Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Brands: Polo Match!

This is not breaking news, however, it has been bubbling under for a long time. POLO, the local brand, with a horse and polo player motif is not in any way, shape or form associated with POLO Ralph Lauren. It honestly, didn't come as a shock to me because I've always wondered why our local POLO products never bear the Ralph Lauren name. They will have the name POLO and the logo, however, the name most associated with the brand will be conspicuous in its omission. This story was blown out of the water about two weeks ago in a Sunday Times’ article which detailed how a local customer who regularly buys the POLO brand in South Africa was aghast when a Frenchman pointed it out to him that what he was buying was not the real thing. This was further confirmed by other people who were also very familiar with the POLO Ralph Lauren brand.

Needless to say, local consumers are seething, lamenting the fact that they have been duped into buying and supporting a brand under the impression that it is the real thing. They are not happy with the fact that they have been misled all this time. POLO South Africa was launched after Ralph Lauren launched his label in 1967. The South African POLO company claims that there was an agreement between them and Ralph Lauren to license, label and sell POLO products in South Africa, on condition that the logo differed. Nothing gave me more of a chuckle like this quote below:

The key difference between the two motifs is that on the local Polo products the horse runs to the right. The Ralph Lauren horse runs to the left.
This issue reminds me of an article I read years ago in Fortune magazine about a phenomenon called ‘third shift’. Third shift is described as an unauthorised product made by an authorised dealer. So, POLO SA has some sort of licensing deal in place, however, by not disclosing its non relation to Ralph Lauren is the ultimate betrayal according to consumers. This might not be a case of third shift per se, but, it does amount to some for of consumers being sold a knock-off. Also, taking into consideration that the third shift originates in China; the POLO SA products are also labelled ‘made in China’, this makes it a candidate for third shift from the South African consumers’ point of view. I am also perturbed by the pricing of some of the local POLO products because some, especially the shoes, are of questionable quality. Maybe if POLO had stated its dissociation with Ralph Lauren the consumer would've been better informed to make a conscious decision to buy or not to buy their products. However, their silence on the matter has led to confusion and a lot of customer dissatisfaction. Going forward, I doubt that image and brand conscious consumers will be rocking their POLO with pride.

PG: Man to man, generation to generation.

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