purple, a more rustic line of outdoor apparel named RRL, and a home collection called Ralph Lauren Home, as well as a multitude of fragrances. With hundreds of stores located around the world, the Ralph Lauren Corporation currently creates more than $6.5 Billion in yearly revenue.
Beyond the company carrying his name, Ralph Lauren has truly been the driving force behind its success, representing both the style and value for which Polo is so well known. As a figure head, and as a fashion icon, Ralph has propelled his brand to new heights of fame and fortune, successfully marketing both himself, and his company, to the entire world. So while not everybody likes Polo Shirts, you can’t deny that pretty much everybody knows what they are, and how much better can a brand really do?
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