08/19/2010 04:52 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Ralph Lauren Launches a Virtual Storybook for Back to School Shopping

Pictured:  One of the RL Gang virtual characters, Mae in a scene from the RL Gang virtual book. (Photo by M. Hall from the RL event showing.)

Just in time for the back to school season high-end shopping brand Ralph Lauren has launced a children's story book, The RL Gang, that is actually a subliminal virtual shopping experience.  The book exists in print and digital format allowing children to click through the story of eight school chums as they head back to school, elegantly dressed in you guessed it, Ralph Lauren.  I was treated to a sneak peak of the storybook, and the children's clothes the book highlights, last week at an elegant event at the Ralph Lauren library during the BlogHer conference.

Pictured: The RL Gang print book fittingly placed on a coffee table at the Ralph Lauren library. (Photo M. Hall)

David Lauren, Senior Vice President of Advertising, Marketing and Corporate Communications, calls the book "merchantainment."   The beautifully illustrated book provides a lovely children's story, but it also provides a beautiful advertorial for Ralph Lauren's children's clothes.  The book launched on August 18th, with narration by singer/actor Harry Connick Jr. for the online version.   The clothes worn by the RL Gang in the book are charming. They  remind me of 1930s styles with newsboy caps, ruffled collars, sweater vests, short pants and skirts. 

It will be interesting to see how the book does as a virtual marketing tool. How many Moms will be clicking on the links to shop for their kids? Or will the kids actually read the book, and ask for the clothes? The clothes run the gamut from a polo dress with a ruffle around the bottom for $35.00 (US) to a ruffled collar jacket for $385.00 (US). This is not the typical back to school wear that you expect to see get stained and worn out quickly. The clothes worn by The RL Gang are much more upscale looking and dressy than the typical everyday back to school wear. Fashionable moms who like to use the online medium to shop will be the target buyers, so it was very savvy of the Ralph Lauren brand to reach out to bloggers at the recent BlogHer conference in New York City. Even more savvy is the development of a chic online clothing catalog married to an children's story, and delivered via both the Internet and print mediums. It will be interesting to see how the book does, and if other designers follow suit and develop Internet storybooks to appeal to online shoppers.

 Pictured: The real life RL Gang models in their charming duds. (photo by M. Hall)

To learn more about "The RL Gang" virtual storybook, you can see the virtual book on For the first month after its release, 15% of the proceeds  from "The RL Gang" will go to the Ellis Marsalis Center for Music in New Orleans' Musician's Village, a charity close to the book's narrator, Harry Connick Jr.'s heart.