I was recently shopping for polo shirts and was surprised at the options.
The Old Navy pique polo shirts top out at about $14. Ok, that’s acceptable. The Ralph Lauren pique polo shirts cost up to $90. Wow. Logo + “Thermovent” + “hint of stretch” = $76?
The answer to why one is so much more expensive lies in each company’s brand positioning.
Old Navy’s positioning statement uses words like “essentials,” “family,” “accessible,” and even mentions “prices.” Old Navy sells a relaxed, family lifestyle, and wants to make it possible for the average person to fill their basic needs. Old Navy is interested in the reality of middle class and lower-middle class existence.
Old Navy’s website shows above their positioning statement a bright, sunny picture of two young women in casual clothes in the back of a pick-up truck. There are a couple of cushioned seats, and they are relaxed and having fun.
Ralph Lauren, on the other hand, is interested in “creating worlds and inviting people to take part in [their] dream.” They describe themselves as “innovators,” who have spent the last “40 years…redefining American style.”
Their logo of the polo player aligns them with luxury, and their website shows Ralph Lauren (really Ralph Lifshitz living his own dream) in black and white, dressed in fine clothes, next to a European luxury car and a well-groomed dog. It is rich, clean, and feels like a dream.
It is easier to get in the back of a pickup truck with a few cushioned seats than in a European convertible with a purebred and a thousand-dollar suit. That is what Ralph Lauren is selling, and that is why their shirts can be so much more expensive.
When you buy Old Navy, you are only getting “essentials.” Ralph Lauren is selling you a “dream,” and wouldn’t you pay $76 for a dream?
Both of these brands do a great job of crafting their identity, offering you a promise of distinction, and evidence of how they are able to give that to you. Every business needs to construct similarly complex brand positioning to earn value for their product.
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