Polo Ralph Lauren Company: A Visionary
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Polo Ralph Lauren Company: A Visionary
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In the book “Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies” created by James C. Collins and Jerry I. Porras, they stated some common characteristics of visionary companies. In this paper, the researcher aims to prove that the Polo Ralph Lauren Corporation is indeed a visionary company. To begin with, Polo Ralph Lauren Corporation is considered as one of the “best of the best”. The company is considered as a “premier institution” that is “admired by their peers” and equipped with “a long track record of making a significant impact on the world around them.” Such characteristic is significantly noticeable in the Polo Ralph Lauren Corporation. (Collins and Porras)
Basically, Polo Ralph Lauren is more than a company. It has evolved into a global icon that has become a significant part of people’s daily living all around the globe. The company has raised the standards of the fashion industry to a whole new level. These days, the company is esteemed as a global leader in designing and distributing various lifestyle products. Its line of products is not limited to everyday clothing. Rather, they also distribute products, accessories, and fragrances for the home.
Since it started in 1967, Polo’s reputation of providing timeless fashion has been continuously improved through its wide variety of brands and products to worldwide markets. Without a doubt, people from the different parts of the globe recognize the brands "Ralph Lauren Collection," "RALPH by Ralph Lauren," "Ralph Lauren Purple Label," "Lauren by Ralph Lauren," "Polo Jeans Co. Ralph Lauren," and more.
This recognition is not solely attributed to the company’s charismatic leader, Ralph Lauren. Rather, this stems from the fact that its communal impact is more than providing an aristocratic fashion statement. What the Polo Ralph Lauren Company demonstrates clearly is its commitment to philanthropic initiatives. True to this dedication is the fact that the company spearheaded the fashion industry’s endeavors to support the fight against cancer. Polo also made the preservation of the Star-Spangled Banner of the Save America’s Treasures Campaign a realization. In addition to that, many of its retail stores have been an important venue for local charitable events through Polo Volunteer programs (Schedl-Richter).
Summing up all the significant contributions of Polo to the society, Paul Goldberger, Pulitzer Prize winner and architecture critic of the New York Times notes that "Lauren has become a kind of one-man Bauhaus, a producer of everything from fabrics to furniture to buildings, all of which, taken together, form a composite, a fully designed life." (Quoted from Schedl-Richter)
Another notable characteristic of a visionary company that is applicable to the Polo Ralph Lauren Company is its willingness to “try new things and use what works” (Collins and Porras). According to Collins and Porras, companies should learn to evolve and develop according to continuous changing tastes and preferences of their target customers. As a visionary company, Polo is one of those who can keep abreast with changes.
Polo Ralph Lauren Corporation is not afraid to evolve. It is bold enough to experiment with different brands and products, and then determine which of these can be regarded as effective and productive changes. The company is also not afraid or ashamed to conclude that some of its initiated brands and products are not successful so it is capable of eliminating the stuff that does not work. This characteristic is strongly reflected by the company’s history.
It can be noted that Polo Ralph Lauren started more than forty years ago, not as a big time clothing line company. Rather, it started with selling creative ties. Its first boutique which provided men’s collection in Bloomingdales only opened two years after. Another two years hence, Polo was braved enough to try introducing a women’s line in 1971. Today, Polo has the Purple Label (launched in 1994), the Black Label, Polo Ralph Lauren, Polo Golf, Polo Jeans Co., Polo Denim, Lauren Ralph Lauren, and Ralph by Ralph Lauren. For the women, the company offers Collection, Black Label, Blue Label, Lauren Ralph Lauren, RALPH by Ralph Lauren, "RALPH is the daughter of the Lauren woman, Ralph Lauren Golf, and Lauren Jeans Co..
Polo Ralph Lauren Corporation also has a clothing line for both men and women. This includes the sports apparel line RLX, Rugby Ralph Lauren, Tennis, Pink Pony, and the “Double-R L”(RRL). The company also introduced the “create your own” clothing line in 2003. To respond to the growing demand for individuality in style, Polo released a special collection of apparel which can be monogrammed and customized according to one’s preferred color and embroidery.
