Courting the Milennials: Banana Republic Ramps it Up

June 03 2014

with guest blogger Annie G.


Banana Republic is a brand that has long been seen as Gap's older, more mature counterpart (or at least since its induction to the Gap Inc. family in 1983). The company has transitioned from its original positioning, exchanging the original safari themed items and decor for a more polished look. Their aesthetic has been targeted towards Ben and Anna (say it out loud and you'll get it), their fictional, 30-40 year old, well-off, style conscious customer. Simon Kneen, Creative Director since 2009, successfully designed for this audience for many years. However, in recent seasons, Kneen has been criticized for dulling the brand down and perhaps being out of touch with current trends.


photo by Billy Farrell Agency

Enter Kneen’s replacement, Marissa Webb, Banana's new Creative Director. Not only is Webb young and stylish, but she's more plugged in. She's conscious of the vital role social media plays, and is an avid Instagram user. Webb’s personal Spring 2014 line displayed a fresh vision that will help push Banana's image forward, and her point-of-view will create a shift in Banana’s design sensibilities, audience, and marketing that will help them to reach hip, twenty-something millennials and their buying power. While Ben and Anna remain a core part of Banana Republic's demographic, Benji and Annalise are the new kids in town. They may still have brunch dates like their parents, but they're young professionals with blogs to write and tweets to send, and they want to look cute while they’re gramming.

While Webb isn't expected to debut a collection until next summer, her ascension has already created a notable shift in the brand's product. Additionally, the late L'Wren Scott designed a successful colourful and bold collection for the company. Her prints were a bit louder, the colors more saturated. The cuts were sleek and (dare we say) sexy. And all of a sudden, Banana engaged in some effective social media marketing. With the release of Scott’s line came a Twitter/Instagram selfie contest. Fitting room mirrors had decals that read #ThisIsGlam, and encouraged customers to take and post pictures in the collection. Last week, Banana Republic also launched another collaboration with Marimekko, the graphic and funky Finnish brand that has already staged a successful comeback.

While the brand will always be loyal to Ben & Anna, the duo who love neutrals, classic non-iron shirts, and perfectly fitted Sloan pants, the future may have a positive pop of colour for Banana Republic. Will this mass-market clothing brand successfully throw off its mumsy identity and evolve with the times and develop deeper and more vital market reach? We’ll be sipping on our Arnold Palmers and taking a wait-and-see.


photo by Banana Republic

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Market Trending: Kmart Raps Its Way to the Top

August 23 2013

Retailers go through cycles in which they gain and then lose market share. Of course, the reasons for these cycles are complex, ranging from everything to being out of touch with consumer tastes and trends, downturns in the economic cycles to making mistakes in repositioning their offerings and brand voice. Currently suffering mightily in public perception and market confidence is the Kmart franchise. In 2012 they shut down eighty-four stores, but they have been dealing with declining sales for the past six years.

Market trends have shown the business’ decline is mainly due toe loss of popularity among younger consumers. Feeling desperate to staunch their losses and bad PR, and In order to appeal to a hipper teen audience, Kmart is now trying to refine their brand image by teaming up with viral sensation Da Rich Kids, a group of young rappers all younger than age thirteen. Kmart asked the group to create a rap song about the discount store and thus “My Limo” was born.

    

                                                       Image via www.fastcocreate.com

My Limo has already received millions of views and is featured in the retailer’s latest television commercial. This new partnership may push Kmart back up the ranks and sway younger generations to shop at KMart, but the affiliation seems a bit out of left field. In addition, there have been a few reports of older customers being unhappy that the rap commercial portrays only African-American children promoting a brand that is known for low prices. However, the ads are too new to calculate exactly how big or small the effect has been so far with any of their target audiences.

Keep in mind that brands must be credible in order to cement consumer loyalty and maintain longevity in the marketplace. Kmart would need a family of products with legs that are in alignment with the spirit of My Life and that would continue to attract the same type of audience. A flash in the pan doesn’t work long term at retail, as it’s critical to maintain your brand voice in everything you do. Hence the consistent success of brands such as Burberry, Diesel, and Vans, who really know what they are doing in this regard.

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