How a crocodile keeps its bite

Lacoste might be 86 years old, but they’re innovating like upstarts.

Originally posted 9/23/19

You might not know if it’s a crocodile or an alligator on the shirt, but you almost certainly know the brand – Lacoste. (It’s a crocodile, incidentally, chosen for René Lacoste’s pro-tennis nickname.)

Lacoste was born out of a simple, but transformative, moment in 1929. Sick of wearing long-sleeved shirts during tennis matches, René Lacoste simply cut off the sleeves, single-handedly inventing the polo shirt.

Four years later, Lacoste and knitwear manufacturer André Gillier launched the now iconic brand with another innovation – the crocodile that is believed to be first brand logo to appear on the outside of an article of clothing.

86 years later, Lacoste remains a remarkably innovative company. In the last year alone, they’ve been embracing and experimenting with everything from digital tennis lessons to cutting-edge payments technology.

During the Miami Open in March, Lacoste didn’t simply allow attendees to shop their latest styles at a pop-up shop. They also launched a set of digital activations that encouraged attendees to engage with the Lacoste brand.

Amazon Alexa devices were placed throughout the stadium’s Lacoste boutique, allowing customers to learn more about the brand’s remarkable history and ask questions about the clothes. Aspiring tennis pros were also able to practice their serve alongside a digital Novak Djokovic, Lacoste’s brand ambassador and the top-ranked men’s tennis player in the world.

For June’s French Open, they became the first brand to use NBC Universal’s ShoppableTV, offering viewers the ability to shop while they watched Djokovic’s first televised match. Viewers could use their smartphones to scan QR codes that appeared on screen; those QR codes would then guide shoppers to the Lacoste website where they could purchase items from the Lacoste X Novak Djokovic Collection.

They also used the French Open for a more traditional brand activation, teasing a future partnership with Tyler, the Creator, to unveil a full line of blue and pink Lacoste polos, pants, bucket hats, and varsity jackets “that would somehow look at home at a country club as well as a skate park,” as GQ put it.

Behind-the-scenes, Lacoste is improving customer engagement through AI-powered tools that allow for better email personalization and customization. An application from martech company Dynamic Yield allows the company to “analyze behavioral patterns of different buyers’ groups, generate relevant messages and insert them in email templates,” resulting in better open, click, and response rates.

Despite all those new technological trappings, Lacoste remains remarkably true to the brand that was founded back in 1933. For proof, look no further than their 2017 ad campaign “Timeless” which follows two train passengers across more than 80 years of Lacoste’s brand evolution. As they explain, “The style evolves, but the polo maintains its inalterable elegance.” But it’s not just Lacoste’s style that has evolved, it’s the company as a whole.