If The Red Rose Turns Orange, Will Lord & Taylor Close Its Doors?

Let’s talk branding—with a touch of classic fashion tied in just-in-time for Mother’s Day. Which by the way is on Sunday. May we all remember dear mom. And while I’m at it, “Hi mom!”

On with the story.

The oldest department store chain in the United States, Lord & Taylor, is embarking on a rebranding effort that will turn its signature Dorothy Shaver Red Rose a lovely shade of orange for 2008.

Though Lord & Taylor may not be a familiar name to all of us, if your mother or grandmother grew up shopping on the East Coast or in any of the larger cities in the Midwest—ask her about it. She’ll fondly recall shopping there, more than likely with her mother. Leaving the store with the iconic white box embellished with the Dorothy Shaver Red Rose was half of the fun. Being seen with something from Lord & Taylor meant you were a real “lady”.

I remember it and can recall many birthdays filled with beautiful boxes from Lord & Taylor. Though I don’t remember what was in them, I remember the box and am able to recall the logo vividly—as well as the name of the store. Perhaps the most important part.

It was 1946 when Lord & Taylor became the first major store on Fifth Avenue to name a woman, Dorothy Shaver, President. This was also the time when the red rose debuted as the stores logo—and stayed the course for over 60 years. Pretty impressive.

Equally impressive is the fact that a department store founded in 1826 is still open. Go tell that one to Wal-Mart. Of course, the store has gone through hard times, expansion, retraction, restructuring and the like—but Lord & Taylor is still around. Why? How? Is it the red rose? Is the department store doomed without it?

Absolutely not.

Lord & Taylor is still open and has made it through flu epidemics, world wars, and recessions because of its progressive thinking and ability to adapt. Faced with adversity in its 180th year of business, post purchase, the new leader of Lord & Taylor’s branding efforts was committed to returning the store to its “fashionable roots”. Quickly the realization set in that its “fashionable roots” were more than the Dorothy Shaver Red Rose, the fashionable “roots” were the people. Trendy but classic, esteemed and reminiscent—and now missing from the store and no longer carrying the noticeable bags around town.

What to do? Launch a promotional campaign allowing the public to recreate the rose and rebuild that classic connection with the store. Crowd sourcing? By definition, yes. Though the winner gets paid. Social media marketing? Heck yes. Good idea for an old brand? By definition, absolutely. This isn’t a one time contest; a new rose will be unveiled every spring. A stunning reminder to pay attention to the store every year.

I hope it works and I commend Lord & Taylor for their approach. It’s not about slashing prices, it’s not about downsizing at every turn to keep a brand alive. It’s about forging a connection with your customer, delivering value and staying nimble even if you’re 182 years old.