On top of all of this, the company also offers Ralph Lauren Children and Baby (apparel for the young), Ralph Lauren Home, Lauren Home, Ralph (low priced urban bedding), Ralph Lauren Paint. It also runs some apparel brands that one would not readily recognized as a Ralph Lauren venture: Club Monaco, American Living, and Chaps. The Polo Ralph Lauren Corporation also has various body care products manufactured under L'Oreal.
However, not every venture of the company has been successful. Included in the brands that it has discontinued is the Polo Sport, a casual sports clothing line launched in 1993. The brand was replaced by RLX and the Golf and Tennis brands after in retired in 2005. The company also decided to discontinue a number of its fragrances overtime including Monogram (1985), Polo Crest (1991), and Extreme Polo Sport (1998).
Also another factor that qualifies the Polo Ralph Lauren Corporation as a visionary is its tendency to “Look Inside for its Top Management positions”. According to Collins and Porras, it is especially important for a company to have management development processes and succession plans. These techniques will ensure smooth transitions and prevent the problems stemming from bringing in persons from the outside and training them to adapt the organizational culture.
Polo Ralph Lauren Corporation recognizes the benefits of training their own senior leaders for top management positions especially for their plans to expand internationally. As stated by Wayne Meichner in www.eclips.cornell.edu,
What we found there's a good balance right now is as we were talking about before, is grooming as many senior leaders as you can over time, finding the ones that are interested to go overseas and go on an assignment not for life, some may choose to stay there, many do but were willing to go uproot their families if they have one, go to Hong Kong, or go to Tokyo or go to Moscow if need be and run our businesses there and help educate and train. (www.eclips.cornell.edu)
Meicher notes that through this strategy, Polo recognizes that they can preserve the corporate culture that they have. He explains “That way, at least (the company) has the brand integrity being guarded and then (the executives can) get educated themselves and after (the company) get that seeded and get some talent there and a team in place, then you're (the company’s) comfortable. Then (the international branch) becomes just an extension of the “mother ship” so to speak.” (www.eclips.cornell.edu)
Last but not the least, what makes the Polo Ralph Lauren Corporation highly fit for the “visionary” qualification is that its driving force as a company is “more than profits”. Being profitable is not its only concern. The company’s success is not based on profits alone although they relatively gain a lot from the business. Rather, the company focuses on core ideologies and values. According to Goldberger, Polo propagates the idea that “luxury is for all”.
Through their products, the company promotes that idea that “everybody should have an equal opportunity to look and feel rich, however much money they have.” Moreover, it adapts strategies that will allow its customers to live up to its promoted ideologies of affordable luxury. To make “aristocracy feel entirely democratic”, Polo sells its goods at discount stores like Kohl's and J. C. Penney. In addition to that, the company also distributes its product through a large network of factory-outlet stores. Undeniably, the company realizes lower price sensitivity and this is essentially why the company has maintained its good performance even during the recessionary period in 2001. (Goldberger)
In conclusion, Polo Ralph Lauren Corporation is a visionary because it promotes a fashion culture that is established through its products, philanthropic activities and marketing techniques. It continuously progresses because it is not afraid to evolve and to realize its failures. The company also maintains this culture by grooming its senior leaders to lead in its top management positions. And last but not the least; it enjoys loyal customers and employees because it successfully propagates the democracy-oriented idea that “luxury is for all”.
Goldberger, Paul. “Ralph Lauren and Cinch, an Australian-shepherd/blue-heeler mix”. September 2007. 29 April 2009 from <http://www.vanityfair.com/culture/features/2007/09/lauren200709>
Porras, Jerry and Collins, Jim. “Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies”. Published by Harper Business, 1996
Schedl-Richter, Brigitte.” The world of megabrands: Ralph Lauren Polo – Luxury as a vision.” 8 Feb 2007. 29 April 2009 <http://bene.com/benecom/Cont_en.nsf/0/topic-marken-polo-ralph-lauren.html>
“Wayne Meichner Discusses Corporate Culture At Ralph Lauren”. Cornell University Website. 29 April 2009 <http://eclips.cornell.edu/themes.do?id=628&clipID=12227&tab=TabClipPage>
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