Ralph Lauren Hires Its First CMO to Lead Its Retail Marketing Strategy

March 22, 2017 Haniya Rae

The iconic American fashion brand Ralph Lauren has seen better days: last summer, it announced that it would be closing 50 stores within the US. But the company is also about to undergo a major retail marketing strategy overhaul—one brought about by its first-ever chief marketing officer, Jonathan Bottomley.

Bottomley comes from Vice Media’s content agency Virtue, where he was a strategy officer. He also spent some time as a strategic luxury-brand builder at BBH, where he worked on a number of projects for upscale fashion. It’s an interesting move, considering Vice is a millennial-oriented, digitally focused brand, and BBH is one of the world’s most prominent agencies. According to Ad Age, Ralph Lauren stated its hope that Bottomley would aid in the ongoing development of its brand voice and bring more cohesion to its overall retail marketing strategy. Bottomley, who doesn’t start work at Ralph Lauren until April 3, has a track record of developing cut-through marketing strategies across brands, which would greatly help unify Ralph Lauren and its many sub-brands in the eyes of consumers.

But, what does that mean, exactly?

Image attribution: fervent-adepte-de-la-mode

Image attribution: fervent-adepte-de-la-mode

How Bottomley Could Transform Ralph Lauren

Ad Age speculated that since Bottomley has an agency background, this move could signal that Ralph Lauren might start working outside of its in-house marketing team to develop campaigns. For a brand like Ralph Lauren, this would be a smart move to further its marketing transformation. In-house marketing teams have the benefit of being within the brand and understanding the day-to-day operations—as a result, they can often react quickly to a brand’s needs. An agency promises new ideas and up-to-date strategies, which seems to be what Ralph Lauren is looking for.

Another key announcement is that outside of creative, Bottomley and his team will be aiming to improve their retail analytics game, presumably to better track how effective the brand’s content will be. This is another area in which an agency could take the reins: a third party that can analyze the efficacy of a digital retail marketing campaign will be necessary to make sure the brand’s bottom line is improving.

Other big developments include a pullback from department stores to focus on digital sales. This move would, again, serve to unify the brand’s voice as well as improve the speed at which Ralph Lauren changes SKUs and marketing content. The idea is that Ralph Lauren will compete with fast-fashion powerhouses like Zara by promoting best-selling items more often and offering a “see now, buy now” option to consumers who want what they see on the runway instantly. This will, in turn, push sales efforts as new items and best-selling items will constantly be reshuffled to appeal to consumers.

Existing elements of the brand, such as RL Mag, might see big updates and more dynamic content. It might also better integrate content from other channels, such as Instagram, where the company is reportedly trying to build an audience and has actively branched into branded content posts with influencers and publishers with large followings.

Image attribution: David McJonathan

Image attribution: David McJonathan

This all comes at a time when Lauren himself has announced that he’s writing a memoir, where he might (hopefully) dish some of his biggest business secrets and explain more about his reasoning behind stepping down as CEO of a company that he worked so hard to build. As the wealthiest fashion designer in the US, this might be another boon to the company’s new content development, as many will be interested to read about how Lauren got started in the first place, and might even kindle some new interest in the brand.

But, back to Bottomley.

What’s up Next?

Already, there have been job postings for a content marketing manager to work out of the company’s New York office, a position that would entail “[driving] the content marketing strategy for Women’s and Home based on customer insights, business trends, and customer priorities,” and collaborating with corporate partners on executing merchandising, branding, and marketing initiatives, not to mention managing everything from analytics to keeping a content calendar between print and digital. As Bottomley seeks to beef up the in-house team, it’s likely that there will be more opportunities to grow the brand’s omnichannel marketing presence.

As some have said, it’s a company built around the man Ralph Lauren, and any changes to how the founder and former CEO would run the company are bound to produce some shocks, especially when the goal is to design and market toward a younger audience. This might include less about Ralph Lauren as a person and the brand’s history and more about how to wear the clothes in more contemporary ways.

For the next few weeks, though, it’ll likely be all quiet on the Ralph Lauren front until the new guard enters the office. The marketing transformation and a return on this investment, of course, won’t happen overnight—something investors are nervous about, as Ad Age noted. But, if anything can save Ralph Lauren, it’s breathing new life into how it presents itself to the world and purposefully aims to stand out among stores and online.

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