The Ralph Lauren label has released a children’s book! Really? What does a fashion label know about children’s books? Nothing! But they do know how to sell clothes… and it appears that that’s exactly what they are doing with The RL Gang.
The RL Gang is the story of eight cute kids in very cute outfits, who go to school and do cute things and then go on a simple (but cute) fantasy adventure. And that’s pretty much all there is to it. Except, of course, that after you’ve read the book you can purchase any of those cute outfits.
The book is available both in print format and as an online video at the Ralph Lauren website. The online version is narrated by Harry Connick Jr and right underneath it are links to each of the outfits that feature in the book so that you can purchase them. The print version of the book is only available through TikaTok, an online service that allows kids to create their own books.
A group of child models have been photographed in Ralph Lauren clothes and placed onto illustrated backgrounds for the print book. In the video they have been filmed and placed onto simple animated backgrounds. Even the teacher is dressed in stylish clothing and actually referred to as “a well dressed man”. It is all nauseatingly cute and well produced — it has certainly had some money thrown at it.
The book is subtitled “A Fantastically Amazing School Adventure” and the author is listed on the cover as Ralph Lauren Childrenswear. It is advertising masquerading as a children’s book. But is it trying to advertise to kids or to parents? Are kids really going to look at this book and say “Mummy, I want that outfit. Please buy it for me.” Or is it more likely that parents will look at the photos in the book and say: “What an adorable outfit, let’s buy it for Junior.” The book’s title and subtitle are obviously aimed at the kids, but the listing of the clothing label as the author is a clear message to parents.
The big question is: Will it work? Will parents buy this book, and the range of clothes, for their kiddies? Will kids actually want the book, let alone the clothes? And more importantly, if it does succeed, will the market suddenly be flooded with kids’ books advertising clothing, not to mention all sorts of other stuff?
There is nothing new about advertising pretending to be entertainment. We’ve had toy adverts fashioned into kids’ television shows and movies for years (the current crop of Barbie movies, for example), but the film and television industry has long been in bed with advertisers. Do we really need children’s book to go down this path as well?
But wait a minute, there’s something to make you feel better about getting sucked in by this advertising. The website proudly states that “15% of all Ralph Lauren Children’s sales from August 18 through to September 15 will be donated to Harry Connick Jr.’s charity, New Orleans Habitat Musicians’ Village”. And 15% of proceeds from sales of The RL Gang will be donated to Ellis Marsalis Center for Music in New Orleans. That should make us all feel better. Oh wait… there’s an asterisk beside each of these announcements. The asterisk on the clothing label leads to a note capping donations at $25,000, and the asterisk on the book leads to a note limiting donations to US purchases only.
Anyone out there tempted to buy this book, or the clothes, for their kids? Leave a comment and share your thoughts.
And tune in next time to find out about The Strange Case of Origami Yoda.
Catch ya later, George
PS. Follow me on Twitter… where I won’t try to sell you clothes of any variety!