polo hoodie but Penney’s New Label Is Pure Ralph Lauren Americana
The print and television ads for American Living, a new label from J. C. Penney and Polo Ralph Lauren, were shot by Bruce Weber, who has worked on other campaigns for Ralph Lauren.
WHAT do you get when the J. C. Penney Company and the Polo Ralph Lauren Corporation team up to sell an extensive new line of clothing and home furnishings? A branding mash up that some might call Polo Penney.
Actually, the new brand, arriving at Penney next week after a year of planning, is grandly named American Living. Penney is describing the campaign to herald the arrival on TV, in print, online, in movie theaters, through the mail and in stores as the largest for any brand introduced since its founding in 1902.
Although the 40 categories of American Living merchandise are being supplied by Polo Ralph Lauren the first time the company is creating a brand for another retailer they will not bear the Ralph Lauren name nor any sub brand like Chaps, Lauren Home, Polo or RLX.
“We really think the American Living brand can stand on its own,” said Michael Boylson, chief marketing officer at Penney in Plano, Tex., because “customers told us it really fills a void we had in our assortment.”
Some corporate identity consultants wonder whether the mash up of two such disparate brands will mush up their images in the minds of consumers.
“It’s an attempt to borrow equity from the Ralph Lauren brand, the absolute gold standard in fashion brands,” said Robert K. Passikoff, president at Brand Keys, a research company in New York that studies brand and customer loyalty.
“Are people willing to believe it?” Mr. Passikoff asked rhetorically. “It’s a great idea, but you’re likely better off putting something like that into a Macy’s.”
Mr. Passikoff likened the project to recent, failed efforts by Wal Mart Stores to elevate its image by selling more stylish and expensive clothing, which was advertised in unlikely places.
“May I remind you that Wal Mart ran ad pages in Vogue?” Mr. Passikoff said. “The ads were lovely, but no one would buy the clothing.”
Mr. C. Penney brand, like Sephora.”
His reference was to the successful opening of shops inside Penney stores by Sephora, the chain owned by LVMH Mot Hennessy Louis Vuitton that sells expensive cosmetics and fragrances.
The American Living products will cost about 15 percent more than the highest priced private labels now sold by Penney under brands like Concepts by Claiborne, Joneswear and Liz Co.
For instance, a men’s V neck sweater will be $65; a woman’s madras plaid skirt, $70; a girl’s poplin dress, $42; and a comforter set for a queen size bed, $335.
“It’s at the higher end of the price points we carry,” Mr. Boylson acknowledged, “but with American Living you can have great style, great quality, at an affordable price” more Penney, in other words, than Polo Ralph Lauren.
The logo for the new line is an eagle and a flag rather than the Polo brand’s horse. But the symbol is unmistakably from Laurenland, an upscale suburb or beach community of chukkers, clambakes and khaki.
“It evokes an Americana lifestyle,” Mr. Boylson said, “with a very strong point of view.”
The campaign combines aspects of Penney’s Main Street marketing approach like its annual sponsorship of the Academy Awards broadcast on ABC with the refined, Aryan from Darien style that has long characterized the Lauren brand.
The American Living ads closely resemble the familiar campaigns for Ralph Lauren that present picture perfect preppies in all American settings like July Fourth parades, small town picnics and golf courses. There are patrician families, shirtless hunks, dreamy couples and tow headed children.
The similarities are no accident: The American Living ads are produced by the Global Brand Concepts division of Polo Ralph Lauren, under the aegis of David Lauren.
The photographer and director for the ads is Bruce Weber, whose work has been featured in campaigns for Ralph Lauren as well as other upscale brands like Calvin Klein and Abercrombie Fitch.
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When the executives at Global Brand Concepts showed him the ads, Mr. Boylson said, “My jaw hit the table.”
“And their comment was, ‘That’s why you pay Bruce Weber,'” he added, laughing.
Mr. Boylson declined to discuss the campaign’s costs or the Penney revenue goal for American Living. He described the brand as “a billion dollar idea,” but did not mean to suggest that was a sales goal.
Penney has two private label brands, Arizona and St. John’s Bay, with annual revenue of more than $1 billion each. The trade publication DNR reported last week that American Living’s apparel, linens, bedding, footwear and accessories could reach that level in five years.
The campaign for American Living will start during two big awards shows. First, there will be commercials on Thursday during the Univision broadcast of “Premio lo Nuestro a la Msica Latina” (Lo Nuestro Latin Music Awards).
Three nights later, Penney will run four commercials one 60 second spot and three 30s during the ABC presentation of the 80th Academy Awards. Estimates are that ABC, part of the Walt Disney Company, is charging $1.8 million for each 30 seconds of commercial time during the show.