I loved Banana Republic when I was in my 30s. That was in the '80s when the brand was new, and I thought the store and catalog were different and fun, and that the clothes were, too. We wore the clothes on a photo safari in Africa. We wore them trekking in Bhutan. And we wore them after work and on weekends around town. In the '80s, there were no casual work days – even Fridays were formal affairs, and BR was not office attire.
I’m still a BR fan (my husband decided long ago that BR was not for him). So, when I read Stuart Elliott’s article in Tuesday’s NY Times about BR celebrating its 30th birthday, I had a moment of nostalgia and wondered what would get me to love the brand like I used to.
Here are a few ideas:
#1: Ask me about me and then use what you know about me to tailor your messages and offers to me. For example, the Jackson cut of trousers fits me best. I have 4 pairs of them – each of a very different fabric. I want to know when you have new merchandise in the Jackson cut or that looks good on women who like the Jackson cut. If you would just notify me, I’d go to the store to try them on, and you would have a chance for add-on sales.
#2: Make me feel like an insider. For example, I’m not sure if the cut I like is named for Jeanne Jackson, the long-standing BR chief merchant, president and CEO between '95-'00. Thinking so makes me feel like an insider. Give me the back story on the product, invite me to store openings or events – you don’t need to use expensive props (the way the BR store decor of old did) to conjure the romance. Knowledge is still power - just share some of it with me so I can be in the know.
#3: Make the brand special. Is BR too big to be special? Not necessarily, but the product, the web experience, the stores are nice but they’re mass upscale. Like Starbucks, the consistency is great but mass produced. Maybe you could use the breadth of the assortment and the variety of markets you serve to create distinctive BR experiences aimed at different target audiences.
What would you suggest BR do?
I look forward to seeing what the BR team comes up with for the next 30 years!